Contra Costa County community groups responding to needs ranging from food to shelter during the COVID-19 pandemic have received $1.6 million in grants from the Contra Costa Regional Health Foundation, in partnership with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

The 44 community organizations received grants from $10,000 to $50,000 from the health foundation's COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund to target needs in food supply and distribution, shelter and emergency housing, financial assistance, public health interventions and other emerging needs including support for essential workers.

Following the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order in mid-March, the health foundation launched its COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.

“The grantees moved quickly to disburse the funds into the community providing immediate assistance to those affected by COVID-19,” said Bette Felton, Contra Costa Regional Health Foundation's board chairwoman, in a statement.

“In addition to the five areas of need, we also focused on finding organizations that worked with marginalized communities, as well as those that could provide service to residential facilities for elders and people with disabilities,” Felton said.

With so many Contra Costa residents losing their jobs or working fewer hours as a result of the pandemic, hunger became an immediate concern, and local food banks noticed the change. The grant, Kim Castaneda said, came at a critical time.

“In early April, the number of individuals collecting food skyrocketed, food prices went up, shortages were common, and we lost all of our corporate volunteer groups,” said Castaneda, development director of the Concord-based Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. “This timely infusion of funds helped us overcome these challenges and ensured we had enough food to meet the community need.”

Based on survey data from the grant recipients, nearly 190,000 Contra Costa County residents received food support this year. Another 2,500 received financial aid, and close to 70,000 were helped with other needs created by the pandemic. Shelter and emergency housing were also supported through the grants.

“The (foundation) grant helped us provide free emergency shelter to 26 babies and young children,” said Kimberly Baptista, development director for Bay Area Crisis Nursery. “The grant also made it possible for us to provide over 100 families in the Bay Area with food, diapers, formula, toiletries, and clothes during this challenging time.”

A complete list of the Contra Costa Regional Health Foundation grant recipients is available on the organization's website.