Home-Cooked Meals Part of Healing Process for Vets

Melvin Williams and Michael Daniels know their way around a kitchen. Mid-South Food Bank provides food to more than 230,000 people each year. Both built their culinary skills during their years in the military, and these days they prepare meals for fellow veterans who face a different battle. 

The two men work at Alpha Omega Veterans Services in Memphis, where six separate residences provide homes to homeless veterans. The organization feeds, shelters and counsels men and women who have proudly served our country as they overcome the addictions or traumas that led them to live on the street. Williams and Daniels feed 122 residents three times a day, with food donated from the Mid-South Food Bank, in partnership with Fresh Market.

Both men know just how much those home-cooked meals mean to the people they are feeding because they have been there – and are graduates of the program themselves. “Life became unmanageable for me,” says Daniels. “I was sleeping on the streets or staying at the Union Mission when someone told me about Alpha Omega. They took me in, and I did the 12-step program. I had tried and failed before, but this time I did the work. I understood more clearly that I had to do this for me.” hva In the U.S., roughly 50,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Alpha Omega opened 28 years ago, about the same time that the Food Bank did, and the two organizations immediately connected. In the past few years, the Food Bank partnered with the Fresh Market grocery store to provide fresh produce, meats and other ingredients for the residences. And while food is just one part of what veterans are offered at Alpha Omega, it takes care of a fundamental need.

“I’ll sit down and talk to the guys about what meals they would like,” says Williams, who has been overseeing the kitchen for nearly 11 years. “With the ingredients that we get from the Food Bank and Fresh Market, I can accommodate them. I get a thrill to fix the foods that make these guys happy.” Meals at the residences are tailored to each person. Some have diabetes, some have religious dietary needs, and some just don’t care for certain foods or spices. They get what they need and what they want.

Someone who’s been there 

Today Daniels proudly shares that he is married and has a three-bedroom house. He started working with Williams in the kitchen six years ago. His is a typical success story. Of Alpha Omega’s 36 employees, 33 are graduates of the program. That fact speaks to new residents. “Clients are looking for themselves when they interact with our employees,” says Cordell Walker, director of Alpha Omega. “A lot of them knew each other in the outside world. Some may have served together. So there is that camaraderie, that ‘semper fi’ that lays a foundation for growth as soon as they walk in the door. We are a family, and Michael and Melvin are a key piece of that, not only because of their skills, but because they have graduated from the program.”

-Published by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

Pediatricians Advised To Inquire About Hunger

National Public Radio - An estimated 7.9 million kids in the U.S. live in "food-insecure" households. This means there's not always enough to eat at home. But when these kids go to the doctor for a checkup, or a well-child visit, the signs of malnutrition are not always apparent. 

So pediatricians say it's time to start asking about it. Kids and parents often shy away from talking about their struggles. "They're embarrassed, or they don't think the doctor will care," says pediatrician Sarah Jane Schwarzenberg of the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. 

To get families talking, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending that pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity by asking questions like this: Within the past 12 months, the food we bought didn't last, and we didn't have money to get more. Yes or No? As we've reported, America's wealth gap manifests on our dinner plates. 

Families who rely on SNAP — the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps — tend to eat about the same number of calories as higher-income Americans. But when it comes to nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits and vegetables, SNAP recipients eat less.   

"Some families do rely on starchy, filling foods that may not provide all the vitamins and minerals they need," says Schwarzenberg, who co-authored the AAP's new policy. 

There are myriad health problems linked to poor nutrition. "Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity are tied to adult cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes," Schwarzenberg says. 

And that's not all. According to the AAP policy statement:  "Children who live in households that are food insecure, even at the lowest levels, get sick more often, recover more slowly from illness, have poorer overall health and are hospitalized more frequently."  

Children and adolescents affected by food insecurity are more likely to be iron deficient, and preadolescent boys dealing with hunger issues have lower bone density. Early childhood malnutrition also is tied to conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.  

Lack of adequate healthy food can impair a child's ability to concentrate and perform well in school and is linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems from preschool through adolescence. The new AAP policy statement, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, also recommends that pediatricians keep on hand a list of community resources, such as food banks. 

"Pediatricians can have this information at their fingertips" to share with their patients in need, Schwarzenberg says.

Now's The Time To Reduce Food Waste: Feds

National Public Radio -

Word that Americans throw away about one-third of our available food has been getting around. Now there’s an official goal aimed at reducing that waste. Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency – along with many private sector and food bank partners – announced the first ever National Target for Food Waste.

"[We're] basically challenging the country to reduce food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack tells The Salt. 

Currently, Vilsack says, an estimated 133 billion pounds of food is wasted each year. And if that's hard to fathom, picture this: "It's enough to fill the Sears Tower [technically now called the Willis Tower] 44 times," Vilsack says. As for who's responsible? Well, pretty much everyone who eats. We consumers let a lot of food wilt or go sour in our refrigerators. And we may toss out items when they pass their sell-by dates — even though the food is still safe to consume. On farms, there's a lot of waste generated — as we documented in this story about lettuce grown in California — when food not quite up to cosmetic standards isn't harvested. Often times, food also ends up in landfills because it won't stay fresh long enough to be shipped across the country.   Restaurants and grocery stores generate a lot of waste, too. There are a lot of initiatives already underway to address food waste. For instance, theFood Recovery Challenge at the EPA is helping food manufacturers and grocers donate more food. And, increasingly, as we showed in this video, grocery stores are buying and selling imperfect, or ugly, produce. In addition, restaurants are turning to new technology to help them track and identify opportunities to cut waste. iVilsack says food waste isn't just an economic issue — it also is a big contributor of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that fuels climate change. Think about where most of it is tossed: "Basically, it ends up in landfills," Vilsack says. And it's the single greatest contributor to municipal landfills, according to USDA. Here's another way to understand the significance of food waste: Tossing out food wastes fossil fuels used to grow and ship food. "When you look at the oil that's used in producing food that's wasted, it's 70 times the amount of oil that we lost in the Deepwater Horizon disaster," Vilsack says. For now, the national 50 percent waste reduction goal will be voluntary. 

