Hunger Forum Heroes

We try to reserve space on Fridays to honor a hero in the hunger relief field and wow, are they abundant! It’s especially nice when we have the chance to recognize young people. Meet this week’s Hunger Forum Hero who, at 13, has already made quite an impact on her community.

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Disaster Relief – Hurricane Irene

How are we in the hunger relief field preparing to respond to natural diasters?

Many of us have witnessed our share of hurricanes, tornados, flood and wildfires in the past 12-14 months. Even if our own community escaped calamity, there have been multiple instances of food banks being asked to supply food to other programs in hard-hit areas.

The Midwest Food Bank delivered two semi-tractor trailer loads of  nearly 1,600 disaster relief boxes to Greenville, N.C. The boxes carried enough food and personal care items for a family of four for four days.

The Connecticut Food Bank responded to Hurricane Irene, in late August 2011 — in spite of losing power in their main warehouse for 4 days!

The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina is well-versed in relief efforts and began response preparations a full week in advance of the hurricane. Nineteen counties in their service area were declared federal disaster areas. In 2008, they “provided 33,000 pounds of baby food to Baton Rouge after Hurricane Gustav and a tractor trailer load of ready-to-eat foods such as breakfast bars and crackers to Texas following Hurricane Ike.  When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, the Food Bank sent nine tractor trailer loads of food to Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi.  In 2003, after Hurricane Isabel, the Food Bank supplied 411,000 pounds of food and relief supplies to Carteret and Pamlico counties.  During Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the Food Bank was open 24-hours a day for three months after the storm, supplying more than 5.3 million pounds of food and relief supplies to fifteen counties in our service region that were devastated by the storm.”

How has your program responded — and are you prepared to do so in the future? We’ll keep updating this topic and welcome your thoughts and suggestions for sharing best practices.

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Stolen Trucks, Stolen Food

The other day, someone made off with the Harry Chapin Food Bank’s 24-ft refrigerated box truck.

Over the summer, thieves stole tools and equipment from the Marysville Community Food Bank. The Mid-Michigan Food Bank had their truck tires stolen, leaving them with no way to deliver food. Six individuals were arrested for stealing food from a food bank in the town of Harrison, NY. And thieves stole copper from one of the Golden Harvest Food Bank‘s refrigerators, leading to $15,000 in damage for a haul that will likely only make them $20.

We recently posted a story about food pantries hiring security personnel to keep their clients, volunteers and staff safe as well as another story about de-escalation training for food pantry staff and volunteers. We’d like to offer readers more feedback from programs regarding these issues.

Do you have any best practice tips to share?

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Hunger Relief Conferences

As we work on creating a calendar of hunger relief conferences taking place throughout the U.S. to share with readers, we wanted to point out a few on the horizon — including one that starts today:

Leaders from around the Eastern United States will gather in Portland, ME on Monday, September 19 for the Eastern Regional Conference of Feeding America member food banks. Good Shepherd Food Bank is hosting the annual conference, which will “focus on the latest advancements in the hunger relief field. Highlights from the conference will include a keynote address by Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, US Department of Agriculture, and a town hall style discussion led by Feeding America CEO Vicki Escarra. Other conference sessions will address challenges and opportunities faced by the Feeding America network of food banks, including food safety, inventory tracking, and fresh produce acquisition.”

The California Association of Food Banks hosts “Banking on Our Future” September 20-21 in Sacramento. “Food banking has never been more challenging than it is  today. Banking on Our Future is designed to provide useful  information and opportunities to food bankers of every stripe to help prepare  for the challenges ahead.  We invite staff, board members, volunteers and  stakeholders to join us for two days of important speakers, informative  workshops and great networking with colleagues from California and  beyond.” Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture and
Secretary Diana Dooley, California Health and Human Services Agency, are speakers. the Keynote Address will be provided by Michael Dimock, President, Roots of Change.

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Hunger Forum Heroes Abound!

It’s Friday, and today we’re “heroing” a special organization that, while not specifically working in the hunger relief field, addresses two closely related issues: homelessness and joblessness.

Visit our Hunger Forum Heroes page to learn more! And remember, we welcome nominations!

