Fierce Hunger Pains and Ways to Stop Them
November 28, 2011
Feeding our county's hungry. Saving wasted produce from the fields. Revamping tweaked school lunch priorities.
It seems like a lot. But just a little aid from concerned local citizens can make these missions materialize every day.
Below appear profiles of the agencies taking on those challenges. They rank among the 95 nonprofits qualified to participate in the Weekly's annual Monterey County Gives! holiday benefit push.
Learn more—and view photos and profiles, track fund-raising totals and more—at www.montereycountygives.com.
Donating is fulfilling, fast and easy, though the wealth of inspiring options does make it hard to pick just a few. And a buck or two makes a difference, as there are bonus grant moneys for those with the most number of donors.
Ag Against Hunger Year Founded: 1990 Paid Staff and Volunteers: 5 paid, 750 volunteers Budget: $453,000 755-1480 www.agagainsthunger.org>
The Big Idea: It’s farmers and volunteers, working together to feed Monterey County—and beyond. Ag Against Hunger collects and distributes surplus produce to area food banks as well as those throughout California and other western states. It needs community support for its gleaning programs, which bring volunteers into the field to pick perfectly good, edible produce left behind after a commercial harvest. This means less field waste for the growers and more fresh produce for food banks to distribute. The food is free, directly from the fields to hungry families in our community, but the program needs money for gas, trucks, refrigeration and storage equipment. Last year, volunteers collected 144,000 pounds of produce. Let’s feed more families in 2012.
The Kicker: “We collect food in many ways, and gleaning is a way for us to get food out of the fields and into the homes of hungry families in Monterey County.”
Food Bank For Monterey County Year Founded: 1990 Paid Staff and Volunteers: 18 paid, 500 volunteers Budget: $2,351,800 758-1523 www.food4hungry.org>
The Big Idea: A fifth of Monterey County’s residents—that’s about 88,700 people—receive food annually from the Food Bank. And 90 percent of these aren’t enrolled in CalFresh, aka food stamps. Many are eligible, but they don’t apply out of fear, pride, misinformation or they can’t get to the county offices to fill out the forms. In 2012, the Food Bank will launch a food stamps outreach program, with outreach workers who build trust and explain that this is a nutrition program, not a welfare program. This provides nutritious meals for hungry families and brings revenue into the county. It comes at a time of rising need and reduced federal funding. The feds are proposing a 50 percent drop in funding, which would reduce the Food Bank to approximately 800,000 pounds. At last count, it distributed 2,610,238 pounds of food to 78,630 households in 2009-1010, compared to 1,984,773 pounds to 69,278 households the previous year.
The Kicker: “Jennie, a single mother of two who called us when her janitorial business failed, states, ‘I wouldn’t have fed my kids without the Food Bank.’”
Hope Center Food Pantry For Monterey County Year Founded: 2010 Paid Staff and Volunteers: 0 paid, 25 volunteers Budget: $40,000 915-9160 www.hopecentermonterey.org>
The Big Idea: With all the abundance in Monterey County it does seem that no one should go hungry, not even puppies and kittiens. The Hope Center is a food pantry that feeds Fido, too. In its first year, the nonprofit distributed groceries, fresh produce, toiletries, baby food and supplies (and pet food and supplies )for 2,012 Monterey County residents and 520 pets. Local student volunteers distribute groceries on the first and third Thursday of every month. But it relies 100 percent on donations and grants, so in order to keep feedng all members of hungry families—including four-legged ones—it needs community dollars.
The Kicker: “Being a single mother with a baby and having my hours cut at the hospital where I work put me in a terrible position. Thanks to the Hope Center I was able to get the items and food my baby and I needed.”
MEarth at the Hilton Bialek Habitat
Year Founded: 1995
Paid Staff and Volunteers: 7 paid, 20 volunteers
The Big Idea: A seemingly small five-a-day program, whether servings of fruits and vegetables or dollars, adds up to big things—to healthier bodies, communities and gardens. MEarth’s new initiative, Thrive with $5, asks everyone to donate $5 (or more) to provide students with fresh veggies in classrooms and school cafeteria. Donating $5 will provide resources to produce and deliver enough organic lettuce and veggies to feed five students salad through the school lunch program. And, as school budgets continue to be cut to the bone, this model could be used county—and statewide—to support healthy eating programs for kids. In other words, we all thrive, with $5.
The Kicker: “MEarth strives to lead by example. Our center and our programs are designed to impart the knowledge, skills, and inspiration to become active and engaged citizens dedicated to the stewardship of the earth.”