EL CENTRO — Saturday evening, October 10, I slowly grab my notepad and check it again. My notes say West Commercial Avenue, but all I see are old buildings, and some even looked abandoned. Yet, I notice a line of cars parked in a dirt parking lot. This must be the place. I slowly drive up to the historic Shipper’s Ice House and sure enough, a banner stretches across the parking lot, reading: Imperial Valley Food Bank Harvest Bowl.
The building is simply an empty warehouse, transformed by imagination and hard work into a beautiful banquet hall. Flowers and candlelights hang from the beams of the warehouse ceiling, tables are elegantly dressed in linen, set in matching silver and dishes, while in the background, a live band plays music.
For the past four years, the Imperial Valley Food Bank has chosen unique and different locations in the Valley to host their Harvest Bowl, an event which raises almost $50 thousand yearly to help fund the Food Bank’s general operations.
“They throw an amazing event. It’s really neat to see what they come up with every year. It’s for a good cause,” said 4-H Program Representative Shanna Abatti who was attending the event for the second time with her fiancé Mark Fitzurka.
IV Food Bank Executive Director Sara Griffen explained that the Harvest Bowl is a great opportunity to educate the community about what the Food Bank does in the Imperial Valley.
“It’s really exciting because the community helps the food bank and gets involved so they can learn what the Food Bank is about,” said IV Food Bank program coordinator Cecilia Regalado.
The Food Bank feeds approximately 20 thousand people every month through 60 non-profit partner agencies in the Imperial Valley, as well as distributing food to eight rural communities such as Niland, Salton Sea, and Bombay Beach through the ‘Mobile Food Pantry’, according to their table flyer.
More than half of the people that are served through the Food Banks services are children. The IV Food Bank also serves the disabled, elderly, and the under-employed.
With an annual budget of $750 thousand, a stipend from the government, and grants, the remainder of their budget is financed by locals.
“We have to rely on the community,” said Griffen.
By 6:20 p.m., the room was full of guests, ready to begin a four-course dinner complete with appetizers and dessert, in an odd, but beautiful warehouse.