Category Archives: Face of Hunger

Legislative Day in Dover

DSC_0060compressedBy Dan Reyes, Coalition to End Hunger Coordinator

Every year around the start of summer, those wandering the corridors of Legislative Hall are greeted by a veritable sea of tie-dye—it’s hard to miss the Food Bank of Delaware’s Legislative Day. Staff and supporters travel to Dover to educate elected officials about the hunger crisis in our state and what FBD is doing to help, and in turn, the legislature is kind enough to pass a resolution commending our work.

In years past there has been a conspicuous absence at legislative day—those who rely upon the Food Bank of Delaware and its partners for emergency food assistance. Neighbors struggling with poverty and food insecurity are all too often left out of debates and conversations over the policies that directly impact them. The inclusion of this perspective is critical to ensuring that elected officials are working in the best interest of the constituents that they serve.

This year, when given the floor in the State Senate, our President & CEO Patricia Beebe gave only a few brief remarks, before turning the podium over to Edward Hawkins, a Dover Resident and a client of the Food Bank of Delaware. Edward, a Vietnam-era veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was widowed after the passing of his wife last August. The loss of his wife was not only emotionally taxing, but also impacted his financial stability. The SNAP cuts of 2013 proved devastating, as he described to legislators:

“Prior to those cuts my food stores ran out approximately four days before the next month’s allotment. Now it has increased to two weeks. During that period, I got the chance to experience ‘true hunger’, which caused a weight loss of 20 pounds.”

Edward found relief through FBD’s mobile pantry program, where he filled out a “story card” expressing his interest in advocacy efforts. Not long after he began working with me to prepare for Legislative Day, culminating in his eloquent and impactful remarks on June 3rd. After speaking, Edward shared, “That was tough…it’s hard to get up in front of people I don’t know and feel so exposed. I don’t like feeling pitied…but I know this is important. I hope that by doing this, it will make it possible for other people in my situation to do the same.”

For both FBD and Edward, this is only the beginning. We are in the process of developing a “Witnesses to Hunger” program, an expansion of a project of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities that seeks to engage caregivers of low-income households in participant-led advocacy efforts. Ensuring our clients can advocate for policies that will allow for greater opportunity and self-reliance is just as important to us as providing emergency food assistance.

Peace, Love, End Hunger.

 

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Share a Second Helping this winter with Delawareans struggling to put meals on the table

Anti-hunger advocates gathered this morning outside the Delaware Department of Labor’s Pencader office to launch Share a Second Helping, a winter-long giving/awareness campaign. The kick-off coincided with a mobile food distribution for individuals utilizing the unemployment office.

In response to a recent $16 million dollar cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Delaware and even deeper cuts to SNAP proposed by members of the United States Congress, the Coalition to End Hunger, Food Bank of Delaware, Delaware Health and Social Services and Delaware 2-1-1 encourage Delawareans to dig a little deeper this winter season to help families struggling to make ends meet.

“A sixteen-million dollar cut to SNAP is a significant cut for already-vulnerable populations, such as our children, seniors, people with disabilities and the working poor, “ said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “This cut is more than the entire yearly budget of the food bank. Already-strapped charitable organizations cannot fill the void of Congress’ inability to come up with workable solutions to the problems associated with poverty.”

DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf said the state will work with the community to make up the gap left by the $16 million reduction to SNAP. “We have 156,000 Delawareans who receive SNAP benefits, up dramatically from the 72,000 people we served just five years ago,” she said. “In a country that has so much and so much to be grateful for this holiday season, we cannot sit back as a government or as a society and, in good conscience, allow people to go hungry. Our SNAP program is meant as a safety net, and yet we know of too many families and seniors who have to decide between food or paying for their utilities, medications or paying their mortgage.”

