Month: May 2019

Hunger Relief From a Place of Hope

There’s nothing subtle about being hungry.

The need for food is part of the human condition. Everyone knows how it feels when you don’t eat for 10 or 14 or 20 hours. You may get impatient, anxious, or distressed, or a combination of all these things. And so, 1 in 6 people in our county community will experience something like this throughout the year. The inability to afford to purchase food pangs the body, but it strikes a blow to one’s self esteem as well.

If we put ourselves in the place of the 30,000 individuals who receive groceries and produce every month from the SLO Food Bank Coalition there are many inglorious tales to tell.

In general, we all feel for a child who goes hungry and lacks the fuel it needs to recreate properly. We feel for seniors who have to budget a set amount each month and may have to prioritize health or housing needs over adequate nutrition.

And, we certainly feel working families, who experience the strain, emotionally even, of not being able to provide. These are dire circumstances in which so many of our neighbors find themselves for a period of time.

But before the story gets too bleak, you notice the counter balance in response to this situation:

The SLO Food Bank Coalition enjoys the support of over 3,700 key volunteers every year. And when you see these women and men go about their business, and the way the carry themselves, you’d have to agree that they do this work with a righteous spirit.

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The Hope That’s Needed to Meet a Real and Dire Need

It’s a challenge at times to find the right words to describe conditions surrounding hunger relief in our county. The other day I reached out for advice to Terry Vail of Atascadero Loaves and Fishes (ALF). He’s a man of few words, a knowing smile, and someone I deeply respect.

Terry helps operate an exceptionally well-run organization which quietly effects change in Atascadero and surrounding communities. Some 125 heads of households receive food and other services from ALF each week. They are one of 77 partner nonprofits that rely on the Food Bank Coalition as a reliable and affordable source of fresh produce and groceries.

When Terry came to our warehouse to help with a weekly pickup run, I asked, “Terry, I have some new audiences I’m meeting with and I want to keep the message fresh. What are some new ways to say what it is we do?”

Terry said, “How many ways can we say it? The need is real. The need is often dire.”

Just how real is the need? Many people are unaware that 1 in 6 people in our county will, at some time during the year, struggle to put food on the table.

As we prepare to celebrate Hunger Awareness Day on Friday, June 7, let’s acknowledge that awareness is one of the main goals of this endeavor – with fundraising running a close second. And I think there are two numbers of note that are relevant to this promotion around hunger awareness. One is descriptive of the need and the other telling of our community’s response.

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Nutrition Education: Support for Seniors in SLO County

A few months back, I had the opportunity to sit-in on a nutrition education class led by one of our dietetic interns, Sharmin. The class was hosted in Morro Bay at Ocean View Manor, a non-profit housing community for those 62 years of age or older. The topic of Sharmin’s class was “What to Eat When You Have Diabetes”.

When Sharmin began her lecture, the community room at Ocean View Manor was full; possibly due in part to the promise of a free dinner. Sharmin presented her lecture to the group, then opened the floor to questions. The room quickly filled with raised hands, and the residents began to ask their questions.

For many of us, finding the balance in our everyday lives of eating healthy and maintaining self-care can be difficult. Many seniors in our county face those same challenges with limited income, mobility, and independence— and we here at the Food Bank Coalition work to address those challenges.

Once the presentation was over, it was time for dinner to be served. The meal included slow-cooked chicken, lentil soup, and a fresh salad. Recipe cards for the dishes were provided, so seniors could make the meal at home. While Sharmin and I started serving food, volunteers from the group helped us bring plates to their fellow community members. Soon the room was overflowing with talk as residents dove into their dinner, and discussed the presentation they had just heard.

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