But to meet it, Vilsack says, many of the initiatives already underway can be scaled up. "Rather than pitch [food], let's figure out how to redirect it," and salvage it, says Vilsack. 

For instance, Americans need more education on how to shop and cook in ways that reduce the losses in our own refrigerators. (We'll have more tips on this tomorrow.) And schools, institutions and local governments can do a lot more to cut back on, recover and recycle food waste. In some states and cities, they're already required to. 

As we've reported, Seattle now fines homeowners for not sorting their garbage. And Massachusetts has implemented a food waste ban for certain institutions, with a handful of other states following suit. As for what Congress might be able to help with, Vilsack says it's mulling legislation that would increase tax deductions for farmers and other big wasters who donate food to the needy. 

Vilsack says the public awareness needed around food waste reminds him of another problem our nation tackled back in the 1960s and 1970s: litter. There was a time when people rolled down their windows and tossed trash on to highways. 

"It was quite common when I was a kid," Vilsack says. But now, this is not culturally acceptable. That's because there was a massive public education campaign. Schoolkids were told to tell their parents to stop littering. And, Vilsack says, it was successful. 

Now, he says, the goal is to "create a generation of Americans that are sensitive to food waste."  

Summer Is Hunger Action Month

Desoto Times-Tribune - Although DeSoto County is considered a relatively affluent community, pockets of poverty and food insecurities for families do exist and feeding hungry families is a very real need in northwestern Mississippi.September is "Hunger Action Month" across the country and Mid-South Food Bank officials along with other groups want to help end hunger in the region.

Andrew Bell, marketing manager for the Mid-South Food Bank, said statistics from his organization show that 23,000 adults in DeSoto County have some type of food insecurity, with the rate being about 22 percent.The Mississippi Food Bank distributes almost one million pounds of food to six partner agencies in DeSoto County annually.

Partner agencies include Heartland Hands in Southaven, the Olive Branch Food Pantry, Samaritans Food Pantry in Horn Lake; First Assembly of God Pantry in Horn Lake and the Interfaith Food Food Pantry in Hernando, on the grounds of the First Presbyterian Church in Hernando.The Mid South Food Bank Mobile Pantry, assisted by Volunteer Northwest Mississippi, is set put to feed hundreds if not thousands on a regular basis during food distribution at that site.

Bell said that although the need is great, the opportunity to donate or volunteer is always an option.For every one-dollar received in donation, at least three meals can be provided, according to Bell.

"The best way to get people engaged is to make it personal," Bell said, adding that almost everyone knows of someone who has been laid off from a job, lost a home or experienced financial hardship that leads to food insecurity issues.Anna Dickerson, Executive Director of Volunteer Northwest Mississippi, said hundreds of volunteers helped make food distribution possible last year.

Story by Robert Lee Long, DeSoto Times-Tribune

Homebound Seniors Could Use Food Stamps to Get Delivered Groceries

Time magazine

Senior citizens could start using food stamps to pay for groceries to be delivered to their homes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently proposed allowing homebound seniors and disabled persons touse benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to cover the cost of food delivery from government and non-profit agencies. 

The Department is currently seeking 20 programs to host the one-year pilot program. In a conversation with TIME, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the programs could help more seniors live as independently as his wife’s aunt. He recalled that the 93-year-old did not like the idea of living in a nursing home, but wasn’t able to go to the grocery store on her own because of a broken hip. 

“Having services delivered to her enabled her to stay in that home with greater dignity for a longer period of time,” says Vilsack. “I’m sure that there are a lot of Aunt Jessie’s out there that will benefit from this program for a multitude of reasons.” 

Seniors have long been able to use services such as Meals on Wheels to have food delivered to their homes, paid on a sliding scale based on their income. But allowing food stamps to be used would open up the program to a lot more seniors. Some experts think it might encourage more seniors to sign up for food stamps as well.

Food For Kids Ads to Art Garden's Healthy Safe Haven in Binghampton

By Chase Arnold/Local24 TV

Hunger is a big problem for children in Memphis, especially when school lets out for the summer and they no longer have access to school lunches. 

The “Food For Kids Program" is a partnership between the art garden and the Mid-South Food Bank. It will provide about 3,000 meals this summer to Binghampton kids who would otherwise go hungry.  

"It’s a food insecure area and there's a lot of corner stores, but not grocery stores, so fresh produce isn't around," Megan Banaszek of the Carpenter Art Garden said.  

One program is providing more than just meals for kids in Binghampton.  In the Mid-South, one out of every five kids is food insecure. Basically, they do not have enough to eat on a daily basis. But at the Carpenter Art Garden, kids are getting hands on in the fight against hunger.  

That is where this program becomes about more than just providing food. The kids learn how to garden and what they grow is used in the meals. 

"This helps promote healthy eating and a sense of pride. I think when you're younger and learning about being able to plant your own vegetables, it's an exciting thing to learn about. But then you get to take it home and eat it and share it with their family," Banaszek said.  

Two students will spend the summer in charge of organizing all the meals. Latavius Clark said his personal experience is one reason why he is getting involved. 

"To help the kids that don't have any food,” Clark said.  

Food For Kids is just one of the many programs at the Carpenter Art Garden. It also offers tutoring and art classes, anything that can brighten the lives of the kids in this neighborhood. 

Summer Harvest Program Feeding Hundreds in Crockett County

As pencils and rulers were put away as schools recently closed for the summer break, so too, unfortunately, have school cafeterias. 

