I’m hard at work on my next novel. You’ll meet a psychotherapist with a fear of flying, cult members, and a woman with strange dreams. One character visits a food bank. It’s a brief scene, one page or maybe two, tops. Easy enough. Nonetheless, the scene matters.
I spent hours trolling the Web for information. The back of my brain always insists, Get it right, Jadi. Then I remembered I actually know several people who work at non-profits… and I’d never visited a food bank. So, in the interests of research (and a wonderful excuse to see what a friend does all day) I made an appointment to interview Beverlee Hughes, Executive Director of Food For Lane County [FFLC] in Eugene, Oregon.
I thought I knew about the reality of hunger. Uwe and I travel to out of the way places, and God knows we’ve seen poverty and malnutrition in countries and regions all around the globe. But the visit to FFLC brings it back home.
- Fact: 20% of the U.S. population lives in poverty
- Fact: 46 million Americans are on food stamps
- Fact: The number of people needing services has tripled in a decade
- Fact: 1 in every 5 people in Oregon is eligible for food assistance
- Fact: Oregon State has highest rate of childhood hunger in the country (29.0%)
- Fact: 30% of children in Oregon are food insecure *
- Fact: 39% of Lane County residents are eligible for emergency food assistance
- Fact: In some Lane County schools, 95% of all children are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches
What do you do with these facts? If you’re Beverlee, you get to work. She and her staff of 58 achieve an astonishing range of goals:
- Emergency & Mobile food pantries (distributing just under 8 million lbs. of food/year)
- Emergency Meal sites & shelters
- 3 Child Nutrition Programs
- Food Rescue Express & Fresh Alliance (distributing 1 million lbs. of food/year)
- 2 gardens & a 6-acre farm that grow food & build self-esteem. FFLC hires at-risk kids and through internships teaches them teamwork, punctuality, customer services, etc. Daily lunches at the gardens teach people what freshly harvested produce tastes like.
- Extra Helping, food for low-income housing sites
- Rural deliveries
- Delivery of once-a-month food boxes for low-income seniors
- A farm stand outside PTA meetings where parents can pick up food as they leave
- The Dining Room, the food bank’s sit-down restaurant in downtown Eugene, offering free 4-5 course meals. They serve up to 300 meals a night.
- Shopping Matters, classes to teach people on limited budgets how to shop for food
- Cooking Matters, free cooking & nutrition classes to begin in January 2014
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.
* Food insecurity—the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports—is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.
Photo Copyright © 2013 Jadi Campbell. (All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)