Since November of 2018, social worker John Klevins has been hitting the streets with San Luis Obispo Police Department officers as they make contact with some of the most vulnerable populations in the city.
Klevins is assigned to work with the SLOPD's Community Action Team, or CAT. The officers in CAT form contact with, work with, and develop relationships with individuals suffering from mental illness, battling substance abuse issues, and the homeless population. Klevins' role on the team is to engage those same individuals in counseling and referral to support and services.
But lately, Klevin has brought more than just his expertise as a social worker with him when he goes out with CAT. After responding to several calls with the team involving homeless individuals, Klevins realized that many of them were lacking a basic necessity most people take for granted: a good meal.
- Photo Courtesy Of The SLO Food Bank
- MEETING A NEED A SLO Food Bank volunteer packages one of the organization’s no-cook food bags for SLO County’s homeless population. More than 30 groups, including the SLO Police Department’s Community Action Team, hand out the bags on a daily basis.
As a result, Klevins and CAT have partnered with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County to participate in the organization's no-cook food bag program. Through the program, he's able to load up the team's police cruiser with individual plastic bags of food that don't need to be cooked or heated.
"They came by the food bank and asked to get involved," said Suzie Freeman, partner services manager for the Food Bank. "Fortunately we are a program that lined up perfectly with their needs."
The need for such bags was clear, as Klevins reportedly delivered as many as 250 bags in single day in November 2017.
With its participation in the program, SLOPD's CAT joins more than 30 other organizations across the county to hand out the no-cook bags, including the SLO Sheriff's Office, CAPSLO, local churches, and other law enforcement agencies and nonprofit groups. Freeman said the bags are given out to homeless individuals and contain about 2,000 calories worth of food, enough to last them for 24 hours.
"[The bags] help grant them a level of independence," Freeman said. "Many of them may not have access to a place to cook food or for services [the offer them hot meals]."
Food in the bags includes granola bars, peanut butter, crackers, jerky, water, fruit, and Pop-Tarts as well as canned items that don't require heating.
Volunteers meet twice a week to put the bags together, and they are distributed by the Food Bank's partner organizations daily. With the help of grants, the Food Bank was able to continue expanding the program. In 2018, it distributed more than 8,075 bags through the program, compared to 1,980 bags for all of 2017.
To learn more about the no-cook bag program or to find out how to support it, call the SLO Food Bank at (805) 238-4664 or visit their website at slofoodbank.org.
• The Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo County awarded $5,000 from its Opportunity to Thrive Grant Program to RISE, a nonprofit organization that provides support and services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in SLO County. The purpose of the grant is to provide individuals and families in transition with support that helps them achieve stability and independence. RISE will use the money to provide victims with funds to cover the cost of items like work clothing, car repairs, school tuition, and other expenses, helping remove barriers to their self-sufficiency. Δ
Staff Writer Chris McGuinness wrote this week's Strokes & Plugs. Send tips to.