With that dynamic in mind, Mid-South Food Bank – relying primarily on a grant awarded from ConAgra Foods aimed at helping fight food insecurity in rural areas – started the Summer Harvest Program officially on May 28 in Crockett County, TN. The county not too far from Jackson, TN, has only 15,000 residents. Yet the child food insecurity rate is 27 percent when schools are open for learning. 

So on a comfortable Thursday evening nearly 200 children along with their parents made their way to the grounds of First Baptist Church in Bells, TN, and received the first of 10 weekly food boxes for themselves as well as food for the rest of the families over the weekend. What’s more, the first distribution was supplemented with a farmers-style market arrangement whereas the young recipients could select preferred fresh produce selections like bananas and cabbage with the use of paper money. 

Overall, 8,000 lbs. of food was provided in the first distribution. 

“The goal is not to just fill a gap of lack of food over the summer with nutritious meals for these families, but to try to instill in these children - and the community – with the vital habit of making nutritious eating habits,” said Tonya Bradley, Mid-South Food Bank Chief Operating Officer.

The Summer Harvest Program will ultimately distribute over 70,000 meals over the 10-week period in Crockett County where its lone food pantry is only open for clients every other month. The location is only one of about 20 across the nation to receive the grant funds worth a total of $10 million over three years. 

“This program makes a big difference. It will help alleviate the burden many families have and will especially help with the fresh produce that is too expensive for many to provide,” said Brooke Parkey, coordinator of school health at Bells Elementary, whose administration was a catalyst in facilitating the summer feeding initiative. 

May is Older Americans Month

Click Here Older Americans Month Support Activities

We meet many clients at the soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters we serve who are attempting to live — what should be their golden years — on social security checks of $700 a month or less.  

According to the study Hunger in America 2010, 30 percent of seniors who rely on our local food pantries for help have had to choose between paying for food and paying for medical care.    

Although food insecurity — not having access to enough food for an active or healthy life —affects people of all ages, older Americans are particularly at risk because they have unique nutritional needs related to aging and/or medical conditions. To meet these needs, seniors at risk of hunger often depend on local food pantries for help. 

Among food pantry clients 65 and older, more than half reported visiting a pantry on a monthly basis, the highest of any age group.   A 2013 Feeding America “Hunger Study” on the Mid-South revealed that seniors account for the fastest-growing demographic group receiving food assistance from Mid-South Food Bank, rising from about 10 percent to 29 percent over a two-year period.   

A more recent study found that of the 418,00 people facing food insecurity across 31 counties in the Mid-South, 88,700 of them are seniors age 60 or older. Several of Mid-South Food Bank’s feeding programs aim at helping at risk seniors 60 years of age or older, including those who are able to prepare their own meals at home. 

In 2014, the Food Bank served 147,237 senior households via pantries, as well as 15,054 senior households through a USDA commodities program.     

You can help make difference in helping our community’s seniors during Older Americans Month and beyond. Host a food drive, or make a financial donation – every $1 donated generates 3 meals. Go to www.midsouthfoodbank.org

Crockett County's Lone Pantry Struggling to Fight Hunger

By Victoria Jackson/WBBJTV

Officials at the only food pantry in Crockett County say it's struggling to feed the more than 2,500 people who rely on them. 

"We have two deep freezers and one upright. At the moment, they are all empty," said Brandy Buckingham, director of the Crockett Cares Food Pantry. "We have nothing in them." 

Buckingham said the current inventory sits at about 30 percent. Food is supplied by Mid-South Food Bank out of Memphis. Participating food pantries pay a fee for the food, whcih is estimated around six cents per one pound of food. For months, local churches have been raising a large portion of those funds. 

"For the church, I think it's simple — we are here for the people," Pastor James Luveene said. 

COO for the Mid-South Food Bank, Tonya Bradley, said about 980 children are facing food insecurity in the county. "Food insecurity just means simply not having enough," she said. 

Bradley said a $1 donation provides about three meals, but the food pantry is in desperate need of more volunteers and monetary donations. "Our numbers show we should be distributing about 100,000 pounds of food annually," she said. "Right now this year alone in the first six months, we've only served about 10,000 pounds." 

The Crockett Cares pantry is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. The organization only has enough supply to provide food to qualifying participants once every three months. On April 30, the pantry will provide a mobile pantry for Crockett County residents. 

Staff say a semi-truck will be stocked with fresh produce, canned foods and other items to feed around 300 families. Candidates must be pre-approved a receive vouchers by visiting the Crockett Cares Food Pantry during normal business hours.   

Child Nutrition Act Invests in Our Children

by Eleni Townes 

In the U.S. today, nearly 16 million children face hunger. While hunger is damaging to everyone, it is particularly devastating for children. Studies have shown that child hunger has severe impacts on a child’s health, development and educational success. 

Children who face food shortages are more likely to experience frequent stomach and headaches, are at higher risk for chronic health conditions - such as anemia – experience more oral health problems and are more likely to be absent from school and fail a grade. The federal child nutrition programs are critical to preventing child across America. 

They provide a nutritional lifeline for pregnant woman, infants, toddlers and kids while they are in school and out of school – in afterschool programs, over the weekends and during the summer. Every five years, Congress has the opportunity to reexamine these programs and make improvements, a process which is referred to as the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, or CNR. 

The next CNR is scheduled for this upcoming fall. Meals provided through the child nutrition programs often provide the healthiest and most nourishing meal that a child receives all day. 

However, we know that meal assistance is not reaching all the children in need. That is why it is vitally important that Congress works to reauthorize the child nutrition programs this year – investing in expanding program access to close the child meal gap. 

Millions of low-income, food-insecure children do not receive meal assistance while they are out of school. When school is out for the summer, child hunger is at its worst. Low-income children cannot rely on school meal programs for the breakfasts and lunches that nourish them during the school year. 

Some of these children are able to access meals at summer feeding programs, where community organizations such as food banks, summer camps, or Parks and Rec provide free meals to eligible children, but the vast majority do not. In the absence of a busing system during the summer and many families leaving their children with family or older siblings during the day, it is difficult for many children to access a summer feeding site. 

