Mercy Brown Bag Program is excited to announce a new leader, long-time Oaklander and industry executive Janice Roberts, who takes on the Director role held by Brown Bag veteran Krista Lucchesi. Now celebrating their 40th year, Brown Bag dramatically expanded throughout COVID, and in 2022 has regularly provided up to 9000 food-insecure older adults in Alameda County with nutritionally balanced groceries two times a month.
“I am honored to be picked to lead such a stellar team in the most critical mission of my career”, says Roberts. Formerly an entrepreneur and Technology Marketing executive, she continues “I can’t think of a better way to spend my days than working to help feed those in need right here in my own community. We have strong partnerships with over 90 other collaborators, and I look forward to meeting them all and continuing to build relationships with valued recipients, MBBP volunteers and donors.”
The Mercy Brown Bag Program was first launched in 1982 by a group of seniors residing at Mercy Retirement Center in Oakland. Participating in daily activities in the surrounding neighborhood, they perceived a need to help other seniors less fortunate than themselves.
Starting small in Fruitvale, asking surrounding businesses and stores for excess food and support, the Mercy seniors would collect food to share with their neighbors. Over time, as they grew, they would venture south to the fields to pick fruit and vegetables and then trade with other pantries on their way back to Mercy headquarters to get a complete bag of varied groceries. This history was recently recorded for sharing as the team celebrates their 40 years.
Now, much more than just a pantry, Brown Bag operates two full-time delivery trucks, delivering bags of groceries to low-income seniors, a mobile food pantry where recipients can build their own custom bag, and in 2022 opened the CommonSpirit Health Grocery Store located in the Fruitvale neighborhood at Mercy Retirement and Care Center where qualified recipients can shop.
Last month Brown Bag distributed over 100 tons of food, 90% of which was fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, dairy and whole grains.
Ms. Roberts, as she collaborates with the team for her first holiday season, is eagerly anticipating helping to share bounty supported by generous donors, including traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas ingredients: fresh chickens, Cornish game hens, stuffing, fruits, veggies and mashed potatoes! For Janice Roberts and her Brown Bag team, it will surely be a holiday to remember.