Category: Events

Our 30th Anniversary Celebration

People are in need for two reasons: Either decisions they’ve made or circumstances beyond their control. In either instance, hunger should not be the price they have to pay. That’s why the Food Bank Coalition, it’s non-profit agency partners, donors, volunteers and advocates have been working relentlessly for 30 years to alleviate hunger in SLO County and build a healthier community. As we came together on Friday, September 20, 2019, to celebrate our county’s response to hunger relief efforts, some members of our community had a chance to express their thoughts on the impact that we make every single day. We have compiled the words that were spoken to ensure that they continue to echo out into our county.

“The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County helps us with the social determinants of health which encompasses health education and work in the community to assure that the systems that provide food security – one of the main sustainers of life and quality existence – continue to exist.” – Dr. Penny Borenstein, Director of Public Health

“The Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County operates from a mission to alleviate hunger in this county for a healthier community. On behalf of the California state assembly, the state senate, assemblyman Jordan Cunningham and senator Bill Monning, congratulations to the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County for celebrating its 30th year serving the constituents in the community of San Luis Obispo County.” – Keilah Smith and Annie Frew, Office of Jordan Cunnningham, Office of Bill Monning

“It is just amazing what has been accomplished over 30 years. It couldn’t have happened without the donors, the volunteers, and the local farmers in this county who are always ready to supply fresh produce and healthy food to the community, not only for people in need but also for all the other non-profits that work across the county. They all are a very large part of what makes this county such a unique place to live.” – Debbie Arnold, Chair of the Board of Supervisors

“It’s a common misconception that the Food Bank Coalition is a government-funded operation that just cruises along. In reality we rely on donations. About 75% of our operational funds come from donors that help us fund our operations. We spend about $200,000 per month, so it is a big obligation for us to go through and manage that over time. For those of you who contribute your time and your money, we want to say thank you.” – Steve Davis, Board President of the Food Bank Coalition

“Serving our community is critical, and the impact we have on others is the most important thing for us at the Community Foundation. In working with the Food Bank Coalition, we can touch lives every day. A good friend of mine recently started volunteering at the Children’s Farmers Market in Paso Robles. She was helping the elementary school children when she noticed a little girl that seemed a little hesitant. My friend said, “Would you like some apples to put in your back?” The little girl answered, “That would be great. I love apples!” As the girl opened up her backpack, she pulled out her lunch so that it wouldn’t get crushed, but all she had was just a little bag filled with only four crackers and one cookie. That was supposed to be her lunch! If it hadn’t been for the Food Bank Coalition, that little girl would have had four crackers and a little cookie for lunch. That is the kind of impact the Food Bank Coalition has every single day.” – Heidi McPherson, CEO of Community Foundation San Luis Obispo County

“The Food Bank Coalition is a lot more than just food. It’s this entire building, it’s the people who support the distribution process, it’s the trucks, it’s the staff who manage volunteers and make the food available to over 77 different non-profit partners and it’s the special programs that the Food Bank Coalition sponsors. “ – Jim Sargen, Philanthropist

“We are one of those non-profits that the Food Bank Coalition partners with. Our partnership goes way back, and it is a vital part of our existence. We run a senior nutrition program that changed their name to Meals That Connect about three years ago because it more clearly describes what we do. We don’t just deliver food to seniors; we connect with them and give them a chance to socialize. We serve approximately 1,600 individuals countywide. We deliver free, nutritious meals every day to homebound seniors and we also provide dining at our eleven dining sites throughout the county. Our partnership is dependent on the regular distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables from the Food Bank Coalition. We also get to use the meat from the California State Fair which means beef, pork and lamb get to go onto our menus. We are also an outlet for the Food Bank Coalition to distribute fresh produce and bread at our dining sites to seniors.” – Juliane McAdam, Meals that Connect

“It has been a pleasure for the Promotores to attend at the Food Bank Coalition distributions at five sites – three in Paso Robles, one in Shandon and one in San Miguel. We create trust and provide education to the Latino community. We share the importance of eating healthy to prevent chronic diseases and we share smiles so that they feel welcome. We also provide recipes that are cultural appropriate for this specific group. Something I have observed is that the Latinos feel ashamed and often do not want to take away food from other families. We tell them that we have plenty of food available and that it is there for them to come and use it.” – Erica Ruvalcaba-Heredia, Director of Promotores Collaborative of SLO County