Share a Second Helping takes a three-pronged approach to assisting Delawareans this winter:

  • Gather food and monetary resources to meet the immediate food needs of Delawareans during the winter months
  • Educate at-risk Delawareans on available resources, including the services of Delaware 2-1-1
  • Work with elected officials and stakeholders to implement long-term solutions to meet these nutritional needs through a strong federal safety net

With a campaign goal of 100,000 pounds, the Food Bank of Delaware encourages individuals, businesses, community-based organizations, schools, faith-based organizations and others to host winter-long food drives and fundraisers.

A recent study by the Food Research and Action Council shows that Delaware ranks 12th worst in the nation for food hardship amongst households with children. Witnessing firsthand these increased needs from the community, Delaware 2-1-1 fielded more than 100,000 phone calls from Delawareans in need of human services last year.

“Delaware 2-1-1 understands first-hand the basic needs of our neighbors,” said Delaware 2-1-1 Director Donna Synder White. “Monthly, we receive hundreds of calls from Delawareans and for years, the Food Bank of Delaware, and others partners, have utilized our easy 2-1-1 to connect people to food closest, soup kitchens, emergency shelters, senior centers, after-school and a host of other food programs so that no individual or family in the state goes without a meal to eat.”

Representative Ed Osienski and Senator Bryan Townsend were both on hand for the launch and are committed to advocating in Dover for a hunger-free state.

“If the cuts in unemployment claim extensions, which are being debated now in Washington, take affect then you’ll see a reduction in lines inside the Department of Labor unemployment office move outside to the mobile food distribution lines,” said Osienski. “Who will be providing the additional resources for that shift?”

“We must do more to support the many Delawareans who experience hunger on a daily basis,” send Townsend. “The holidays are a time when people often rally around these efforts, and certainly we should embrace holiday spirit and generosity in November and December. But every day of the year, a Delaware senior or child experiences sharp pangs of hunger. As the U.S. Congress proposes deep cuts to critical anti-hunger programs, we must become all the more vigilant about developing the kind of programs and distribution channels to help end hunger in our state, year-round, top to bottom, from seniors to schoolchildren.”

Central to the campaign’s advocacy component is giving Delawareans utilizing human services a voice in working to bring about systemic change.

“Share a Second Helping is not only about gathering the needed resources to get through the cold winter months, it’s also about coming up with solutions to effectively end hunger and battling negative stereotypes surrounding those in need of emergency food assistance,” said Coalition to End Hunger Chairwoman Julie Miro Wenger. “We are serving hard-working families, adults with disabilities, seniors who have worked their entire lives and children. We all play a role in ensuring that we meet the basic needs of families.”

To learn more about Share a Second Helping, please visit http://www.fbd.org/share-a-second-helping/. Information about food drives, fundraisers and advocacy can be found there. For individuals in need of emergency food assistance, please contact the Delaware 2-1-1 by simply dialing 2-1-1.

 

 

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Filed under Advocate, Donate, Face of Hunger, Hunger, Nutrition, Supporters, Volunteer

Partner Spotlight: Calvary Assembly of God

11-27 calvary meal By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

On a cold, damp and dreary Wednesday morning, the day before Thanksgiving, the lobby of Calvary Assembly of God was transformed into a warm and welcoming dining room, complete with twinkling lights and white tablecloths.

Nearly every seat was occupied for the church’s soup kitchen, serving up home-made chicken soup and biscuits to senior citizens.

Margaret Young, th11-27 calvary01e church’s benevolence director, was not surprised by the large turnout on a day on which these seniors also receive supplemental food delivered by the Food Bank of Delaware.

“They come early; some come in as early as 8 for the fellowship. It’s their chance to meet other people,” said Young, adding that 32 volunteers collect and distribute the food “and, of course, a kind word.”

“Volunteer facilitators mingle and talk with people who want a caring conversation,” she said.

The fourth Wednesday of each month, with the exception of December, is designated for senior citizens, and draws just over 100 people on a regular basis.

That’s a number Young expects to grow in the wake of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP11-27 calvary MAIN.

