March 5, 2010 at 7:42 pm (Uncategorized)
On the last day of campaigning before the March 2 Texas Primary, musician and humorist Kinky Friedman stopped by the North Texas Food Bank to say a few words, take a tour, and package some food for seniors in need.
Friedman, also a rancher, joined us on our PAN assembly line, preparing boxes of supplemental food to be delivered to seniors and other hungry people in our 13-county service area. In 2000, NTFB became the first PAN distributor in Texas, and approximately 7500 people in our area recieve this assistance. Prepared from surplus USDA commodities, these 32-pound boxes of food are designed to supplement the food budgets of seniors, pregnant women, and children under age six.
While he was here, he was in true Kinky form! Dressed in his signature black suit and (unlit) cigar in mouth, Friedman toured our 72,000 warehouse with Chief Operating Officer Paul Wunderlich, all while asking questions about the 14 feeding and education programs that NTFB offers. He told Wunderlich, “Doing good is the best religion,” and proceded to the volunteer area.
A group of 13 volunteers from Mountain View Church of Christ joined Friedman on the PAN assembly line. They talked and joked, and Friedman answered their questions about his positions on the issues.
Wunderlich, who has been with the North Texas Food Bank since leaving the restaurant industry, mentioned that the Food Bank is “not political,” but always happy to have visits from political figures on either side of the fence.
Our friends from Channel 4, the Dallas Morning News, and Channel 11 came out to the Food Bank to see Kinky on this campaign stop. He spoke to the media about current proposals that would potentially cut the budget for meals for seniors.
To find out more about the PAN program, please visit our Programs page.
February 26, 2010 at 6:08 pm (Uncategorized)
Note: This post is the second in a monthly series of spotlights on North Texas Food Bank member agencies in our 13-county service area. Stay tuned to learn more about the work that these wonderful organizations are doing in your area.
This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, a versatile organization in West Dallas. Serving approximately 125 families per day, Brother Bill’s serves the 75212 zip code in a number of ways – medical clinics, a grocery store, nutrition classes, and summer lunches for kids.
From the time that you walk into the building, the sense of community and warmth is evident. Volunteers and staff alike are busy sorting food on shelves, moving boxes, and preparing grocery bags for their “neighbors,” – the clients that they serve each day.
Suzanne Griffin, Executive Director of Brother Bill’s, is a true dynamo. She buzzed around the building, making sure operations were going smoothly, greeting volunteers, and perhaps most importantly, being on hand to offer a smile, hug, or handshake to neighbors awaiting their time in the grocery store.
The way Brother Bill’s operates is truly unique – established in the late 1940s by a West Dallas Baptist minister named Bill Harrod, provides services to the community in a way that “really provides dignity,” said Griffin.
When I arrived, there was already a full lobby of people waiting to pick out their groceries. Griffin walked into the waiting area, greeted her neighbors, and proceeded with some news updates and a devotional. She also had some particularly exciting news to share regarding their efforts to build a new facility: in just 4 months, the organization had raised $2.6 million of their goal.
Then, neighbors were released into the grocery store area, got their carts, and began strolling up and down the aisles, choosing from rice or beans, ketchup or cocktail sauce, brownies or cornbread. Mason Smith, Assistant Director of Brother Bill’s, explained that the variety of food on their shelves was to provide families with choices that met their needs and own personal tastes.
The shoppers were paired with “greeters,” volunteers that talked to their neighbors, assisted them with their carts, and got updates on their lives, children, jobs, and more. Hugs and handshakes were going around the room. It was as if they were greeting old friends.
Suzanne introduced me to a few people that had some really inspiring stories. Mr. Calvillo, a long-time resident told me how Brother Bill’s helped save his life. Calvillo, a truck driver having difficulty finding work, first came to Brother Bill’s for food assistance.
Then, he had a visit at their Adult Clinic, where internists volunteer their time to treat and examine patients. The doctor determined that Calvillo had cancer, and that he needed surgery. Calvillo was reluctant to undergo the treatment, but Brother Bill’s organized a volunteer effort – combining doctors and hospitals, to provide him with this life-saving procedure.
I also spoke to Felix, a member of the organization’s Community Council, which provides community input to the organization. Felix was a lively man, who spoke fondly of what this organization had done for his neighborhood. He told me that the programs that Brother Bill’s operated were keeping kids healthy and away from drug or gang violence.
