It’s a challenge at times to find the right words to describe conditions surrounding hunger relief in our county. The other day I reached out for advice to Terry Vail of Atascadero Loaves and Fishes (ALF). He’s a man of few words, a knowing smile, and someone I deeply respect.
Terry helps operate an exceptionally well-run organization which quietly effects change in Atascadero and surrounding communities. Some 125 heads of households receive food and other services from ALF each week. They are one of 77 partner nonprofits that rely on the Food Bank Coalition as a reliable and affordable source of fresh produce and groceries.
When Terry came to our warehouse to help with a weekly pickup run, I asked, “Terry, I have some new audiences I’m meeting with and I want to keep the message fresh. What are some new ways to say what it is we do?”
Terry said, “How many ways can we say it? The need is real. The need is often dire.”
Just how real is the need? Many people are unaware that 1 in 6 people in our county will, at some time during the year, struggle to put food on the table.
As we prepare to celebrate Hunger Awareness Day on Friday, June 7, let’s acknowledge that awareness is one of the main goals of this endeavor – with fundraising running a close second. And I think there are two numbers of note that are relevant to this promotion around hunger awareness. One is descriptive of the need and the other telling of our community’s response.
The first figure is 30,000. That’s the number of people the Food Bank Coalition and its network of coalition partners reach every month with healthy nutritious food. Thirty thousand is a sobering number.
Distributions of groceries and fresh produce take place in nearly every community in San Luis Obispo County. So if you are in need of food, there is a distribution close to where you live as well as in neighboring communities – coverage from which all these 30,000 people are able to benefit from every month.
The second figure reflects our community’s response. Last year, we enjoyed the support of 3,750 volunteers – an extraordinary figure without parallel among county nonprofits.
When a person donates to the Food Bank Coalition they know that they are leveraging the thousands of volunteers here who can expand on that investment.
The sheer number of volunteers demonstrates that people in this county find purpose in responding by putting their hands to action for hunger relief.
I am convinced that these are hopeful times we live in. For my money there are too many people doing good work here to believe otherwise. If we judge by the actions of those who advocate, volunteer, or donate in support of our mission, then we would have to conclude that we are a county community who believes that everyone, without exception, should have something good to eat every day.
Won’t you be an advocate, volunteer, or donor? Help fashion a just response and be the hope that’s needed to meet this real and dire need.
– By Kevin Drabinski, Chief Executive Officer