“As farmers, we are committed to changing the lives of our employees, our customers and our community by providing fresh produce and encouraging healthy eating habits. It is our desire that as many people as possible reap the benefits of consuming daily more fresh fruits and vegetables. We understand that getting enough fresh produce isn’t always the reality for the needy in our community and we don’t want lack of resources to prevent folks from engaging in healthy eating habits. We are honored and proud of our partnership with the Food Bank Coalition over the last several years providing them with fresh fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis. And we are so thankful for the work of the Food Bank Coalition. Our hope is that by providing this fresh produce to Food Bank Coalition customers they will continue to pursue these healthy eating habits once they get back on their feet. We are happy also to work with GleanSLO who organizes volunteers to finish harvesting our fields and thus saving produce from becoming waste while at the same time providing more healthy produce for those most in need. With the shortage of labor to harvest our crops, which is a real reality for us these days, volunteers provide an invaluable service to both us farmers and the needy in our community. We look forward to many more years of supporting and partnering with the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.” – Todd Talley, Talley Farms

“I got a phone call one afternoon from RISE about a young lady with epilepsy and bipolar disorder. She was at RISE because she had experienced physical abuse from her boyfriend. Initially, she had come out to California with big dreams, but unfortunately it did not work out that way. She stopped taking her meds, went into meth, eventually became homeless and lived under a bridge. When I met her – a very small and fragile young lady who had been through a lot – she looked at me and asked if I can help. I told her that I can and that I would get her back to her family. So we called grandmother Rose from Texas who cried the whole time during our phone call because she hadn’t heard from her granddaughter for six months and didn’t know where she was or whether or not she was alive. So my Community Action Team bought a bus ticket with the help of TMHA’s family reunification program, and we put the girl on a bus the next morning. Because of the wonderful work the Food Bank Coalition does, we were also able to give her a backpack full of food which sustained during the long bus ride.” – John Klevins, TransitionsMental Health / SLO Police Dept.

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Hunger Awareness Day Recap

On Friday, June 7th, the San Luis Obispo Food Bank Coalition hosted its 13th annual Hunger Awareness Day event. The goal of Hunger Awareness Day is to raise awareness for food insecurity in SLO county and money to provide healthy food to the 1 in 6 in our community who may struggle with access to nutrition. The event received a tremendous response and incredible support from members of the community here in SLO.

From 7am to 7pm on Friday, volunteers set up booths all over the county to collect donations. In total, there were 40 different collection sites run by 10 SLO Food Bank Coalition staff members, 14 agency partners, and 16 volunteer groups. These groups included Kiwanis, Rotary Club, local businesses, restaurants, and coffee shops, and individuals including Floyd Butterfield, the founder of Hunger Awareness Day. A total of 450 volunteers supported this event, including city officials from every community.

I headed down to the collection site in downtown San Luis Obispo to hear firsthand about how Hunger Awareness Day was going. I was able to speak with several volunteers to get their perspective on the day. At this site, the Wild 106.1 radio station was blasting music, creating a fun and lively atmosphere. Volunteers stood in the street with signs saying, “Be a Hunger Hero” and “Feed SLO County,” encouraging those who drove by to pull in and donate money.

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No-Cook Bags for Haylie and Lilly

Four times per year at different locations through SLO County, the Mobile Assistance and Services Addressing Homelessness group, also known as MASH, organizes a resource fair where homeless residents of San Luis Obispo County can get help from community members.

Attendees are usually offered a hot meal, haircuts, flu shots, eye glasses and many other free services. At the Food Bank table, people can learn about our No-Cook Bags (NCB) and pick up a sample bag as well. We pack and distribute these bags specifically for the homeless population who do not have access to a kitchen. The NCBs are full of shelf-stable, nutritious foods that don’t require a can opener, heating, or prepping of any kind. While the bags’ contents can vary from distribution to distribution, common items are canned fruit, cereal & granola bars, beans, nuts and peanut butter. Especially the latter one is everyone’s favorite, and not just because of the taste. Peanuts are full of protein and mono-unsaturated fats that fill you up for longer.

During the last fair on August 8th, 2018, at the South County Regional Center in Arroyo Grande, we met Haylie and her best friend Lilly. “My grandma has been receiving food from the Food Bank for several years now. She does not have a lot of money left over to buy enough to eat, so she tries to go a distribution once or twice per month,” explains Haylie who also said that she likes to help her grandmother with cooking mealsfrom the food they receive.

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What Comes To Mind When You Think Of The Month Of May?