Nationally, only about 16 percent of children who get lunch assistance during the school year participate in a summer food program on a typical summer day. Congress can do more to close this out-of-school gap by enabling community-based organization to utilize more options to reach children during these times – such as through meal delivery programs, backpack programs, or providing families with a grocery card during the summer month. 

The cost of poor nutrition is staggering, and not just to the individual child. In 2012, the impact of our nation’s hunger problem was estimated at over $167.5 billion per year –when considering the loss of economic productivity, the rising cost of poor education outcomes, preventable health care expenses and cost of charities to keep families fed. Our leaders often remark that there is no greater investment that we can make than in our children. 

These numbers demonstrate that’s not just a feel-good saying. The child nutrition bill matters to our children. Congress must not miss this opportunity to invest in our children.

*Eleni Townes is a policy analyst at Feeding America.

School Closings Exacerbate Child Hunger Problem

By Molly Smith/News Channel 3

Many Shelby County students rely on schools to provide most, if not all, of their meals, and when they don’t have class, many of them go hungry. It turns out, bad weather doesn’t just shut down schools: many of the local food pantries couldn’t open their doors either because of the bad weather. 

The few that were open were preparing for extra traffic. A Samaritan bag is filled with essentials like flour, rice, and canned vegetables. 

The Neighborhood Christian Center on Jackson Avenue was handing them out to families who need help getting through the next few days. Effie Johnson, head of the NCC, said, “We are front-line responders to people in need.” 

Johnson admitted they were only able to open a half of their centers Tuesday because of the weather. They feel for families who are struggling in this storm. “It hurts when you cannot feed your babies,” she said. 

Empty shelves are a real problem at the Mid-south Food Bank because their delivery trucks can’t make it in. The non-profit sent 2,000 backpacks full of food to help kids make it through the weekend, but they know those have run out. 

The pantries those families would normally turn to aren’t open because the volunteers can’t get there. Estella Mayhue-Greer with the Food Bank said, “When those seniors can’t get out and make it to the church pantry, that those young people are willing to take that chance.” 

And that chance will affect so many people, especially families who live farther out and don’t have as many options when their shelves go bare. Officials and community leaders say these kids need these kids to get back to class so they don’t go hungry.


Food Pantry's Client Choice Pantry Adds Flexibility, Dignity to Food Assistance

By Alyssa Martin, WCBI TV

A Partner Agency continues its commitment to service by adding a second program encouraged by Agency managers.    

The Aberdeen, Miss., food pantry Loaves and Fishes kicked off a unique program designed to benefit the elderly and disabled, which empowers them to experience a grocery store like a shopping trip. In January, Loaves and Fishes Food Pantry fed more than 300 Monroe County families with 18,000 lbs. of food from Mid-South Food Bank.    

It’s open for food distribution twice a month. To meet a high demand and a growing need, the pantry has opened an in-house grocery store called Client Choice Pantry.    

“Really trying to reach the older people who can’t get here on a Saturday morning. We normally give out on the 2nd and 4th Saturday, but it’s really crowded and we want these people to enjoy their shopping experience so they can feel like they went to the store and shopped,” said Lloyd Massey, executive director of Loaves and Fishes.    

The new way empowers shoppers to pick their groceries and household items, according to their needs. Massey says while some elderly shoppers receive food stamps, it usually isn’t enough to last an entire month.   

“Fifteen dollars is all they get in food stamps, they can’t buy very much on that, some of them get up to $35, so this is a good supplement for them,” said Massey.   

Dorothy Jones is a first-time shopper at the pantry. She cares for more than five children at home and is thankful for the extra help.   

“It’s very important. It helps out a lot of families because things are so tight right now. It’s a God thing: you know what I mean? We appreciate it,” said Jones, of Aberdeen. 

Loaves and Fishes is operated by a group of volunteers. Massey says the pantry can always use more help. 

“People only see the box go out, they don’t see what goes into it and it takes a lot of volunteers to get all this ready for each month and we have quite a few young people helping us out,” he said. “But any age, they just have to come down here and we’ll put them to work.”

Classic Party Rental Helps Food Bank with Food Pickups

Each year, Mid-South Food Bank benefits from a multitude of food and monetary donation drives in addition to scores of volunteers who help sort food items. But contributing to the organization’s fight vs. hunger across 31 counties is sometimes bolstered in other generous, yet less visible ways from willing partners too. 

Classic Party Rentals is one great example. The local business – one of 25 affiliated across the nation – rents and delivers materials and helps set up for events - like weddings - big and small in a 150-mile radius. 

Each year, Classic Party Rentals handles about 5,000 events. Beginning last November, the company’s fleet of trucks and crew of drivers began selectively helping Mid-South Food Bank in its day-to-day operations by picking up scheduled food donations and bringing them to the Food Bank’s warehouse where they then are sorted, packed and ready for distribution.    Mike Carter, Classic Party Rental GM

That assistance, in turn, has improved the Food Bank’s ability to get more food to hungry families faster. Classic Party Rental’s first few scheduled pickups, for example, amounted to transporting over 62,201 pounds of food, or 51,834 meals. 

“It was just a good fit,” said Classic Party Rentals Operations Manager Mike Carter. 

The company’s local office was approached by a Food Bank manager about the potential assistance. “Our drivers are generally out in the area and so the trouble of making an extra stop along the way when the destination is on route and there’s time to do it is minimal.” 

For the Food Bank, the assistance falls directly in line with two of its core values: urgency and collaboration. The timing was also serendipitous: Classic Party Rental’s ability to help during the winter months and holidays when its customer demand slows coincides when the Food Bank’s schedule for donation pickups is furiously high, remarked Mid-South Food Bank Community Relations Manager David Stephens. 

