Friday, October 8, 2010 was a memorable and exciting day for me as not only did I appear on KWGN TV in Denver to do a live cooking demonstration http://bit.ly/9Xwm3e
of my winning Real Women of Philadelphia entree, I also got to indulge my passion of helping those suffering hunger by conducting my first interviews to give hunger a voice and face in America, via FacesOfUSAHunger.tv and FeedTheUSA.com, (currently being built).
Though I had originally planned to document the Food Bank of the Rockies, Feeding America's main distribution hub for 54 counties in Colorado, I learned upon arriving at that HUGE facility, that the predominance of the staff were attending a state conference that day and was able to capture only a few images, which I will post soon.
Before leaving Food Bank of the Rockies, I inquired as to what food bank would be open in the cities I would pass through, on my way to my son's house out side of Boulder. Ironically, I was given exact directions to the food bank I had chosen the night before, while trying to ascertain potential food pantries to document; the Arvada Community Food Bank.
I only waited a couple of minutes before someone approached to inquire what I needed, taking in the size and aspects of the food bank. While I had heard of new ideas of running food banks much the same as a grocery store, offering options and dignity, this was the FIRST I had seen! It wasn't long before the Executive Director, Ernie Giron, turned his attention to me. I think he was a little skeptical and unsure of my purpose at first but suddenly became obviously more comfortable as he started walking down the first aisle at a brisk pace, stopping briefly to explain what the shelves held, the TEFAP products that weren't there, etc. I had to stop Ernie at this point to learn what the heck TEFAP is!
TEFAP is the acronym for 'The Emergency Food Assistance Program', administered by the USDA. The USDA buys huge volumes of commodities, including but not limited to rice, beans, canned products, meats, etc. and sends to food banks/pantries once a month to supplement food assistance for the needy. As I soon learned, with the exponentially growing numbers of Arvada citizens categorized as "food insecure"*, the TEFAP food stuffs only last a matter of days out of each month. And, the food banks wait another month for the much needed assistance that will serve only a fraction of what's needed.
During my time with Ernie, I learned;
• This food bank opened August 17th, 2009 and is 9300 sq. ft. and was the former library.
• The building that formerly housed the Arvada Community Food Bank was only 3000 sq. ft.
• Their capital campaign was for $403,000, which was accomplished in six months!
• 270 volunteers donate their time to the food bank. Half of those people volunteer for the school back pack program.
• Volunteers work in three shifts plus the school backpack program:
⁃ 7 a.m. - 10 a.m.: Sorting, intake & distribution shift
⁃ 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.: Stock shelves of food bank needs, etc. & coordinates distribution between the lunch program and the backpack program.
⁃ 12 p.m. -4 p.m.: Volunteers assist clients with shopping, intake, resources, etc.
• They have great support from the community and a good donor base.
• They are completely computerized, unlike most food banks in the nation. This allows great tracking of food stuffs, people, needs, schools, etc. and gives constant real-time feedback. Effective use of everybody's time and resources!
• In 2009, the food bank was distributing an average of 50,000 pounds of food each week.
• In 2010, the food bank now distributes 65,000 pounds of food each week and the numbers will grow exponentially as the winter months approach.
• This food bank sees an avg. of 20-25 new clients each week.
• The food bank is serving 30% more people since 2009.
• The food bank conducts a survey of their clients each September 1st. Formerly, the clients were allowed 6 visits per year and a visit allowed under the TEFAP for commodities, once each 30 days. Due to 64% of clients saying they need 9 visits a year and 11 visits for TEFAP, the food bank is adjusting to meet these demands.
• Other services, i.e. SNAP, (food stamps), etc. are available in the building housing the food bank.
• The food bank purchases 50% of the food stuffs, receives 35% of it's donations from I can't remember where and the remainder from donations.
A HUGE thing I learned is that a lot of people, having lost their homes, their jobs and lives as they knew it, have moved in with relatives and even though their situations are precarious at best, they do not consider themselves homeless. Most expressed that they have spent significant amounts of time being homeless, the couches and floors they now find themselves sleeping on, are "home" to them. Another big thing I learned is that our system for dealing with disabilities is forcing people into dangerous situations without proper medications, income and forcing homelessness as it takes an inordinate amount of time to receive benefits for those suffering. Two PLUS years waiting for approval is inhumane and something HAS to be done in this era of high speed computers & technology!
There was one last thing that I learned at this food bank that amazed me; there are NONE of the classic people we see images of frequenting this particular food bank! I was informed that the clients of this food bank, located in an old but formerly successful part of the Denver metro region, are people who were employed but currently are not. This food bank is serving people particularly hit hard by the current economy!
Thank you to Ernie Giron and his wonderful staff and clients for allowing me to interrupt your work day, unannounced. Your generosity and the great information and access you provided, instilled the belief in me that it is of VITAL importance for me to travel to food banks across the U.S. and give the hungry a voice as well as the food banks and to share the great ideas that are working so that other communities may learn and/or implement. A million Thanks Ernie!
Now folks, there MUST be some small thing you can do to help people in your community. One in four children in our schools, depend on the school lunch program for their only meal in a day. One in six adults are suffering hunger. Many of your neighbors are suffering hunger in silence, jobless or hours significantly cut back, trying to feed their children, too embarrassed and/or afraid to admit they need assistance for fear of the local gossip mill ruining any chances they may have at viable employment. It's a vicious, tiring circle for those millions of families who have slipped into poverty during the worst economic times the U.S. has seen since before the Great Depression, something most of us have only read about. Time to pull on your empathy and compassion boots and think about how you would feel if you found yourself in a similar circumstance. You are just one major illness, job loss or financial blind side away from this yourself. Just donate a can of stew or a 6-pack of socks. Yes, the hungry need socks. They are the simplest most basic thing we all need and THE most requested personal item at food banks.
Kim Doyle Wille
P.S. There are captions for some of the photos, viewable in the 'Slideshow' mode, found in the top right corner of the site tool bar. If you'd like to view the photos more easily, just go to the bottom of the page and click on 'Show All'. This will enable you to scroll and scan the photos.
P.P.S. Photos I took at KWGN TV, earlier in the day post my live cooking demo of winning Real Women of Philadelphia entree: http://bit.ly/cacVm4