Ida, a community volunteer, was also gracious enough to tell me the story of how she came to need Brother Bill’s. You can watch it here:
Other than nutritional assistance, Brother Bill’s helps their neighbors in immeasurable ways – providing “Birthday Party in a Bag” for kids, job training for women, ESL classes, and more.
To learn more about Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, please visit their Web site: www.bbhh.org
February 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm (Uncategorized)
Empty Bowls, the North Texas Food Bank’s signature luncheon is just a few days away, on Friday, February 19 at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas!
Join us to enjoy soups, breads, and desserts from some of Dallas’ hottest restaurants and top chefs – including Bolla, Wolfgang Puck Catering, Mortons The Steakhouse, and many more!
Empty Bowls, a nationwide effort to combat hunger, began in Michigan in 1990. A group of high school students determined that serving people of all kinds a simple meal of soup and bread in a decorative ceramic bowl would be a great way to raise funds. Guests would be asked to keep the bowl as a reminder of those who don’t get enough to eat. The event is unique in that it doesn’t have headquarters, a director, or any guidelines. The Dallas chapter was initiated by John Williams, potter and former owner of Trinity Ceramic Supply Inc., and his wife Darlene. In its 11 year history, Empty Bowls has provided over 2 million meals for hungry North Texas Families.
Providing the food and drink:
Also, before you leave, you will select a handmade bowl, crafted by a local artisan. Young Strings will be on hand during the event, performing classical music. Empty Bowls begins at 11 am and lasts until 1 pm. Tickets may be purchased before the event for $30, and at the door for $35.
Check out the details here. We hope to see you there!
February 4, 2010 at 4:41 pm (Uncategorized)
On Febuary 2, 2010, North Texas Food Bank President and CEO Jan Pruitt shared the results of the 2010 Hunger in America study with the community.
This study, the most comprehensive on domestic emergency food assistance, shared some staggering numbers. Food banks in the Feeding America network are serving one million more people per week than in 2006 – a 46% increase. Charitable food assistance is reaching 37 million people a year; including 14 million children and 3 million seniors.
“Hunger is not something we expect to happen to us,” Pruitt said. “Most of those who find themselves at the doorstep of a pantry or soup kitchen will tell you that they never imagined this day. In reality, the face of hunger looks much like us. It’s the child who sits next to yours in school. Your coworker. Your neighbor. A relative.”
Among others, these statistics indicate a troubling picture in North Texas:
- Fewer households have at least one employed adult, now 29 percent down from 40 percent.
- Over half (57 percent) of NTFB clients must choose between food and utilities.
- Approximately 35 percent had to choose between food and their rent or mortgage.
- 40 percent had to choose between food and medicine or medical care.
- A much larger share of households are receiving SNAP and WIC benefits.
Amy Phaneuf, special guest of the North Texas Food Bank, represented the New Face of Hunger. After her partner Julie fell ill, the two faced hunger for the first time – unexpectedly. Julie, a master’s-degreed brain rehab supervisor, lost her job and had to rely on expensive monthly COBRA payments. Amy was later laid off from her own job as an accountant. Faced with an inability to put food on the table, the two contacted Allen Community Outreach, a North Texas Food Bank agency. Julie was unable to attend, because she recieved the double lung transplant she so desperately needed just one day before. We’ll keep you updated on her condition.
Unfortunately, Amy and Julie represent a new, growing face of hunger. They own homes, have jobs, but are still having trouble making ends meet. This news could not have come at a worse time for the North Texas Food Bank. With these results, Pruitt also had to announce a $900,000 fundraising shortfall.
“Without urgent attention, we will fall behind financially. If that happens, it will translate to less food for our Member Agencies; fewer children able to take home backpacks full of food providing 60 percent of their nutrition for the weekend; less help for individuals like Julie and Amy and so many others who need it so desperately,” said Pruitt. ”This is unacceptable. We live in the greatest country in the world, full of abundance and character, guided by strong leadership. And Texas boasts the 2nd largest economy in the nation. We cannot ignore the chasm of haves and have nots—not when we live in a state with such heart and passion.”
Please remember, for hungry families in North Texas, $1 = 4 meals.
These are your neighbors, friends, coworkers, and classmates.