“Since the SNAP cuts, we have seen a significant increase in calls, 42 percent after the first week. People told us they had their benefits reduced, and we are swamped,” Ms. Young said.

More demand for services won’t deter this mission.

“We are focused on serving the community. We are a microcosm of the community, and Pastor (Roland) Coon communicates that from the pulpit,” she said.

This small army of volunteers works year ‘round, and not just during the holiday season.

“Hunger does exist, not just on Thanksgiving or Easter, but on March 2 or whenever.  And everyone can help by just dropping off a few extra cans to a local food pantry. Everyone can help by giving a dollar or a can of food. We all have hungry neighbors in need.”

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Partner Spotlight: Greater Wilmington Adventist Community Services

By Kim Turner, Communications Director

Working in an office setting most days, I don’t always see the direct impact that our organization has on so many in our community. As a provider of services to Delawareans through a network of 477 hunger-relief program partners, Food Bank office workers, like myself, don’t always see the faces that benefit directly from these important services. Two weeks ago I got out of the office and went to visit one of our largest providers of hunger-relief services, Greater Wilmington Adventist Community Services (GWACS).

GWACS distributes every Wednesday out of Ebenezer Baptist Church’s fellowship hall in Wilmington’s Northeast section. A team of dedicated volunteers, led by Richard Geer, provide food and clothing assistance to area residents each week.

Last month alone, the organization provided services to 1,469 individuals. Richard points out that the numbers are increasing, despite reports that our economy is improving. He says that about 50 percent of the households that visit the pantry receive monthly benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and any further decrease in benefits will be detrimental to the families served.

In the first hour of my visit, 75 households had already been served. As I talked with the volunteers, we were greeted with hellos and lots of thank yous as individuals walked along a table of items choosing the foods best suited for their household.
That particular day, visitors chose between a variety of canned goods, cereals, pastas and perishables such as bakery items, breads, fresh produce like tomatoes and apples and even hummus.

Ida Brown, a volunteer since the program’s beginning, happily distributed baked goods to families and also encouraged them to try hummus, “it’s a dip, and it’s good on crackers! You’ll like it.”

Most of the food for the weekly program comes directly from the Food Bank of Delaware. Ida along with Maddie Tyson visit the Food Bank each Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. to pick up the items needed for the Wednesday distribution. The ladies help out every Tuesday and Wednesday and rarely miss a day.

In addition to picking up from the Food Bank, Ida and Maddie along with Joseph Miller, the driver of their 17-foot U-Haul truck, pick up from Little Sisters of the Poor and BJs.

“Wherever there is a pickup we go and get it,” explains Ida. “We pack the U-Haul from top to bottom.”

Their Wednesdays begin at 6:00 a.m. so they can set up both the clothing and food distributions prior to the 9:00 a.m. start time. When I arrived at 8:45 a.m., families were already in line.

“The community would be hurt without these services,” says Ida. “The number has certainly increased in the past month. Each week we see new people.”

She points out some new visitors to me, “I think I have already seen 10 or 12 new people.”

As a member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church for 53 years, she has seen a lot of changes in the neighborhood. She explains that need for assistance has only increased during her time with the church.

Many of the individuals visiting the food pantry are seniors. Mary Taylor visits the pantry each week and says she would have a difficult time without GWACS.

“I sometimes cut back on food in order to get medicine,” she explains.

Between the assistance she receives from the food pantry and monthly SNAP benefits, she is thankful, but her budget is tight.
GWACS’ operation would not exist without volunteers.

“We are old and tired, but when we hear from visitors that what we do is a blessing, that makes the day,” says Ida.

Check out some pictures from my visit!