 Carter noted that the relationship is poised to have success because both entities are flexible. “The Food Bank calls and says there’s a certain pickup that’s come up, and we check with our dispatcher and can know right away whether we can or can’t. It’s that easy.” 

The sense of satisfaction was heightened when their 50 employees learned more about the actual number of folks in the region – 406,000 people – who are food insecure and the scale in which the Food Bank collects and distributes food - 15.3 million pounds in 2014. 

“It floored me to know the amount of distribution of meals. I was also unaware of the magnitude of the hunger problem,” Carter said. He added that the collaboration with the Food Bank has instilled a newfound sense of corporate philanthropy in its Memphis office – in his words “to be part of something that’s greater” than only meeting the company’s regular business demands. “It’s easy not to do anything outside a company’s goals. But it’s rewarding to play a role in addressing a problem to a solution that affects so many in the community,” Carter said.

Holidays Gone, Yet Hunger Remains for Too Many

By Wendy Nations, MyFoxNews

With the holiday season in the rear view mirror, it's easy to overlook those who are still in need of basic necessities like food.  Mid-South Food Bank survives and feeds the hungry through food pantries across the Mid-South. 

With cool temperatures families and individuals are especially vulnerable, but there's an easy way to help. Individuals, foundations, faith-based organizations and corporations have donated $3.7 million reaching folks in 31 Mid-South counties.  

"For millions of people $1 makes a big difference.” In fact $1 can feed a family of three. "We try to stay involved in the community teaching children the Christian way of helping people,” said Pam Strong, principal at Cordova Christian Academy, whose group of elementary students donated food and money to the Food Bank before taking a tour on Jan. 9. “We find the Mid-South Food Bank is one of the greatest ways to do that." 

Hunger is a year round issue and although Mid-Southerners have a big heart during the holidays, Mayhue-Greer said the need is greater in the winter because it's colder. 

"The need is greater because of the cold weather," said Estella Mayhue-Greer, Mid-South Food Bank president. "Seventy-four-percent of people we provide for have to decide between heating homes or eating. As we face frigid temperatures we want them to know we still need to support them so that they can stay warm and full.

"For every dollar they receive, we can provide three meals. We can charge it to your credit cards," Mayhue-Greer said. 

In 2015 the Mid-South Food Bank's goal is to increase the amount of food distributed to 17.2 million and to carry on with its slogan, "Feeding the need."

Capacity to Feed the Hunger Critically Bolstered by Public Response

In October, a national publication (Chronicle of Higher Education) ranked Greater Memphis as No. 2 in the country in terms of charitable giving. Mid-South Food Bank can vouch for that distinction. In 2014, 14.8 million pounds of food items was donated from the public, including food generated from more than 400 organized food drives. 

Additionally, more than $3.7 million was donated for Mid-South Food Bank – from individuals, foundations, faith-based organizations and corporations ­– to purchase food for the more than 405,000 folks facing food insecurity in the 31-county region. Because of its purchasing power, every $1 donated to Mid-South Food Bank generates 3 meals, meaning the $3.7 million translated into over 11 million meals.  

“It’s simply outstanding,” said Mid-South Food Bank President Estella Mayhue-Greer. “The Mid-South faces a lot of varied, serious challenges, with hunger being one of the most prominent ones. But people have a big heart and they continue to respond to help with what they know too many of their neighbors are facing.”

It’s important to note that the tremendous generosity is not limited in scope to giving food items or money. People have offered what in many cases in society has become a premium, scarce commodity – personal time. 

In 2014, 11,356 unique individuals volunteered for Mid-South Food Bank in a bevy of helpful ways – from collecting food at food drives, to organizing donated product at the Food Bank’s warehouse, to doing necessary clerical work to helping to do maintenance on the property. 

“We are blessed tremendously by the amount of people who seek out ways to volunteer,” said Mid-South Food Bank Volunteer Manager Paula Rushing. “What we have found to be especially true is that when people first come and volunteer and learn about the breadth of food insecurity in the region and how a food bank works to combat it, they often want to return to volunteer as well as tell others.” 

For a regional food bank like Mid-South Food Bank, which has 40 employees on staff, the 46,454 volunteer hours (calculated to just over $1 million in workforce salary it otherwise could not afford) was critical in the 15 million pounds of food distributed to more than 250 Partner Agencies in 2014. 

For next year, Mid-South Food Bank’s goal is to increase the food amount distributed to 17.2 million in order to press on with its slogan, “Feed the Need.” 

Memphis #2 in U.S. in Charitable Giving 

from Parent.Com

Overton Square is the new trendy neighborhood filled with people spending money. Some of these patrons also will give some of their hard earned money to non-profits. 

“I just feel like you should just help other people. I just try to help out any I can." According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Memphis is ranked second among large cities to give more than five percent of income to charity. Only the people of Salt Lake City give more, and by only a few tenths of a point. 

Mid-South Food Bank President & CEO Estella Mayhue-Greer said, "I am not surprised at all.  Whenever we need support at the food bank, we put out the call and Memphis responds." 

The Food Bank survives and feeds the hungry through food pantries across the Mid-South.When the shelves get low or when there is holiday drive, individuals give. "It's such a caring and giving city. You see that over and over again," said Greer. 

A caring and giving city with its own challenges of poverty, infant mortality and violence. Greer said, "Those who don't have a lot to give, give a lot." 

For some Memphians, donating either their time or money has become their calling. "Personally seen struggle here that I don't have to go across seas to find and I can easily affect something here in Memphis in my backyard.” 

If you'd like to read the article follow this link: http://philanthropy.com/article/How-Much-People-Give-in-the/149175/

You Won't Believe How Many Children Go Hungry In America

from Parent.Com

Think back to the last time your child bellowed those oft-heard words, “I’m HUN-gry!” and how you reacted. You probably went to your fridge and reached for a piece of fresh fruit, baby carrots, or a cheese stick, or plunged your hand into the depths of the cupboard to find a snack (hey, we all do it!) to tide her over until the next meal. But for some kids, “I’m hungry” isn’t just a tiny daily annoyance, but a persistent part of every hour of every day. The sad truth of the matter is that more kids go hungry in the United States than we would like to believe. 

