Interfaith Food Ministry has long sought to end the pain of hunger, having served 500,000 families, seniors and single adults in 25 years of operation, according to their website.
Even with such a large number assisted, some still go hungry. In fact, the need has doubled in the past four years, said Interfaith President Bob Thurman.
“People usually compromise and it’s either pay rent or put gas in my car, or feed my kids.”
To meet the doubling in demand, the Grass Valley-based organization plans to double its space to meet it, as it moves from 551 Whiting St., a 3,000-square-foot location, to 440 Henderson St. near the Beam Easy Living Center, with 7,200 square feet.
The organization also hired an executive director for the first time, volunteer of seven years Sue Van Son, to manage the increased needs.
For one local woman, who wished to remain anonymous, Interfaith Food Ministry has helped in a time of difficult financial crisis, as she and her husband have sought work while raising their teenage boy and a younger son.
“With the price of food, there’s no way I could afford to feed them,” she said. “I don’t know what I would do if this wasn’t here.”
Interfaith Food Ministry, a nonprofit established in 1987, serves about half of the 13,000 in western Nevada County who are food insecure, meaning they do not know from where their next meal will come.
Interfaith utilizes food distribution organizations and grocery stores, which offer foods in good condition that might have slight imperfections.
“There may be a head of lettuce with one brown spot that can be cut off or something like that,” said Van Son.
Food is offered every other Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., a reduction from the every week service that used to be provided until the need became too great.
“The new facility should at least meet the current demand once distribution returns to once a week,” Thurman said. “It is difficult to provide two weeks of perishables that are going to go bad in three days.”
The new location also will allow for additional ideas, such as cooking classes or seminars on healthy eating, like the Rethink Your Drink presentation by Sierra Nevada Hospital last week which demonstrated how much sugar soda contains and suggested soda alternatives.
Other ideas include increased networking with community groups, which Interfaith already provides for some organizations like the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, Women of Worth and Hope House, to name a few.
“It’s a nice way of connecting things,” Van Son said. “We don’t want to just be our own little thing. We want to be part of a bigger community.”
Interfaith strives to not only feed families, but feed families healthy food, as part of their Hunger to Health initiative.
“We want to provide healthy foods, not perpetuate and enable just feeding people high-fat foods because we know that contributes to diabetes, for example, and someone with diabetes is taxing the health-care system and might not be able to get a job as easily,” Thurman said.
“There are all these threads throughout the community that are impacted just solely by people not getting healthy, sustainable food.”
Part of the initiative included a meeting with a nutritionist to ensure the purchase of healthy and cost-effective foods.
“We said, ‘What are the kinds of things that will give us the best bang for our buck?’ And purchased dry beans, oats and rice; and now we’re looking at the bigger picture and wanting to help the whole person,” Van Son said.
The organization follows a responsible method of distribution, Van Son said, which requires visitors to live in Nevada County and provide valid a Social Security card.
Families then fill out a card with desired food items and pick them up, which are packed and prepared by the organization’s 450 volunteers.
“We feel very responsible with the resources the community has entrusted us with,” Van Son said. “We don’t take that lightly. We want to be sure we’re using that (to) the best of our ability.”
The move and expansion of space and services can be overwhelming, but also exciting, Van Son said.
“When I forget about the operations of it and I think about the people that are being served and given food, it makes me really excited to think about expanding because what it means is people are going to get food more consistently and feel more supported.”
Van Son said she felt the impact Interfaith can make on a person after she asked one particular woman how she was doing.
“She said, ‘I’m here and Interfaith is another day of hope,’” Van Son said.
“When I hear that, I think for some people this keeps them going so they don’t have to worry about food. They can worry about the job or sick family members or other things because this helps provide them with hope to continue with whatever is going on with the rest of their lives. For me, it is a huge excitement to be able to provide more hope.”
Though some might think such services equate to a handout, Van Son and Thurman recalled the number of people who are helped, 30 percent of which are children, 10 percent are seniors and 2 1/2 percent are considered homeless.
“One of our volunteers, Diane, used to work in the back and didn’t come into contact with families. When she came to the front, she realized these people look like you and me and are struggling and just need a hand up,” Van Son said.
“They’re dignified people who want to be treated respectfully.”
Interfaith is in need of food and financial donations, Van Son said, though for every dollar donated, the organization can buy $2 worth of food because of bulk orders.
For information or to donate, contact Interfaith Food Ministry at 530-273-8132 or visit http://www.interfaithfoodministry.org/donate_funds.html.
“We really feel like this is a huge thing,” Van Son said. “The community has been incredibly supportive and we feel like with their help we can do this.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.
“The community has been incredibly supportive and we feel like with their help we can do this.”
— Sue Van Son,
Interfaith Food Ministry