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My Experience with the Mobile Pantry

By Mackenzie Rowe, Communications Intern

I have been an intern at the Food Bank since September. Before my internship began, I never considered how many people in Delaware are affected by hunger and poverty. As a sheltered college student, I spend basically all of my time in Newark surrounded by people just like me. We live in a bubble, with the perfect green and big brick buildings. We have dining halls and student centers conveniently placed around campus for whenever we get hungry. The vast majority of students do not realize how different the environment is just twenty minutes away. Caught up in classes, extracurricular activities and weekend entertainment, students remain on campus. Most out-of-state students never experience the rest of Delaware. For their four years, they remain ignorant to the people that live here permanently.

My favorite part of my internship is that I am no longer a part of this group. I have learned so much about hunger and the other socioeconomic issues that are intertwined. Last Thursday, I spent a few hours in Wilmington seeing the Mobile Pantry in action. We partnered with the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council and volunteers from Capital One. Participants attended a financial education session prior to receiving food from the Mobile Pantry. All households that get assistance from the Mobile Pantry attend an education session. This requirement encourages attendants to make positive changes. The combination of education and food distribution really seems to lift the spirits of those who participate.

This was the first time that I got to do direct service with the Food Bank. It was incredible to see this program in action and to interact with some of the people that the Food Bank helps. Their smiles and kind words helped me to understand why people choose to work for non-profits like the Food Bank of Delaware. Without such dedicated employees, these programs would not be as effective. After seeing how much work every employee here does to ensure that programs like the Mobile Pantry run smoothly, I have a much deeper appreciation and respect for the non-profit sector.

Check out some pictures from the event!

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Filed under Face of Hunger, Hunger, Poverty, Programs, Uncategorized

A Day in the Food Bank Delivery Truck!

By Mike Dombkoski, Communications Internsease2

The Food Bank of Delaware provides a great service to the state of Delaware by providing emergency food assistance for people in need in the area. As an intern working in the office for the most part, it can be easy to overlook or forget that aspect. On August 7th, I had the opportunity to ride along with one of our truck drivers, John Sease, in order to deliver produce to the Food Bank of Delaware’s hunger-relief program partners. I was instantly reminded of all the help the Food Bank does provide.

Dropping off at several stops throughout Northern Delaware, John’s truck was continually greeted by smiling faces at the pickup area. Simply by watching, I could tell how much the people appreciated the produce, which included corn, potatoes, squash and other fresh vegetables, and the services the Food Bank provides. I also noticed how much the volunteers seemed to enjoy John’s presence, and how he seemed to enjoy theirs as well.

“I think you really need to enjoy your job if you want to work here,” said Sease. “I like working here. It’s not just about a paycheck for me.”

The obvious connections between Sease and the volunteers are likely what make John enjoy his job so much. Whether the site was at a church or a daycare, the giant Food Bank of Delaware truck was greeted with smiles each time.

Seeing the people that genuinely need help from the Food Bank not only made me appreciate the work done here, but made me realize how much the people who truly need the assistance appreciate it as well.

On the way back to the Food Bank after our final drop off of the morning, Sease told some short stories from years of experience driving the truck and talked a little about his family. Some of the stories involved dangerous incidents, some involved laughter and some just involved nice experiences with Delawareans. I could tell all of it was sincere.

The Food Bank of Delaware provides a lot of assistance to those in need. But, in the short few hours I spent in the truck, I could tell they provide a lot more than just food.

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Protecting limited income families with the Farm Bill

By Brenda Palomo, SNAP Outreach Coordinator

On an income of $600 a month, Valerie** somehow managed to get by with her bills and responsibilities. Under such a tight budget, however, nutrition sometimes went by the wayside. She explained, “a lady told me I need to eat a lot of vegetables. I love vegetables, but I can’t afford them.” At age 77, Valerie’s voice shakes when she speaks. She is a few inches short of 5 feet tall, and for the last 20 years since her husband passed away she has struggled to make ends meet by herself in her mobile home near Felton, Delaware. She used to work at a local manufacturing plant, now she depends on her measly monthly social security check and has never before had to apply for government assistance. As I began to fill her online application for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) she thanked me for helping her, because she had no idea how to use a computer.