According to a 2012 United States Department of Agriculture report, 15.8 million children under 18 in the U.S. “lived in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary to a healthy life.” 

Not having access to food is detrimental to any person, but children are especially vulnerable. Hunger affects children’s academic performance, their social well-being, and their overall health, among other things. 

A recent comprehensive study about the state of hunger in this country was released by the hunger relief charity Feeding America, which revealed that 1 in 7 Americans turn to the Feeding America network for nutritional assistance. That’s over 46 million Americans, and 12 million children—an alarming number that continues to grow.

Food Donation Program Helping Vets

Fresh Market Store Contributes Daily

Watch the video here

Initiative Helps Combat Summer Donation Decline

Every summer regional Food Banks across the country experience significant decrease in food donations. This group includes Mid-South Food Bank, which this summer has seen its shelves decrease by more than 30 percent – an unprecedented number. 

The seasonal decline in stock is attributed to a predicable spike in food insecurity because school children - not eating at school cafeterias during the week - are seeking meals at home where, for many families budget allowances for groceries are strained. It’s also been uniquely compounded this summer, though, due to the emergency food response by Mid-South Food Bank to victims of tornadoes in Tupelo, Miss., in April and floods in Memphis in June. 

The need for more donations when demand increases during summertime was addressed on July 23 when United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials held an event at the Farmer’s Market at the Agricenter in Memphis. There they announced the national campaign called Feds Feed Families, a concerted effort to encourage federal government employees to make generous donations – whether financial or with non-perishable collections – at the local level to help supplement donations during a pivotal time. {Watch the video}

Karen Comfort, national program manager for the USDA’s Ag Marketing Service, said that nationwide the Feds Feed Families campaign, begun in 2009, is on track to surpass this summer’s goal of more than 800,000 lbs. of food nationwide. The campaign, dubbed “Help Knock Out Hunger,” runs through Aug. 27. 

While the federal workforce is encouraged to donate, it was announced at the event the Farmer’s Market at the Agricenter will be a donation drop-off location for anyone wanting to contribute, and especially fresh fruit and vegetables up to Aug. 27. 

To organize a food donation drive or to find out more information, contact David Stephens, Mid-South Food Bank Community Relations Manager, at dstephens@midsouthfoodbank.org

Operation Feed Testimony

Swift Transportation’s First Effort Nets 13,468 Meals

It was early at the Southaven Walmart Supercenter parking lot on a late June morning and Swift Transportation employees had pastries, coffee and bottles of water on ice to mitigate the rising Southern heat. 

From early morning until 5 o’clock the group, divided in three-hour shifts with a rotation each of about five Swift volunteers, enthusiastically waved Food Bank signs at store customers walking or driving by, and cheered and organized when money was offered into buckets and food items donated into the Swift tractor trailer. The company’s goal, as both participants and competitors in Operation Feed – Mid-South Food Bank’s single largest food/fund drive of the year – did not have a calculation, but rather resolve: to help in the fight against hunger. 

It was Swift’s first participation in Op Feed. In the end, their four-day effort (totaling 280 man hours), each day at a different area Walmart location, generated a $3,145 and 5,309 lbs. of food – equivalent of 13,468 meals for the food insecure. 

“I was shocked at how much food can be provided with a little help,” reflected Brad Kercheval, Swift equipment control manager at the company’s Memphis office who volunteered. “It was great to see how far people are willing to go out of their way to help when there is a need.”  

Every summer since 1991, for a six-week period more than 100 companies and organizations join in Operation Feed, the largest donation drive for Mid-South Food Bank. It involves workplaces whose managers recruit employees to collect food and funds for the Food Bank, which distributes food across 31 counties. In the 2013 Operation Feed, for example, 119 companies donated 57,830 lbs. of food and raised $210,900 – enough for 678,964 meals. 

This year’s results will be announced at an awards ceremony July 31. Food Bank Community Relations Manager David Stephens said a critical part of Operation Feed is enabling each workplace to conduct its drive as it prefers, fostering creativity, fun and impact. 

“When Swift approached us at the Food Bank about what they wanted to do, it was exciting – we’ve not had an Op Feed workplace do a food drive like this previously,” Stephens said. 

He helped pair Swift with Walmart officials, who offered their store locations for the drive and also encouraged store employees to take time out to be included in the rotation of volunteers. 

Kim Ingram, a Swift national accounts customer service team leader, said learning about the Food Bank’s operations and programs, including learning that every $1 donated is worth 3 meals, was enlightening. Lara Buckingham, a Swift fleet manager, agreed, noting her “amazement” at how much food is distributed to food pantries (over 15 million pounds in 2014). 

Swift employees were motivated by its initial food drives’ success and expressed desire for their next one, now that they can see what what’s attainable. 

 “I can't wait to do this again. If we can make this an annual event, there is no limit on what we can raise for such a great and needed cause,” said Kercheval. “I was very proud to see the public support and of my coworkers willingness to step up in volunteering and donating.”

The fight against hunger spans borders, culture

Visitor from France splits vacation exploring, volunteering

The thousands of volunteers who spend thousands of hours collectively for Mid-South Food Bank every year do so as a part of the mission to tackle food insecurity across 31 counties in the region and in every zip code. But it’s prudent to be reminded that hunger stretches across all kinds of boundaries - including languages and oceans - as does people’s desire to tackle it. 

For June that perspective for Mid-South Food Bank came in the form of a visitor to the Bluff City, Linda Djebbar, who regularly volunteers at the equivalent of a regional food bank in her hometown of Marseilles, France. 

