Extending Hospitality and Feeding Neighbors

By Kevin Drabinski, Chief Executive Officer

Hunger relief is an ancient feature of humans helping out their neighbor. If it’s not the oldest game in town it’s close to it.

All the early texts of wisdom literature recorded ideas about how to treat those who were the most vulnerable in society. Special care was suggested for older citizens, babies and the young, those who were without clothing or shelter, the sick or imprisoned, travelers, widows, and those who were thirsty and hungry.

All this understanding about how to treat neighbors was brought together under the single heading of hospitality. In San Luis Obispo County our current generation’s hospitable response to hunger is coherent and team based.

It has made good sense for almost 30 years to have a central player in hunger relief be responsible for sourcing, transporting, storing, and refrigerating food at scale. This makes it economically viable for all the other nonprofit players to gain reliable and efficient access to wholesome food.

Partners.jpg

People Helping People, a nonprofit agency partner in Los Osos.

The Food Bank Coalition acts out of the center of this enterprise and teams with its coalition of 77 nonprofit partners to distribute groceries and fresh produce to some 30,000 individuals every month across every community in the county.

It’s good to check in against the wisdom of history from time to time and ask the question how as a community we are treating the most vulnerable among us.

We can all be encouraged to see that every vulnerable population imagined under the heading of hospitality is in some way covered by these hunger relief efforts especially those in support of our youth and our elders.

Another testament to the response by our county community is that a remarkable number of women, men, and youth readily give their time to support this work. Last year 3,750 Food Bank Coalition volunteers, perhaps the most at any countywide nonprofit, put their hands to the task of feeding their neighbors.

Child.jpg

40% of those struggling with hunger are children.

And what doesn’t show up in any statistical analysis is the generous and joyful spirit in which this work is accomplished. Volunteers are distinguished by a selflessness which expects nothing in return. Rather, the volunteer effort itself serves as the reward.

Hospitality under the guise of hunger relief is a real local effort. Over 70% of monetary donations to the Food Bank Coalition come from individuals, people who appreciate that their financial support stays right here in the county.

We’re not done with hunger relief. We will have to expand to reach more of the one in six in our community who struggle to have enough food. We will have to figure out ways to reach an aging population with good nutrition. And we’ll have to be vigilant and prepared for any natural disasters that may come to our region.

But if recent form is an indication, this county community is quite adept at the art of feeding its neighbors and of extending hospitality to the vulnerable among us.