Valerie represents thousands of seniors who are in need of assistance as food prices rise and social security incomes remain fixed. She also represents a huge demographic of elderly people who have never received government benefits, even when they need them. There are many reasons for this, starting with rampant myths that have stigmatized the program as unnecessary welfare, a drain on the economy or a breeding ground for fraud. In fact, the program is highly effective in its purposes. There is about a 1% fraud rate in the program due to increased oversight and new technology that has made all exchanges traceable through Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards.

Additionally, SNAP is beneficial to the economy. At the state level, when SNAP funds are spent, they provide a boost to the local economy: for every $5 of SNAP benefits that are spent, economists say the increase is actually equivalent to a $9 boost. At the national level, SNAP has been designed to expand or shrink according to need, so when people need it most the program will expand to provide a bit of relief until recipients can regain their financial footing and raise themselves out of the eligible income range. So although the current charged political environment has many bashing the high costs of SNAP, it is important to keep in mind that the state of the economy has driven many out of a job or to lower pay. Currently the national rate of unemployment and underemployment stands at 14.3%, which correlates highly with the SNAP participation rate of 15.1%. As the economy recovers, the costs will shrink, which is already evident in recent months. In fact, according to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), in the month of February 2013 alone (the most recent data available), participation in SNAP decreased nationwide by more than 213,000 people.

Throughout the country, SNAP Outreach Programs just like the one at the Food Bank of Delaware aim to make these important benefits available to some of the most vulnerable populations by de-stigmatizing the program and reassuring people just like Valerie that it is okay to apply for much needed help. The All-American pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps spirit is strong in the people we meet; many insist that if it takes away from someone who needs it more, they would not like to receive benefits, even – as one person admitted once- with the prospects of eating only a can of beans for dinner. It is our responsibility to let these fellow patriots know that, for the moment, they are the ones who “need it more” and that with a supplement to their food budgets and more nutritious diets, we are only helping to provide essential tools for them to tug those boot straps up.

We also need to urge our representatives to remember this American spirit and embody that willingness to give up a little if it will help those with less, ultimately raising the whole of American society. All of us need some initiative to pull ourselves out of hardship without leaving our fellow Americans behind when they are most vulnerable. The Farm Bill, the controversial legislation that is creating headlines all over the country, is being brought to vote within the next two weeks. This bill dictates the whole budget for SNAP benefits, among other agricultural policies like farm subsidies- and this year congress is on a path to make immense cuts to the SNAP Program. It is highly irresponsible for members of our congress to make platitudes about the program not working and simply propose to cut it, when in reality what the program needs is closer study to continue making it more effective. It does not make sense to design a program to grow in times of need and then abolish it because it is working the way it was designed. The way to make the country more financially stable and save money is not by dropping the safety net that prevents our citizens from falling through the cracks. What can we say about ourselves as Americans, when a person like Valerie, who has been a productive member of society her whole life, stops receiving the small supplement that allows her to buy slightly more nutritious food? How can we continue to develop policy restricting nutritionally-hollow foods, when we do little to provide alternatives to unhealthy choices for low-income families?

The SNAP program is not perfect- there is always room for improvement- but that requires closer examination and calculated policy changes, not the outright slashing of funding. SNAP and its beneficiaries are not at fault for the financial indiscretions of our government officials, the problem is much deeper than that, and decreasing the limited resources that low-income Americans can use to access of the most basic human needs is definitely not the solution.

*The name has been changed to protect the confidentiality of the individual.

For more information on the Farm Bill and what you can do to help prevent cuts, please visit: http://help.feedingamerica.org/site/PageServer?pagename=Advocacy_Take_Action&s_foodbank=true&s_src=foodbank

Sources:

FRAC: http://frac.org/reports-and-resources/snapfood-stamp-monthly-participation-data/

Food and Nutrition Service : http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/fraud.htm

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