There is a lot of time and money spent by non-profits like the Food Bank in the process of writing grants. There’s also a lot of competition, which requires non-profits to do their homework, use discretion, and make sure that the investment in a grant application is welcomed.
But once in a while, a grant comes along that is “out of the blue.” That happened earlier this year when the S.L. Gimbel Foundation reached out to San Luis Obispo County through our own Community Foundation. Frankly, I have no idea what the motivation was for them to reach beyond their normal designated recipient base to those on the “outside.” But I think it’s a wonderful reminder that as important as “taking care of our own” is, there is also the recognition that none of us lives in isolation. We cannot take care of our own, without also participating in the improvement of lives beyond our city, or county, state, or nation. It’s important to have that kind of selfless compassion in our lives, and in the end, it does serve us well. There is joy in giving to those we don’t feel we have to know – except that they are fellow human beings in need. And there is also joy in knowing that they will understand that people whom they don’t know remember and respond to their need. That gives great hope and encouragement.
So many thanks to the S.L. Gimbel Foundation Advisory Fund down in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties for touching the lives of thousands in need right here in San Luis Obispo County.
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You may have seen on the front page of The Tribune last week a story about the Hunger Free Communities Grant the Food Bank Coalition received from the USDA. The grant was $99, 561. That’s a lot of money for a survey. I knew when I read the article that people would have the same reaction I had when we applied for it: “That would feed a lot of people. I’d rather have the money for program than a survey.” However, this grant is far more precious to our county than $100,000 spent on a one-time food giveaway could ever be.
Edward Teller, who led the Manhattan Project that developed the hydrogen bomb, is often credited with the saying, “Knowledge is power.” The wisdom behind this grant is that it will produce knowledge of the hunger realities in our county that we could not otherwise accumulate. Knowledge based on science, not opinions, or even solely the data that is collected by the Food Bank programs is what this grant offers. Scientific data taken from in-the-field studies is power, because it brings together the best information we have as non-profits. It also surveys the resources that we have to meet the needs of this county that are not already met. It explores how we might better serve those future needs, resulting in a Strategic Plan – a vision of the future and a pathway to get there.
The most powerful aspect of this grant, however, is that it will create a unique San Luis Obispo County version of a Food Policy Council (FPC). Such councils exist in many variations in all parts of the country. It is a gathering of people representing many groups, from non-profits, education, health, agriculture, business, and religious communities. They’re interested in improving access to healthy food for our food insecure neighbors, and recommending ways to our leadership to improve our county’s food system. Imagine leaders in our county working together, learning from one another, studying our uniqueness and creating a vision. This vision makes the most of its abundant resources in a responsible way to provide local healthy food, especially for those who currently may not have access. We can accomplish here what seems to have been impossible lately at the state and national level – leaders that work together for the greater good of all. We have decided to call our version of an FPC the Food System Coalition of San Luis Obispo County.
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