Friday, June 5, is Hunger Awareness Day. That’s probably not what you expected to read when you looked at the accompanying photo, was it? But, I’ll bet it was a better attention-getter than an empty cupboard. Yet that is what too many people in the world, this country, this state, this county, even this town, commonly experience.
Perhaps you, too, found a donation envelope in the paper recently or noticed one lying on the floor of the post office or elsewhere, and tossed into the recycling bin. But, for the cost of that bag of chips you were thinking of buying or that second frappucino, you could put wholesome food in a neighbor’s belly. In fact, $1 will provide $10 worth of real food, through the efforts of the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County (www.slofood bank.org).
I spoke with Wendy Lewis, Chief Operations Officer of the Food Bank to find out what our most current statistics are: “45,000 people in this county — that’s 1 in 6 — are food insecure. 16,000 of those are children.”
She also corrected me when I asked about “all the food banks.”
“There is just one Food Bank but we operate via ‘direct programs’ where we actually take our truck and go onsite and then we also have ‘agency partners’ like CAN and the Vineyard Fellowship up there in Cambria. We also conduct breakfast programs in the summer and a Children’s Farmers Market where we bring produce to afterschool programs, YMCA programs like yours.
“We teach them about nutrition, expose them to possibly new foods, give them ‘Food Bank Bucks” to purchase their own goods and let them take them home! Not only are they learning about a healthier lifestyle, but they may take home up to 15 pounds of fresh produce for the whole family!”
The Food Bank receives many goods through USDA commodities programs and also fresh produce through the California Association of Food Banks and large farms. Obviously, cash donations we citizens make go toward those purchases. But they have other means of getting fruits and vegetables to empty bellies.
Glean SLO (www.glean slo.org/index.php) collects leftover crops from farmed fields of any size including community or backyard gardens. You can register your farm or garden to be gleaned at www.gleanslo.org/crop_registration.php. Your donation is tax deductible! Volunteers are organized and instructed on what to pick. The produce is then distributed to the Food Bank. Go to their website for more information on how to become involved.
What does this all look like? The Food Bank distributes 6 million pounds of food countywide per year. Six million! And half of that is fresh produce. You see, they provide not just pounds of food but quality and nutrition.
With two warehouses, a staff of 34 and countless volunteers, it is remarkable that only 6 percent of funds received go to overhead. That is efficiency — and kindness and caring.
I just learned of a new food distribution site that just started in San Simeon. With so many folks up there who are home with little ones, can’t drive into Cambria, working three jobs, etc., it became apparent there were many whose needs were still not being met.
Now at the Courtesy Inn, the fourth Tuesday of the month, from 5 to 6 p.m., up to 36 families are able to access the help they need to feed their families.
I wish to encourage you to make a donation, take up a collection at work, give up your tips to the cause on Hunger Awareness Day and send it to the Food Bank Coalition. (You can quickly and easily donate online, even!)
The difference you make could be big in the life of that person right next door.
How to help
These are the other Food Distribution Centers in town:
- Santa Rosa Church, 1174 Main St., 4 to 5 p.m., first Thursday of the month
- Cambria School District, 1350 Main St., 3 to 4:30 p.m., third Thursday of the month
- Vineyard Christian Church, 1617 Main St., noon to 2 p.m., second and fourth Thursdays
- Senior Nutrition — St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2700 Eaton Road, 11:45 a.m. lunch, Monday through Friday
Donations may be mailed to FOOD BANK, P.O Box 2070, Paso Robles, CA 93447.