“I wanted to combine my vacation (to Memphis) with volunteering,” Linda, a financial auditor, said. 

She’s reliably volunteered via the Food Bank at a Partner Agency, Buckman Boys and Girls Club in North Memphis, during the weekdays by helping cook food and serve it to the children as part of the Food Bank’s Kids Cafe, which amounts to hundreds of nutritious, hot lunches for children weekly. On Tuesday, Linda was helping children with arts and crafts, including offering face painting, at Buckman.

Linda first visited the South while working as an intern near Jackson, Miss., a few years ago. She was invited by former coworkers and friends to visit and hopes to return to Memphis (where they now live) again every two years. 

 For the past year she has been a volunteering in Marseilles as part of a group (translated, called “Restaurants from the Heart”) that delivers fresh food donated from participating restaurants like bakeries to the homeless and the elderly weekly. The food is delivered out of traveling bus. 

While the cultural differences are strikingly different, she noted that there are parallels in the levels of food insecurity in her hometown and Memphis – as well as the methods to fight it. Both have a metro population of about 1 million, and the unemployment rate hovers over 10 percent in both places. 

Linda said that while she likes Memphis, while traveling throughout Shelby County she’s been alarmed by the disparity of grocery stores – a void of them referred to as food desserts - from urban areas compared to the suburbs. 

“My job is hard, but it’s isolated. Volunteering has helped fulfill that human element – it’s touched me and I will do it for the rest of my life,” she said.

Companies Compete, Raise Funds for the Food Bank in Operation Feed

By Alex Flores from Fox 13 News

Companies across Shelby County are in fierce competition with one another, each using creative ways to try to raise the most money for the Mid-South Food Bank's Operation Feed. 

The company that raises the most money over the seven-week competition will win awards and prizes, but the real winners here are the charitable feeding programs across the Mid-South. Mid-South companies across the Mid-South are using creative ways to raise the most money for the food bank.

NBT BusinessCapital is once such company, which created a fun in the sun week that included a putt-putt golf tournament, all with the goal of coming up with enough money for 24,000 meals.   "We've encouraged all our team members to dress in their best golf attire and also participate in a fundraising putt-putt event," said Heather Wilson, NBT CommunicationsManager. "So far we've raised $400 and the best part is NBT will be matching 100 percent."

Operation Feed is the Mid-South's largest food drive, each year raising millions to help feed hungry people in our community, especially children.  "In the summer children are not receiving the meals they typically receive at school, and so families are burdened with having to provide more needs and if they need the food bank through agencies can help out," said Shelley Alley, Mi-South Food Bank Chief Development Officer.

NBT is led by entrepreneurs that help other local entrepreneurs with encouragement and  financial support. But this week their focus was all about the Mid-South Food Bank. 

"Today we are here to challenge our fellow entrepreneurs to strike a blow against hunger and food insecurity here in Memphis," said Dudley Boyd, NBT CEO. "We're here to feed kids and struggling families to give them strength to fight the good fight and move forward."

Operation Feed runs through July 3.

SoGiv Designs Limited Edition Shoe for Food Bank For Fight Vs. Hunger

Shoe part of Miles for Meals event Sept. 27

Story by Alex Flores, Fox 13 Memphis

Summertime for local nonprofits is often one of their busiest times and it's also a time that demands unique ways of finding new funding sources. Enter Edward Bogard, who is the founder of SoGiv, a local nonprofit company whose sole mission is to give back to worthy causes by designing unique shoes for nonprofit companies that can be used to raise funds and at the same time donate a pair to someone in need. 

"I grew up around a giving family, my mom instilled it in me at an early age, so I knew that it was way more than just a shoe immediately," said Bogard. 

He's currently working with the Mid-South Food Bank, and their shoe is going to play a big part in their upcoming Miles for Meals Walk, Run and Roll event Sept. 27. Every one that participates in the event gets a pair, and for every participant, 1 child in their food bank program will also automatically get a pair. 

Funds from 1 pair of shoes will provide 120 meals to a local child. 

(Watch video of recent shoe pre-launch party here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwf0BJMaJ4A)

"In addition to facing food insecurity these families face other challenges like having clothing and shoes so this will be an added benefit," said Shelley Alley, Chief Development Officer with the Mid-South Food Bank. SoGiv also recently designed a show for the Miracle Center, who works to get homeless individuals back on their feet. 

Just recently the center placed 5 homeless families into homes, and they are working on more. "This partnership with SoGiv will allow us to raise the funds to put even more homeless families into homes," said Pastor Andrews Smith, with the Miracle Center. And what makes SoGiv different from those other shoe companies that also donate a pair for every one purchased? These stay local. "We actually donate to local kids in the local community, so it’s very transparent rather than other companies who maybe send their shoes to another country and we can't physically see who gets them," said Bogard. In this case, every shoe will literally help someone in Shelby County get back on their feet and hopefully have a little less food insecurity to deal with. 

For more information on SoGiv and how you can purchase a pair of there shoes, visit their website at http://sogiv.org  

For more information on the Mid-South Food Bank and how you can help visit their website at http://www.midsouthfoodbank.org.

AutoZoners Pack 1,200 Food for Kids BackPacks

For their 35th Anniversary, more than 100 employees recently filled 1,200 BackPacks with food for one of AZ's favorite causes. 

Watch the video below

USDA To Accommodate Religious Diets

By Jazelle Hunt/ NNPA Washington Correspondent

As it stands, Muslim and Jewish families in need might have to choose between following their faith and adequately feeding their families. But thanks to an amendment tacked on to the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the farm bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture must begin providing halal and kosher food to community emergency food providers. 

More than a dozen metro areas are home to large African American Muslim and/or Jewish populations, including Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia, and Memphis. Incidentally, a few of these areas have high poverty rates, particularly among Blacks, between 2008 and 2012. For example, 26 percent of people in Memphis were living below the poverty line. According to the Pew Center, about 15 percent of the nation’s population is considered food insecure. At the same time, enrollment in the food stamp program is three times as high as it was in 2000. 

