The packages are opened. The scent of cinnamon and nutmeg floats from the oven and permeates the whole house. Another year of Christmas festivities is almost over. Soon, the men of the family will be finishing the dishes (just kidding!).
This Christmas, I can’t help but think back to early 2013. My husband and I were lucky enough to travel to India and Southeast Asia.
Despite the fears and warnings printed in travel guides, memories of the great kindness of strangers are numerous. People everywhere — in train stations and on the street — went out of their way to make sure that we, the strangers in their country, were taken care of or found the place we were looking for.
One afternoon in downtown Kolkata stands out in my mind and reminds me of how so much of life I take for granted. I stood on the sidewalk not far from Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying waiting while my husband tied his shoe.
A young man walking in the street bent down next to the curb and splashed his face with the water from the gutter; then cupped his hands, put that same water in his mouth, swished it around and spit it out.
It was as if, in that moment, he did open heart surgery on me. In almost the same breath, I felt appalled, shocked and saddened. I never even think of not having access to abundant, clean water.
On another day, we were walking on a narrow bridge as a part of a border crossing. All the children were goofing around and lined up with hands out in hopes that the crowds of tourists would yield some cash.
One rail-thin girl, maybe 11 years old, didn’t even try. Her pretty face and clothes smudged with dirt, her hair in ratty clumps. When her brown eyes met mine, she had a look of resignation that still haunts me today.
But of course, hunger and poverty are all around us in our own community, as well. The Food Bank of Nevada County with 20 other nonprofit agencies and local businesses provide at least a partial safety net. This past year, they served 2,100 families per month, which represents about 5,000 individuals.
The average number of families served this past year increased from about 600 to 850.
“We are so grateful for the generosity of our local community, especially during this holiday season,” said Toni Thompson, executive director of the Food Bank. “But don’t forget us in the months that follow. Hunger has no season, and our demands continue to increase.”
The Food Bank also delivers foods to 60 homebound clients every week. Project Hope is a school program that provides healthy snacks to children at 14 different schools in our area. The USDA Commodities make up about 40 percent of the grocery items they have available. The rest is donated from the community.
Three years ago, with the help of various local businesses, the Food Bank started its own garden. Last spring another 1.5-acre garden was planted in Penn Valley — all developed and maintained by volunteers. Last year alone, they delivered almost 2.5 tons of fresh vegetables to their clients, making them an example to other organizations across the country.
The Food Bank has more than 150 volunteers. There are many ways that we all could help as simple as donating old grocery bags and cardboard boxes. On their website is a short volunteer application that helps to determine what job an individual might be best suited for — working on special events, in the warehouse, office or helping out in their gardens.
Straight donations of food or money are also appreciated.
The Nevada County Food Bank can be reached by calling 530-272-3796 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their physical address is 310 Railroad Ave., No. 100, in Grass Valley (behind the 49er Fun Park). Their mailing address is 578 Sutton Way No. 187, Grass Valley, CA 95945
An abundant New Year to all.
Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author who lives in Grass Valley. She will be teaching a class on the Flavors of Southeast Asia Jan. 9. Sign up through BriarPatch Co-op.
“We are so grateful for the generosity of our local community especially during this holiday season. But don’t forget us in the months that follow.”
executive director of the Food Bank