Sustainability Now News
by Maryann Ridini Spencer (@MaryannRidiniSpencer)
“One in six people struggle with food insecurity in Ventura County,” said Monica White, FOOD Share President, and CEO. “Currently, our pantries feed approximately 75,000 people monthly. I wish I could say our number of clients was decreasing, but in these times, it’s challenging for even two working parents to make ends meet. When there’s rent or a mortgage to pay, utilities to run and a car to maintain and fuel, sometimes our food can provide that gap to provide fresh, nutritious food for the family.”
How FOOD Share Operates
Every month FOOD Share’s rescue process (food obtained from local food drives by various organizations and over 100 different retail outlets) takes in approximately a million pounds of food. Some 500 volunteers from a combination of organizations, corporations, the military, as well as individual community members, work in 2-hour shifts sorting, weighing, labeling, and boxing food staples collected from a conveyor belt.
“We discard anything with an expiration date over one year,” said White. “Our boxes are then delivered to the area of our Oxnard facility where approximately 190 local non-profit agencies shop.”
FOOD Share’s Community Market Distribution is a monthly mobile delivery program that provides a variety of fresh produce delivered free of charge to over 7,000 low-income families. Their USDA-funded Senior Kits (Commodity Supplemental Food Program), also provides monthly food assistance to low-income seniors aged 60 plus through county food banks.
“Once a month our seniors receive a 30-pound box filled with such items as pasta, cereal, peanut butter, canned food, cheese, and many other items. We also have a huge garden growing fresh produce that is tended to by volunteers, and that provides about 10,000 pounds fresh produce to homebound seniors.”
“Through a partnership with Port Hueneme and Wells Fargo,” continued White, “Our Mobile Pantry program travels around the county providing resources to individuals and families who may lack access to food pantries and other essentials. The program also connects community members to all types of housing and employment and income assistance programs.”
With a mission to teach local students about diet, FOOD Share’s Kids’ Farmer’s Market Program, is taught by nutritionists visiting local schools that teach students about nutrition, how food is grown, and how to prepare healthy recipes with food provided by Food Share.
FOOD Share, part of Feeding America, a national hunger alleviation network, distributes 12 million pounds of food annually (10 million meals a year) and operates on an annual budget of three million dollars, a third of which comes from individual donations, 25% from government grants, and contributions from foundations, organizations, and corporations.
“If we had to purchase that amount of food, the cost would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 32 million dollars,” said White.
FOOD Share never turns anyone away. All a person is required to provide is their name, address, and how many are in the household; providing any household income information is optional. A local list of pantries, locations, and hours can be obtained by dialing 211 or visiting foodshare.com.
“All our staff and volunteers work so hard for the same reason — for our hungry neighbors,” said White. “While it’s a constant battle to get the funding to fight hunger, it’s our mission to make sure that we continue to feed everyone in need, because, if not us, then who?”