February 1, 2010 at 6:01 pm (Uncategorized)
This is the first installment of our new series on our member agencies. Each month, we’ll visit one of our member agencies to see what the North Texas Food Bank does to help hungry North Texans.
The first, Resource Center Dallas, is a wonderful organization located in the heart of Oak Lawn in Dallas. This member agency of the North Texas Food Bank services the local GLBT and HIV positive community in the area. The Center has two different feeding programs; the food pantry and a hot meals program. Each day, their hot meals program serves over 100 people.
My first stop was the Food Pantry. When I stopped in, I saw the volunteers working hard to arrange the food on the shelves and get cold items into the refrigerators. Micki Garrison, Nutrition Center Supervisor, showed me around and gave me some insight into what NTFB actually does to help their clients.
She also explained to me how their pantry works: much like a grocery store! Though there are limits, patrons can come in, shop around and choose the items that suit their family’s needs best.
Then, I headed over to the Hot Meals program to see the Center in action. When I got there, approximately 30 minutes before the meal service, there was a line outside the door of people waiting to be served. Everyone was talking, laughing, socializing as they stood in line to recieve their food.
On the menu for Tuesday: ham casserole, salad, soup, rolls, and dessert. Dana Martin, a former volunteer and now employee, dimmed the lights and I helped him set the table with salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Martin explained to me the importance of the meals program to clients of the Center in this video:
A few minutes after we finished talking, a volunteer sat down at a desk and began checking in clients. People wishing to recieve a meal presented their Resource Center Dallas identification card and walked through the line. While they were eating, I stepped back into the kitchen to get a view of chef Ms. Doris in action – she was chopping celery, stirring (very tasty smelling) vegetables on a grill, and adding spices to her ham casserole. Dana told me that Ms. Doris was excellent at taking whatever foods the Resource Center recieved in donations or had on hand, adding some spices and love, and creating great tasting, nutritious meals.
Check out this 12seconds video of Ms. Doris in action!
After talking to Ms. Doris, I headed into the dining room to chat with some actual clients. This client spoke to me about how important the Resource Center is for him as HIV positive and diabetic:
Resource Center Dallas provides their community with an indispensible need. Their clients rely on the services that they provide, and as Dana mentioned in the video above, many of them recieve their only meal of the day at the Center.
To learn more about the Center, please visit www.rcdallas.org
Abby Rike, contestant from NBC’s The Biggest Loser, joined us at the Food Bank on 1/20 to help raise awareness for the Pound For Pound Challenge.
Rike, a North Texas native, overcame the unbelievable tragedy of losing her husband and two children in a car accident in 2006. After joining the cast of The Biggest Loser, Abby lost over 100 lbs, and told us that she feels “great.”
While she was here, our Public Relations Manager, Paige Phelps, took her on a tour of the warehouse. Abby marveled at the size of our 72,000 square foot warehouse, was excited about the Food 4 Kids program, and stopped by to chat with some participants in the Texas Second Chance program.
The Texas Second Chance program, coordinated with Dawson State Prison, provides job training opportunities for incarcerated women. When walking through the warehouse, Paige introduced Abby to these ladies, and their excitement was palpable! Abby chatted with the women for a few minutes, and gave them inspiration on making good choices once they are released, saying “every day is a new day. If you messed up yesterday, start again today. Life is about the choices you make. You can make good choices, or you can make bad choices. But every day is a fresh start, a chance to start all over again.” After hearing Rike’s words, many of the ladies were obviously affected – some with tears in their eyes.
Abby was also on hand to make a video encouraging YOU to join the Pound For Pound Challenge. The Challenge, working in conjunction with The Biggest Loser, encourages us to lose weight, get healthy, and feed the hungry in the process! For every pound you pledge to lose, General Mills will donate 14 cents to Feeding America – the cost of delivering one pound of food to a local pantry.
Check out this video of Abby here at the Food Bank! Then, log on to www.pfpchallenge.com to join her!
October 13, 2009 at 8:01 pm (Uncategorized)
The state’s miserable job of processing food stamp applicants is allowing millions of eligible Texans to go hungry. State officials should recognize this as a crisis and act accordingly.
Of all the measures that define the problem, one jumps out as particularly distressing: In most parts of Texas, applicants must wait several weeks before they get time with an eligibility worker. North Texas’ record is by far the worst, with an average wait of more than 80 days just for an interview.