What comes to mind when you think of the month of May? Is it the image of children dancing around the Maypole and flowers everywhere such as the one you see here? Is it Cinco de Mayo? Mother’s Day? Memorial Day? Indy 500? Or how about the phrase Mayday! Mayday! (If I wrote it three times I might get in trouble because that’s the official distress call and you can be fined $250,000 for using it and not truly being in distress.) For the Food Bank, May probably feels closer to the distress call than anything else. People aren’t as focused on helping others as they are in the fall and winter holidays, so food and financial donations are more difficult to come by. This isn’t exactly a Mayday call, but we do need help! That’s why May is set aside for our Spring Food Drive as well as preparations for Hunger Awareness Day on June 6th this year. We’re trying to get your attention! These are very lean months for us, while those who hunger don’t get a break from it just because it’s a beautiful spring day in May.

Would you consider using the month of May as a month of preparation for Hunger Awareness Day? You can help us make the day a great success by making a donation starting on May 1st! You will be able to find a donation site in your community for you to go to on June 6th with a donation of funds for us to match ten times over with food for our neighbors in need. How about gathering your family, neighborhood, or friends at work? Take a collection and bring it to the site closest to your house or workplace from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, June 6th. Maybe you’d like to skip a meal a day in May and bring what you’ve saved on Hunger Awareness Day. Maybe you’d like to offer to be the bearer of gifts from your service club or church. Let your imagination run wild and make your May one you will never forget or regret. You’ll be glad you did and someone having to choose between food for the family and a roof over their head will be happy, too – and greatly encouraged by your generosity. For every person who’s

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The Eagle

I learned something about Ben Franklin the other day listening to the Dave Congalton show on KVEC. I usually learn a lot from Dave and his guests, because if it’s interesting and worth knowing, Dave will air it if he gets the chance.

This was the day he had the Bald Eagle on the program from Zoo to You. You wouldn’t think that a radio show would be the best venue for a Bald Eagle, but Dave and his guests made the experience moving and visual in the mind’s eye – as did the eagle. The majestic beast gripped the 3-ply leather glove of it’s handler with slicing talons, and flapped it’s wings, sending those in Dave’s small studio to the floor to escape the whips of the bird’s powerful filling Dave’s small studio. It brought tears to my eyes to hear them admiring the muscular, colorful, and ruling mascot of the United States of America. Dave seemed to feel honored as the recipient of the moment. How many desks can claim the distinction of the markings of the National Bird himself!

I also learned something from the folks from Zoo to You. They reminded us that there was at least one man, Benjamin Franklin, who wanted the National Bird to be the wild turkey. I knew that. But I didn’t know why. They said the reason was that you cannot put a turkey in a cage. He will not give up fighting to get out of the cage until he ends up either successful or dead. What a powerful symbolic inspiration for the formation of a new nation seeking to remove the chains of an oppressive king. Virtually no one agreed with Franklin, so the national bird became the Bald Eagle in all its power, beauty, and majesty.

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California Mid State Fair

July is Mid-State Fair time in SLO County. So I have to ask, “What is your favorite thing about the Fair?” If you’d like to make your response on our blog, you can share your thoughts with thousands who receive our newsletter!

As for me, the best part of the Fair is the people. It’s a huge block party. Great talent comes to entertain us, creative people share from their kitchens, gardens, and studios. Farmers display the abundance and variety of produce that our county provides, and our young neighbors inspire us with the animals they’ve raised and the goods they’ve produced. Then there’s the carnival, with its thrills and oddities. (I get queasy thinking about it because my inner ear remembers a time before I learned that carnival rides and the ocean must be avoided.)

So the Fair is about appreciating who we are and celebrating our diverse gifts. Did you know that the Food Bank receives meat from the Jr. Livestock Auction to feed hungry people? Many people who purchase animals at the Fair donate them to the Food Bank. So there’s one more reason to be like the Fair. If you’re like me, it’s hard to pick just one thing. I say it’s the people, because people make it all happen. What’s your favorite thing?

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The Hunger Games

The blockbuster hit The Hunger Games was the third largest grossing movie released in history and even has meaning here in San Luis Obispo County. Did you know that the movie is sponsoring hunger relief throughout the country and even worldwide? 25% of each donation will benefit Feeding America supporting hunger locally, while 75% will go to World Food Programme a global hunger relief organization.

The underlying meaning of the movie is, of course, subject to the interpretation of the individual that spends the $8 bucks to go see the movie.  Yes, I know that’s cheap, but that’s what I paid on a weekday afternoon as a senior, not including the bucket of popcorn and diet soda I shared with my wife.

So here’s my interpretation of Hunger Games, it is a futuristic look in the mirror.  I’m sitting there being entertained (and I was – I recommend it), pleased with my successful planning to only spend about $26 between the two of us (my wife didn’t have any of the popcorn as it turned out, but it somehow disappeared before the movie was over.)  That $26 would have provided 182 healthy meals for some of the 44,000 residents in our county. The largest population we serve is children whose families are dealing with the anxiety of their frightening economic situation.

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