Feeding Nevada County: Effort to help those hungry bolstered by partnerships between nonprofits (VIDEO)
List of current volunteer opportunities: https://volunteerhub.connectingpoint.org/
Help feed Nevada County’s hungry. Contact any of the nonprofits listed below or donate to the Nevada County Relief Fund, where every dollar is focused on nonprofit organizations that serve western Nevada County’s most vulnerable residents.
Families and individuals who are in immediate need of food can call 2-1-1 for more information or click the following link for a comprehensive list of food resources: https://211connectingpoint.org/nevada-county/covid-19/food-resources. More information: Visit http://www.211connectingpoint.org.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION SITES
(Visit websites for current dates, as times may change week to week):
Interfaith Food Ministry
Food Bank of Nevada County
FREED Center for Independent Living
Local resources for older adults, people with disabilities, & caregivers: Phone: 800-655-7732 or 2-1-1 Nevada County. Gold Country Community Services Senior Nutrition Program (Meals on Wheels, Congregate Lunch Cafe, CalFresh (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) Nutrition Office: 530-273-4961 Sierra Roots 530-751-3263
Local resources for older adults, people with disabilities, & caregivers:
Phone: 800-655-7732 or 2-1-1 Nevada County.
Gold Country Community Services
Senior Nutrition Program (Meals on Wheels, Congregate Lunch Cafe, CalFresh (federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP)
Nutrition Office: 530-273-4961
Economic statistics remain grim across the country, with 20.5 million people losing their jobs in April and the unemployment rate rising to 14.7%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
One key indicator of just how many people are struggling in any given region is the number in need of free food, and western Nevada County has seen a marked increase.
The Interfaith Food Ministry in Grass Valley reports a 260% increase in new clients since COVID-19 began to impact everyday life roughly two months ago. Additionally, past clients who haven’t needed supplemental food for the past two years are now coming back, said Naomi Cabral, IFM’s development director.
“Right now we’re giving out bigger distributions than normal, so people don’t have to come out of their homes as often,” said Cabral. “Initially we saw some shortages and delays from food stores, but fortunately most food now is coming to us at a normal pace.”
IFM’s purchasing power is greatly increased through its ability to buy in bulk in partnership with the Placer County Food Bank, which can mean as much as $5 worth of low cost staple foods — such as canned tuna and peanut butter — for every dollar spent. Additionally, Sierra Harvest, along with local farmers, continue to provide a majority of the fresh produce.
The massive effort to feed Nevada County’s hungry is greatly bolstered by the strong partnerships between nonprofits, said Cabral, such as the Senior Grocery Bag program with Gold Country Community Services, the student food pantry at Nevada Union High School with United Way of Nevada County, The Food Bank of Nevada County, FREED Center for Independent Living and others.
“Believe me when I say that these people are not abusing the system,” said Cabral. “Even before COVID-19 our clients came to us only when they absolutely had to. We’re also seeing people giving back. Clients who have gotten on their feet are coming back to donate groceries or drop off a check.”
The Food Bank of Nevada County has also seen an unprecedented spike in numbers that have nearly quadrupled. In 2019, the food bank fed an average of 2,500 individuals each month.
“At our COVID-19 drive-through distributions we are serving between 2,000 and 2,800 individuals each week,” said Nicole McNeely, the food bank’s executive director. “We are now feeding as many people each week as we used to feed each month.”
Like IFM, the food bank partners with other programs and has now changed to a drive-thru model, where pre-assembled bags of groceries are handed out. While McNeely says there is currently enough food to meet the demand, groceries need to be carefully divided.
GOLD COUNTRY COMMUNITY SERVICES
The Meals on Wheels Program, which addresses food insecurity among the elderly, has seen a demand for groceries not seen before, said Executive Director Janeth Marroletti.
“We recently added 98 people from the waiting list and the need continues to increase without a sign of slowing down,” she said. “Because the demand for meals continues to increase we also just recently partnered with The Lift to help us deliver some meals to the hard-to-reach areas that are more challenging to deliver with volunteers. This has made a huge impact to ensure these seniors have access to food.”
As a result of the increased need, Gold Country Community Services created the Senior Grocery Bag Program in collaboration with IFM, the food bank and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital to provide a bag of nutritionally balanced “shelf stable” meals for seniors, as many cannot attend food distribution locations due to their frailty, lack of support and/or lack of transportation.
While calls to the FREED Center for Independent Living have doubled since the onset of COVID-19, the nonprofit also has the added challenge of serving a mostly homebound population with disabilities and secondary health conditions, said Ana Acton, FREED’s executive director. This places its clients at high risk should they contract the virus.
“The biggest need we’re seeing is access to food and nutrition for those who need groceries delivered to their homes,” she said. “For low income individuals, paying for a grocery delivery service is a barrier. We are working with the food bank to help them take over grocery delivery. But right now, in partnership with IFM, the food bank, 211 Nevada County and Gold Country Community Services, we deliver weekly grocery bags to about 60 to 70 individuals who fall into high risk categories — it’s important to note that these are not all seniors. These are all people with health conditions, such as diabetes, who would have a much harder time recovering should they get sick.”
As sheltering-in-place orders continue to be relaxed, Acton said there is likely to be a “dual reality,” as those in high risk health categories will need to remain home for much longer. Part of the community’s challenge, she said, will be to continue to support homebound, low income, at risk individuals for an extended period of time.
FREE LUNCHES FOR CHILDREN
When Emily Scott of Emily’s Catering and Cakes heard that many low-income children were missing much needed free meals that were normally provided at school, she started making 100 bag lunches to give away to children every Friday.
During her first attempt, not all 100 lunches were given away. Then word got out.
“In the last few weeks we ran out in half an hour,” said Scott. “Now we’re making 125 lunches and those are gone within an hour. We’re definitely seeing a need. We were going to stop at the end of May, but now we’ve decided to go through July at least.”
“We’re hearing a lot from people who are scared — they’ve lost their jobs or had their hours cut,” said Cabral, of IFM. “But at the same time they’re incredibly grateful. We’re fortunate to live in such a great and generous place. We’re not going to let anyone go hungry here — we’re not that kind of community.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at email@example.com or call 530-477-4203.
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