Clementine the Trolley carries food around Orange County for families in need

by in News

Finding enough food to feed your family can be stressful, but Denise Williams wants to lighten the mood just a little.

Williams is the program manager for the Community Action Partnership of Orange County’s new mobile food bank, and when she arrives clanking Clementine the Trolley’s bell, waving her conductor’s hat, she wants folks to smile and relax.

“We want people to be excited by our project,” Williams said. “I don’t want to be a normal food distribution. Clementine is designed to connect the family. We want the kids to come on board and shop with you.”

Clementine has been in service since early February, making pre-arranged stops around central and northern Orange County for families to shop for what they need to keep meals on the table.

The trolley is stocked much like a supermarket: There are freezers of meat and ready meals, refrigerators for dairy and eggs, a produce section and sundries such as diapers, soaps, tissues and hygiene products, Williams said.

Parents can pick what they need, she said, whether it be the items they are missing to make nutritious meals at home or some of the meals for a family of four pre-made by Bracken’s Kitchen, which re-purposes the surplus from area restaurants into new dishes.

“You are walking away with 25 to 30 pounds of food,” Williams said. “It should last for up to maybe two weeks.”

The Community Action Partnership of Orange County’s mobile food distribution program uses a trolley to create a shopping experience. (Courtesy of CAPOC)

The trolley and its renovations were funded by Newport Beach-based Pacific Management Investment Co. (Pimco), whose idea for a mobile food distribution program morphed into using the trolley as the vehicle. Clementine comes from Minnesota and Williams said once the owner learned what it was going to be used for he “gave it to them almost for nothing.”

The program started with four sites and now visits 10 a week with the expectation that it will be visiting up to 17 by May.

Clementine also has a library for children. Representatives from other programs through the Community Action Partnership, such as utility assistance, will ride along to reach out to residents.

“We are connecting in other ways than just providing food,” Williams said. “I love, love, love it. The joy of my job is connecting with the people.”

Find out where Clementine stops and how to sign up for assistance at ocfoodbank.org/clementine.