The Health and Human Services Commission is overwhelmed. The agency is hobbled by high turnover, inexperience and fewer eligibility workers than it had 10 years ago. And this comes at a time of a mushrooming caseload due to recession.
If pressure isn’t relieved, things will further deteriorate.
The commission made a good call in giving more recipients automatic renewal status, dispensing with a six-month follow-up interview. That will save the workforce valuable time.
Another time saver would be emergency suspension of the review now required of an applicant’s savings and the value of the family vehicle. Most states now have no such test, and the denial rate for assets is extremely low. Health and Human Services Commissioner Thomas Suehs and lawmakers should agree on at least temporary suspension, along with a study of abuse rates.
The agency is now working to fill a backlog of vacancies and 250 positions newly authorized by legislative leaders. We hope the agency does that efficiently and then finds state leaders in a receptive, creative mood on its standing request for even more workers.
The state now helps about 2.8 million needy people put food on the table. But the number of eligible Texans may be another 2.8 million – greater than the population of Dallas County.
October 13, 2009 at 11:17 am (Uncategorized)
Dallas was the 12th stop on an 11-day tour of the U.S where Nick was celebrating the successful launch of a new website he co-founded called Winnit.com. It’s a reverse auction website where users bid to win items from brands including Apple, Sony and many more. He was also raising awareness for Feeding America food banks. He volunteered with VHA employees boxing and sorting food in the NTFB warehouse and took photos with the group.
Nick and our President and CEO Jan Pruitt
Nick touring the warehouse
Nick volunteering with VHA
September 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm (Uncategorized)
The Increased Demand for Food Stamps
Dallas Food Stamp recipients have increased 10% over the last year. Recipients have increased 11% across Texas. Food Stamps are a necessary means of ending hunger, but the program has slowed down considerably due to the tremendous demand and insufficient budget and staffing. Offices all over the state are working night and day. With such a workload, it is mathematically impossible for the staff in Food Stamp offices around Texas to process the thousands of new submissions, conduct 30 minute interviews with each applicant, and on top of that, renew already accepted applications. The process is hard, but Food Stamps work. They end are one of the greatest tools we have to end hunger and provide access to nutritious meals.
What Are Food Stamps?
The Food Stamps Program has been around in one form or another since 1939. It was developed to help bridge the gap between the farm surpluses of the time and the undernourished, who had no access to nutritious food. The program was closed in 1943 when the widespread unemployment of Depression Era America had been neutralized. In 1961 the Food Stamp Program was reinstated by President Kennedy and has been growing ever since. In 1977, Congress passed a new Food Stamp Act to ground the program and create the basics of what we see in Food Stamps today. Since then, every office has taken part in evolving the Food Stamps Program. In October of 2008, the Food Stamp Program was renamed SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to focus on nutrition.
Why Do We Need Food Stamps?
The need for food assistance has grown tremendously over the past year. The public has done a wonderful job of responding to the call for help, but many of those who use to make donations are now finding themselves on the receiving end.
Food Stamps help lessen the strain on food pantries, which is very important for this time of great need. They also help stimulate the economy. In fact, $5 worth of SNAP creates $9.20 in economic benefit to the local economy.
What Can You Do to Help?
You can write a letter to your elected officials asking them to help approve funding for Health and Human Services Commissions so the applications can be processed faster. Senators and Congressmen are the mouthpieces for the people. Tell them that SNAP, is woefully under-budgeted and undermanned. Ask them to lobby for the needs of the Texas community. Remind them that thousands of children are hungry in Texas and that they have the power to stop it. The more letters that go out to every representative, the more obvious this need will become. Ask that application renewals be served every year instead of every six months, or to hire more workers.
Across the state, there are offices set up to act as a middleman between Food Stamp clients and workers. An example of such an office is one in the North Texas Food Bank. On staff are Food Stamp liaisons to help clients fill out the detailed applications. By volunteering at one such office, you can extend their network to assist with many more people. Complete and correct applications need be sent in only once, wasting less time for the overworked in the SNAP offices.
Food Banks and social service agencies stand on the front lines in the battle against hunger. Your support is necessary to influence the government’s approach to Food Stamps and can directly help us turn the tide. All it takes is one letter from you.