We need heroes. Anyone who even simply skimmed the recent USDA and Census Bureau reports knows the news is still sobering. This is why our work is so important, and why sharing best practices is essential for our success.

Food banks alone cannot meet the current need. Federal and state programs such as WIC, SNAP and child nutrition programs (school meals, backpack programs) work well and are integral to the nation’s hunger response effort, helping families stabilize through difficult times, raise healthy children and help stimulate economic recovery.

Nationally in 2010, 14.5% (or more than 17 million households) were food insecure. Children were food insecure in close to 10% of households, meaning they did not have access at times to adequate, nutritious meals.

Nationally, federal and state nutrition programs have seen an increase in enrollment since the start of the recession. One in 7 Americans receives SNAP benefits and children are the main beneficiaries.

According to 2010 census data released in September, the nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1%, its highest level since 1993. About 46.2 million people are considered in need. The government defines the poverty line as income of $22,314 a year for a family of four and $11,139 for an individual.

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Food Pantries Hiring Security Teams to Keep the Peace

Some food pantries are discovering that there is not only a greater need for food during this recession, but there is also a need for keeping the peace among food pantry clients waiting for food.

Scuffles and angry exchanges are not uncommon in our industry, where short tempers, fear, and sometimes mental illness all play a role in escalating behavior. Many food pantries have conducted de-escalation training for their staff and volunteers; several in Seattle, including Northwest Harvest and FamilyWorks Food Bank and Resource Center, have hired security teams to keep the peace. Creating safety policies and procedures is also part of the plan.

Real Change reporter Cydney Gillis writes, “Under current policy [at FamilyWorks], it takes three strikes for someone to get banned for two weeks or more from the building. To keep track, Solid Ground keeps a safety log of incidents with photos that have been snapped of some banned individuals. It, FamilyWorks and the library are also working to develop a new policy that calls for immediately banning people for a full year if they threaten physical force or are found carrying a weapon.”

Does your program experience security issues and if so, how do you handle them? What questions do you have of those who have implemented safety policies and would you be interested in seeing what they’ve developed?


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How QR Codes Could Help Food Pantries

We’re watching the evolution of QR codes (QR stands for Quick Response) carefully and getting excited about their potential for food pantries and distributors.

If you’re not yet familiar with QR codes, they are similar to bar codes used in the retail business — but they hold a great deal more information.

By the way - we highly recommend you subscribe to the Social Media Examiner web site!

When you scan a QR code with your smartphone, you are automatically linked to the information you’re seeking. In a way, QR codes are shortcuts to finding information faster than ever before.

A recent article by Social Media Examiner explains it all. This article also shares a creative idea for using QR codes in the nonprofit world. Take a look — what do you think?


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Food for Life at Harry Chapin Food Bank

We have discussed mobile food pantries frequently in the past because we’re impressed by their ability to accomplish so much — educate the public, deliver food to those who have transportation challenges or who live in “food deserts,” and increase awareness of hunger relief efforts simply by virtue of being on the road.

Florida’s Harry Chapin Food Bank recently received a grant to launch a program called “Food for Life,” which offers outreach to low-income families with a high risk of type 2 diabetes.

The Food for Life program served nearly 1,000 people the first week of its launch. It also distributed fresh produce and vegetables and offered child-friendly and adult-based literature explaining healthy eating and meal planning.

We’d like to continue to expand our research into best practices for mobile food pantries and welcome your participation. Let us know about your program: how it started, what it costs, and what benefits and challenges you’ve experienced along the way. How would you advise someone else interested in this idea?

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Social Media – Twitter for Food Pantries

Our ongoing social media tutorial offers up another Twitter lesson today in Tools for the Trade. We invite you to take a look and see how easy it is to post pictures to your Twitter account…and what a powerful statement they can make.

Visit our social media tutorial to discover how the picture below made a big impact for one food bank!

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Heroes Among Us

Fridays are always great days at The Hunger Forum because that’s when we post our Hunger Forum Hero of the Week.

Do you know anyone who deserves a little recognition? Let us know!

And have a great weekend!

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