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Truckee poverty revealed in study

TRUCKEE – Though sometimes difficult to see, the severity of hunger casts a dark shadow over pockets of this seemingly affluent community. Statistics often expose a truth that can be tough to read in neighbors’ faces, which is why nonprofit hunger-relief organization Project MANA (Making Adequate Nutrition Accessible) recently completed a Program Evaluation and Community Needs Assessment for the Truckee area.

“I think what motivated the study was that we recognized the growing need in Truckee, and we wanted to identify what those needs were so we could better serve the community,” said George LeBard, executive director for Project MANA.

The study, completed during the first half of 2003 and compiled during the latter half of the year, outlines Project MANA’s programs in the area, their successes in alleviating hunger and food insecurity in the town, and areas that still need to be addressed or better served in the community.



Made possible with grant funding received through the Federal Community Food and Nutrition Program, Project MANA employees and volunteers are using the results of the needs assessment to tailor their programs to best fit the issues found in the Truckee community.

Project MANA began in 1991 as a student project at Sierra Nevada College. Since then, its mission has been to “drastically reduce the incidence of hunger and its effects upon individuals, families, the community and the region.”




Currently, Project MANA maintains a Truckee branch office and runs a number of different programs in the Truckee community.

According to LeBard, Project MANA’s programs are meant to provide food to those in the greatest need. “Our goal is to supplement what they can get so they improve their nutrition and maybe aren’t as food insecure,” LeBard said.

Food insecurity, a relatively recent term that describes an age-old condition, also has dramatic effects on the people and families it touches. Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways.”

For the purposes of the needs assessment study, Project MANA staff chose to focus on low-income individuals and families – those people more likely to need one or more of the services provided by the agency.

In conducting its study, Project MANA distributed and collected 193 written surveys, conducted six focus groups with a total of 65 people involved, met with 11 of the 13 Truckee FACE clients, and spoke with representatives from 26 nonprofit organizations serving a similar clientele.

In order to ensure that the growing Latino population in the area was represented, all surveys, focus groups and interviews were conducted in both English and Spanish.

The study revealed unexpectedly high rates of food insecurity and hunger among the low-income population in Truckee.

Of the 193 people who filled out written surveys, 65 percent had experienced food insecurity, and 28 percent had experienced outright hunger, defined as “the uneasy or painful sensation caused by a lack of food. The recurrent and involuntary lack of access to food,” by the USDA.

Identifying the root causes of hunger in this region was also vital to Project MANA’s continuing mission. The study found lack of job opportunities, low wages, lack of affordable housing and the high cost of living all contributed to people not having enough to eat.

These problems are not new to the region, and the Project MANA staff hopes to collaborate with other community organizations trying to tackle some of these issues.

For more information about Project MANA’s needs assessment, any of their other programs, or to get a copy of the study, contact Project MANA’s Executive Director George LeBard at (775) 298-0008.

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Hunger statistics in the Truckee region

AT A GLANCE

Hunger statistics in the Truckee region:

– According to the 2000 U.S. census, there were 798 individuals and families living below the poverty level in Truckee in 1999.

– In financial year 2002-2003, Project MANA served 1,949 households representing 7,796 individuals in Truckee.

– In Truckee, 26.2 percent of single mother households with children under 5 are living in poverty, while 11.8 percent of residents earn less that $24,999 per year.

– Of Project MANA clients who participated in the study, 28 percent also received aid through the federal WIC program (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), 20 percent participated in the school breakfast/lunch program, 11 percent received food through USDA food distribution programs and 10 percent received food stamps.

– A 2002 study by the USDA revealed that 11.1 percent of U.S. households were food insecure while 3.5 percent were food insecure with hunger.

– Of the 193 people who participated in Project MANA’s written survey, 35 percent were food secure, 37 percent were food insecure without hunger and 28 percent were food insecure with hunger. (Much of the discrepancy between the USDA and MANA studies is due to the fact that the USDA surveyed a random sample of the general U.S. population whereas MANA’s study focused on low-income households.)


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