Category: Operations

Celebrating 30 Years of Our County’s Response to Hunger Relief

When the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County opened on Valentine’s Day in 1989, it consisted of a 4,000 square foot warehouse space in Paso Robles with a Knudsen ice cream truck in back acting as its only cold storage and a second truck to use for deliveries. By the end of that year the organization was serving 7,000 households per quarter at 17 food distributions sites throughout the county. Besides an executive director, office and warehouse manager, the organization was nearly 100% volunteer run.

Today, 30 years later, we operate out of a new, centrally-located 20,000 square foot facility in San Luis Obispo, 15% of which is refrigerator and freezer space. We distribute food to 14,000 households per month at 60 public distribution sites and through our network of 78 agency partners, serving every community in the county. We provide specific programs, like summer breakfast for children and farmers’ markets for seniors, which are tailored to serve our county’s most vulnerable populations. Our gleaning program harvests 250,000 lbs of produce from local growers each year. This year our operation will rely on 27 paid staff, a fleet of 11 trucks and the help of over 3,500 volunteers to increase food security for individuals and families in San Luis Obispo County.

The Food Bank Coalition started from humble beginnings, but was fueled by a strong belief: that no one in our county should go hungry. While the people involved, scale, and location of the Food Bank Coalition has changed over time that original vision has remained constant. Over the past 30 years, every time our leaders approved funding, every time a volunteer handed a bag of food to someone at a distribution, and every time a church group organized a food drive they were getting closer to realizing that vision.

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The Farm Bill: What Does It Mean To The Food Bank Coalition?

Our mission here at the SLO Food Bank Coalition is to alleviate hunger and build a healthier community. 46,000 residents in the San Luis Obispo County struggle with hunger and everyday make the difficult choice between buying food or other necessities. 1 in 6 households are food insecure, including children, home-bound individuals, senior citizens and many members of the veteran community.

The Farm Bill is the primary federal legislation for the agriculture, farming, food and nutrition in the United States of America. It impacts the well-being of millions of people who struggle to put food on their plates since most of this bill’s funding is utilized on food subsidies. The Farm Bill programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) help provide food to the community and that is where the Food Bank comes into the picture – the Food Bank helps in operating these programs.

SNAP (CalFresh): SNAP in California is known as CalFresh and is the largest food program in California. It provides food benefits to families and individuals with low-income and helps them in purchasing nutritious food from the grocery store or a farmers’ market. The Food Bank has an internal Calfresh Outreach Program to help connect people who qualify for this resource and can benefit from it.

TEFAP: This program provides food to low-income families and individuals via food banks in partnership with the USDA. Through TEFAP, we hold 52 monthly public food distributions serving 5000-6000 individuals throughout San Luis Obispo County.

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2018 Year in Review

Here is the year in the life of the Food Bank Coalition in two quick stories. Thanks to all who made it possible by their stewardship of time and talent and to our gracious donors who act in furtherance of our mission.

One

At a community leadership meeting this Fall, someone asked what would happen if the Food Bank Coalition went away. A leader from Atascadero Loaves and Fishes raised his hand and said, “We don’t get all of our food from the Food Bank Coalition. We do some grocery rescue on our own and we accept some restaurant donations.”

He continued, “But what we get from them is dependability. The Food Bank Coalition provides assurance to us that we will have reliable access to top quality food. This evens out our offerings and ensures we can operate on a near daily basis to provide for hunger relief needs in our local community.”

Two

At a spring food distribution in south county a family walked away with a 15-pound bag of healthy shelf stable product and a 15-pound bag of fresh produce. The mother said to one of the volunteers, “This is great. Tonight we will have our choice of what to eat for dinner.”

To Review

The breadth of our impact this year can be summed up in the fact that we take advantage of our coalition nature to bring dignity to those who have limited choices in placing food on the table for their families.

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Our Contribution To Reducing Food Waste

Staying sustainable is a top priority here at the SLO Food Bank. We want to provide food to those in need while being aware of our impact on the environment. By taking steps to minimize that impact, we can collectively help our planet.

How Does Food Waste Impact The Environment?
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “food waste”? Is it throwing away food that you can’t finish eating? There’s so much more to the environmental effects of food waste than simply what is thrown away.

