Pet food pantry helps struggling families to feed their best friends

Jermaine Johnson II

Moose’s Meals is the county’s only pet food pantry but are in need of donations to keep going

VISALIA – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some low-income pet owners are struggling to feed their furry family members. That led to the inception of Tulare county’s first and only pet food pantry: Moose’s Meals.

On July 11, Moose’s Meals donated over 800 pounds of pet food while stationed in the parking lot of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Moose’s Meals was founded by Visalia resident Sarah DeJohn who relocated from Seattle in 2016. The name was inspired by her own rescue dog, Moose. After noticing the vast number of stray animals in the area, she made it her mission to help provide free dog and cat food to low income, homeless and elderly members of the community.

“The closest pet food pantry was in Fresno and Bakersfield which is inaccessible to some Tulare county residents. Most of the people we provide food for do not have reliable transportation,” DeJohn said.

In order to help raise more money to buy pet food, Moose’s Meals will be doing a rummage sale on Sunday, July 19 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bello Vita Venue in Visalia. Members of the community donated over 1,000 articles of clothing in addition to other household items such as furniture, electronics, toys, etc.

Although she had the idea a few years ago, DeJohn and her fiancé Matt Vinet were finally able to get the pet food pantry going a few months ago when the pandemic first started. She decided to make a post on NextDoor, an app used to connect with neighbors within a community, to share her idea and ask for donations. Within about one month, she had received nearly 600 pounds of dog food from different people in the community. She even received 20 cases of dog treats from PetVi Nutrition.

“The community response has been overwhelmingly positive. It is incredible to see so many people wanting to donate food or their time [to volunteer and help].”

Although DeJohn is a paralegal for the law offices of Houk & Hornburg and has helped non-profits acquire their 501(c)(3), she has never ran a non-profit herself. Thankfully she has received immense support from neighboring organizations. She’s traded supplies with Bakersfield Pet Pantry and has received guidance from her friends at Halo Café in Fresno. The Source LGBT+ Center in Visalia has provided generous monetary donations, while Sierra Mini Storage and Security Self Storage provided storage units to help store the items for the rummage sale.

Moose’s Meals has gotten off to a strong start, but the food donations are unfortunately winding down. They are in major need of donations in the form of money or pet food. People can donate on their web site moosesmeals.org or their Facebook page. Donations can also be sent via their Amazon wish list which is also on the web site. If pet owners have extra pet food on hand that they won’t be using, they can contact Moose’s Meals who will send someone to come pick it up. They also applied to get a 501(c)(3) so that donations can be tax deductible, and they’re hoping to have it by the fall. Moose’s Meals is also working on getting donation barrels set up at local Petco and PetSmart locations.

Beginning Aug. 1, applications will be required to receive food. This will help ensure that people aren’t abusing the service and the people with a serious need are being prioritized. The applications can be found on their web site and they will also have paper copies at their distribution sites. Once an application is approved, it is good for one year and the applicant can receive food at all future distributions. The plan is for distributions to be held on the first Saturday of every month, but dates will be announced on their web site and Facebook once they are confirmed.

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