By Sara Lesher, Cal Poly Graduate
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.
When asked why the radio station chose to get involved in the event, Jo Jo Lopez from Wild 106 said, “We’re a radio station in San Luis Obispo. It’s really our duty to do stuff like this, to use the power that we have with a lot of people listening to do some good for the community.” It was inspiring to see the ways in which members of the community came together to support one another.
Paulette Rush, Community Relations Manager at BHE Renewables, spoke on behalf of the company, a sponsor of the SLO Food Bank Coalition for several years: “I think it’s incredible. There’s so many people out there hungry and this is a way for everyone to get together when you’re out here and you’ve got the signs. Sometimes people know there’s an issue with people needing food, but it’s kind of in the back of their heads. This puts everything right in front of their face and people will drop money in there when before they never would have thought about helping out.” BHE Renewables is one of the SLO Food Bank Coalition’s largest sponsors, donating $2,500 to support Hunger Awareness Day.
In addition to large organizations, young people in the community also chose to show their support. I spoke with Reese Swanson, a first-year Recreation Parks and Tourism major at Cal Poly in the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity. He told me that their philanthropy chair reached out to the SLO Food Bank Coalition asking to help, and over 30 members came out to volunteer that day. Him and two of his fraternity brothers stood out in the heat, taking turns dressing in a SLO Food Bank Coalition sandwich costume.
Overall, the SLO Food Bank Coalition’s Hunger Awareness Day was a huge success. As of 9:30am on Tuesday, June 11, $108,761.75 were raised, with mail-in donations from individuals and businesses still coming in and 8 collection sites left to tally. Check back by the end of June for the final number!
If you’d like to get involved with next year’s Hunger Awareness Day on June 5, 2020, or show your support for the SLO Food Bank Coalition in other ways, please visit slofoodbank.org to get in touch.