Interfaith Food Ministry in Grass Valley welcomes new Executive Director | TheUnion.com

Interfaith Food Ministry in Grass Valley welcomes new Executive Director

The Interfaith Food Ministry in Grass Valley has appointed a new executive director. Phil Alonso took leadership of the food bank on April 16 after the retirement of Sue Van Son.

A resident of Nevada County for the past 10 years, much of Alonso's experience has taken place in the Sacramento area. Alonso said that one of the many benefits of his new position is his 10 minute commute, a far cry from the hour he spent driving each way to his position with the Child Abuse Prevention Center in North Highlands.

His past work also found him organizing the implementation of AmeriCorps workers into family resource centers.

"I worked in program administration and grant writing, developing data collection systems for meaningful and real numbers to report on our grants and funding sources," Alonso said.

Alonso is enthusiastic about serving the community. In addition to organizing over 450 volunteers, he will be leading efforts in fund raising, public relations, and the distribution of food to the needy.

A father of two young daughters, Alonso said, "One of the main things was just being able to work in the community where I live. That has always been very important to me and has been a goal of mine and my wife's, mainly for the benefit of trying to utilize my skills and experience in order to impact and affect some change."

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Alonso cited the unpredictability of the job as one of the main reasons he pursued the position. "There's no one day that is going to be the same. There's lots of fluctuation, lots of different hats I'll wear in a lead role," he said.

The Interfaith Food Ministry provides those in need with food bags, meant to supplement or sustain those who suffer food insecurity. In 2017, they filled over 101,000 grocery bags and served over 2,000 children.

The food bags are offered 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Interfaith Food Ministry headquarters on Henderson Street in Grass Valley.

Alonso said the food distribution services help those in need, regardless of the individual's income, address or faith.

"There (are) no income requirements," he said. "We ask for basic geographic info that we don't share. We do ask for photo ID, a social security number with valid number, just to see what parts of the county our clients are coming from.

"We focus on serving Western Nevada County. If (one has) no permanent address, we definitely have food for those folks, but we do alter what we provide for them. For example, a cup of soup you need to heat up, we won't provide to homeless. We want to avoid something that could lead to an illegal campfire."

He went on to mention that many homeless don't own the necessary tools to prepare certain foods.

Alonso emphasized no one would be turned away, and he would like to dispel the myth that one need be of a particular faith to use their services.

Alonso cites lack of affordable housing, lack of mental health services, government cuts in social services, and lack of livable wage and employment opportunities as the biggest challenges Nevada County currently faces in terms of poverty and food insecurity.

"We have finite resources and that is part of our challenge, to make sure we can be as equitable and responsible as possible," Alonso said.

"We want the community to better understand what the face of hunger looks like in Nevada County. The majority of our families have a source of income and are juggling monthly expenses related to housing, utilities, and health with daily expenses like food and gas. As costs go up, like housing and gas, wages stay the same. The gap gets wider and families can't keep up. A little extra support with food can have a big impact."

Jennifer Nobles is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at jnobles@theunion.com or by calling (530) 477-4231.

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