Resources put into producing, packaging, and transporting food is lost when food is wasted. This includes but is not limited to:

1. Water and land used to produce food
2. Plastic, paper, and other materials used to package food
3. Greenhouse gas emissions from transporting food
4. Labor and energy costs every step of the way

Food that is thrown away also takes up a significant amount of space in our landfills and releases methane and carbon dioxide while decomposing. Methane is significantly more detrimental to our environment than carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, it’s 20 times more destructive. We take steps to minimize the amount of food we send to our landfills.

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It’s time for the audit…again!

You may be surprised to learn that we can have as many as four audits per year at the Food Bank. This year we got lucky; we only had three! They are the regular financial audits we are all personally familiar with. Non-profits should have an audit every year, usually by a specialized CPA, if it collects donations from its members or the public in general. The audit certifies, in the opinion of a licensed, independent observer, that the books aren’t cooked and that what is represented in the financial statement is true and confirmed by the auditor.

The Food Bank also receives a federal audit, because any non-profit that receives more than $500,000 from the federal government, must be audited according to federal requirements. (We receive between $500,000 and $600,000 from the government.) We also have a regular, but not annual state audits from the Department of Social Services that administers the federal Emergency Food Assistance Program, and the California Association of Food Banks that administers the CalFresh (Food Stamp) Outreach Program. And of course, anytime we receive a grant, the grantor reserves the right to audit our records as they pertain to the intended purpose of the grant.

While there is a cost associated with these audits, imagine what the cost could be if audits didn’t exist? And what we sometimes don’t think about is what we learn from the audits. I have always found that audits 1. Cause me to be aware every day that our procedures are well thought through, recorded, and applied uniformly; 2. that when we do discover a gap in procedures, we learn about it and have the information to fix it; and 3. when we fix it, we have a greater trust in the ability of the audit to unearth poor practices or even fraudulent intentions. Audits are not fun. Sometimes it feels like auditors take great pleasure torturing us and catching us doing something wrong. We should welcome them as a necessary and beneficial link in building the kind of trust that is based in the verification of truth. It’s

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Collaboration with Public Health

Compared to large metropolitan areas, our Food Bank is considered small do to the size of our county. This results in many staff members wearing multiple hats, not allowing us to have paid staff in some of the positions that would provide professional expertise in areas of great need.  For example, we don’t have a nutritionist on staff to lead our nutrition outreach. This person would champion our effort not only to provide healthy food, but also administer a county-wide program on nutrition education that is tailored to the foods we distribute to them.

It’s one thing to provide healthy food, and another to educate and inspire people who may not have a palate or be familiar to food items that are good for them. That’s why we are so pleased to be collaborating with the Department of County Health. Through this partnership we will provide nutrition education through cooking demonstrations and tastings at our county-wide distribution sites.  The food utilized in these demonstrations will be paired monthly with what the Food Bank has available for distribution.

Public Health educators will be doing onsite education using the produce that is being distributed that day! Take broccoli for example.  While people are waiting in line, they will have an opportunity:

  • Share their personal experiences with broccoli
  • Learn about the nutritional benefitsof broccoli,

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President’s Letter

Dear Neighbor,

One of the Food Bank’s neighborhood distribution centers opened earlier this year at the Mission View Senior Residence in San Luis Obispo. As the current chairperson for the Food Bank, I wanted to stop by and congratulate them. This was very emotional and challenging for me since a few months earlier my Dad passed away at that very location. When I got to Mission View, I can’t tell you how rewarding it was for me to see all those volunteers, many of whom were current patients sitting in wheel chairs, putting together food baskets for those in need in our community. The appreciation for those I talked to who were receiving the food was overwhelming as well. These seniors exemplify our caring community!

This is why I love the Food Bank Coalition!

The Food Bank supplies food to over 200 agencies in our county which help feed 40,000 people annually. Unfortunately, about 40% of them are children. What a difference it makes to give 16,000 children access to healthy food. Without meeting this basic need, all other needs are magnified! We can supply 10 lbs. of food – about half now being fresh produce – for every dollar you provide.

On behalf of the entire Board of Directors of the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County, I ask you to please help us now as you have in the past. An envelope is enclosed for your use, or you can go to our website and make a secure credit card donation.

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