Interfaith Food Ministry launches fundraising campaign to install solar panels |

Interfaith Food Ministry launches fundraising campaign to install solar panels

Volunteers Nancy Moyer, left, and Nancy Machado assemble groceries for clients at Interfaith Food Ministry. The nonprofit is launching a February fundraising campaign to raise $35,000 to install solar panels at its Henderson Street location.
Emily Lavin/ |

Paying the rent or buying groceries; filling the car with gas or buying groceries; keeping the electricity on or buying groceries.

Thousands of Nevada County residents who are food insecure, or lack reliable access to affordable food, are forced to make those decisions on a regular basis, said Sue Van Son, the executive director of Interfaith Food Ministry.

Since 1987, the nonprofit has been working to provide supplemental food to local individuals and families in need. Last year, the organization provided more than 8,000 Nevada County residents with 96,000 bags of groceries.

Today, Interfaith Food Ministry kicks off a month-long fundraising campaign designed to help the organization provide a higher quantity of nutritious food to those in need. The organization is asking for the community’s support to raise $35,000 to install solar panels at Interfaith’s Henderson Street building.

“As much as we might want food insecurity to go to zero, the reality is, based on our trends, this is a long term issue. We expect we’re going to be here in the long-term and this building will be here to serve in the long-term.”Bob Thurman Interfaith Food Ministry’s board president

Donations can be made online by visiting, or by mailing a check marked “solar” to 440 Henderson St., Grass Valley, Calif., 95945.

Those community donations would be combined with grant money and additional private donations to fund the project, which Van Son said would significantly reduce the organization’s energy bill and allow it to put that saved money toward its food program.

“We spend about $8,000 a year on electricity bills, and that can buy a lot of food,” Van Son said.

Interfaith Food Ministry distributes groceries from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Individuals and families who come through the doors are eligible to collect groceries every other week, Van Son said.

The population the nonprofit serves isn’t necessarily what many think of as in-need or at-risk, said Bob Thurman, Interfaith Food Ministry’s board president. There’s often a false perception that they can’t afford food because they’re willingly unemployed, or they’re living on the streets.

But many served by Interfaith are the working poor, Thurman said. They’re grappling with low-wage employment, medical bills or other issues that make it difficult to provide for themselves or their families.

“We go about our daily lives not realizing that the people standing right next to us in line or our next door neighbors are actually having difficulty making just basic decisions and putting food in their family’s mouths,” Thurman said.

When clients enter Interfaith Food Ministry to pick up food, they’re helped by a volunteer — the organization relies on about 500 volunteers to operate — who talks with them about their food preferences. The volunteer then pushes a shopping cart through makeshift aisles in another section of the building, picking out and bagging the groceries selected by the client.

One of the organization’s major focuses over the past several years has been providing as much nutritious food as possible — and that goes beyond canned fruits and vegetables or low-sodium choices, Van Son said. About $300,000 of the organization’s $400,000 budget goes directly toward purchasing food — and a large portion of that goes toward purchasing healthy perishable products, from leafy greens to milk and eggs to peanut butter.

For some of its clients, the food provided by Interfaith Food Ministry composes a significant portion of their diet — between 30 and 40 percent, Van Son said. That’s underscored how important it is for the organization to purchase healthy food.

“We better really be thinking about the food we’re getting,” Van Son said.

The money the organization will save by installing solar panels will allow it to take its nutritional goals even further by buying more healthy proteins — such as ground turkey and chicken — on a consistent basis, and by providing other avenues for nutrition education, Van Son said.

And because Interfaith owns the building it operates out of, installing solar panels is a prudent investment that will save the organization money for years to come, Thurman said.

“As much as we might want food insecurity to go to zero, the reality is, based on our trends, this is a long term issue,” he said. “We expect we’re going to be here in the long-term and this building will be here to serve in the long-term.”

Both Van Son and Thurman are hoping the fundraising campaign will educate people who may not know much about the issue of food insecurity or about the work Interfaith Food Ministry does in the community — and that those people will be compelled to give.

“Go green and help feed,” Thurman said.

“There’s just not a downside to it,” Van Son added.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email or call 530-477-4230.

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