“In these tough economic times, food banks and pantries are playing a critical role in serving our most vulnerable communities by helping to ensure they have access to nutritious meals and food. However, many pantries face an uphill battle in trying to meet the needs of observant families because they have difficulty identifying and obtaining kosher food,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY.), a co-sponsor of this amendment to the farm bill. “Our amendment will make it easier for food banks to provide kosher and halal foods and, in turn, ensure no family has to choose between abiding by their religious beliefs or having enough food to eat.” 

Originally, Rep. Crowley (in partnership with Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York) suggested the halal and kosher provisions in 2012 as a stand-alone bill, after the need became apparent in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. When it didn’t pass, he repackaged the idea as an amendment to the farm bill, which President Obama signed into law this past February. 

The USDA already provides emergency food to state providers through the Emergency Food Assistance Program. These government supplies feed food banks;then, local pantries, shelters, soup kitchens, and other anti-hunger community organizations purchase items from the food banks at discounted and subsidized rates. 

Crowley’s amendment requires the USDA to inventory and track items that are inherently kosher and halal, and ensure the provisions get to food banks where they are most needed. It also directs the Secretary of Agriculture to improve efforts to seek and purchase food from certified kosher and halal vendors, at the same price as non-kosher or halal products. 

As Stephan Kline, associate vice president for Public Policy for the Jewish Federation of America explains, “If this works, what is likely to be the best benefit is a greater degree of meat and fish protein [pantry managers] would be able to access so clients can have more choices, and more variety in their diets.” Choice is a key component at the Mitzvah Food Project, based in the Philadelphia metro area. 

The project is a network of five fully kosher pantries (including three with delivery service) that serves 2,600 families each year. Unlike many pantries, the Mitzvah Project allows clients to choose their groceries, instead of providing pre-packaged bundles. When faced with the choice between adhering to religious dietary laws and feeding their families, many choose to contend with hunger, says Deirdre Mulligan, the program’s manager. 

“For the people who are keeping to their religious practice, they will eat less to make sure they are being observant from what I’ve seen,” she says, sharing an example of a family who had requested kosher beef. “The mother from one of my families told me that’s the first time she had had beef in years. Kosher beef is more expensive than organic. She has a large family, she’s a stay-at-home mom, her husband doesn’t make a whole lot of money, and she has a special needs son who will need care for the rest of his life.” 

The words “halal” and “kosher” refer to food that is in line with regulations laid out in the Holy Books. The regulations encompass both foods that are forbidden (as in pork for Muslims and shellfish for Jews), as well as the ways in which food is prepared (such as humane, ritualized slaughter). For those who follow the Quran’s and Torah’s teachings, eating against these guidelines is forbidden. 

The need for emergency kosher and halal provisions comes out of many factors. For example, much of the food at standard food banks is unacceptable for a kosher or halal diet. 

“I wish the bank was able to provide the kinds of products we can purchase…that meet our [religious] codes. But I guess because they are government affiliated [the food bank] can’t advertise the brands they use. We have no way of knowing what good brands they may have,” says Brenda Sharif, program manager for the Halal Food Pantry at Masjid Al-Muminun in Memphis.

When it was founded two years ago, it was the first halal pantry in the metro area. Today, it serves 70 to 75 families per month. Sharif also asserts that this is the only halal pantry formally affiliated with the local food bank. 

“Something has to be done, because there are halal pantries across the United States that are not affiliated with their local food banks that would benefit greatly from that, but can’t because they’re not sure of the food.” Lack of mobility also hinders people from using food banks. Many in need are physically unable to get to pantries; for this reason, some specialized pantries have gone mobile. 

The Madinah Food Pantry, which serves 10 counties in northeast Georgia (and border towns of South Carolina), is one such pantry. It’s the only one in the area catering to Muslim community needs, and it is totally mobile—each of the 400 to 500 families per year receive each customized groceries delivered to their doorstep. 

“Most pantries are only open certain times and a lot of families we deal with have no transportation, some are elderly, or in poor health. We deal with a lot of low socio-economic status families living on one SSI check or child support, or people out of work who can’t afford the gas,” says Salimah Hunafa, the pantry’s director. There’s also the lack of food security and access, which is magnified for those with dietary restrictions. 

“Many of our seniors can’t get around to places, and so many places in our communities are food deserts. Knowing food is going to be delivered takes the anxiety off,” says Amy Krulik, executive director of the Jewish Relief Agency. This mobile food pantry delivers customized kosher groceries to 3,200 homes in the Philadelphia metro area each month. 

“Then there’s the whole issue of making sure the food meets dietary needs.” Mulligan, at the Mitzvah Food Project, points out that cultural tastes matter almost as much as religious regulations. “Some of my families have cultural likes and dislikes. For example, we have a large Russian population that will not eat peanut butter, it’s like it’s not considered fitfor human consumption. Or, many Nigerian adults won’t eat popcorn, because it’s meant for kids.” 

Since the farm bill was signed in February, no further updates on the USDA’s compliance with this amendment have been issued. Everyone featured expressed that the government has the capacity to handle this task (since their organizations manage to connect and negotiate with vendors)—though both Kline and Mulligan said that finding low-cost meat options and smoothing out logistics might complicate matters. In the meantime, community service organizations will continue to network, haggle, and and do the work of providing appropriate food for those in need, regardless of diet. 

“We have to be real. The general population of the United States is becoming more and more diverse,” Sharif said.“When people emigrate here they bring their culture. Food is a part of culture, and religion…often drives people’s lives. To make it challenging that some can’t eat healthily in the so-called land of plenty, is a travesty 

- See more at: http://www.blackpressusa.com/2014/05/usda-to-accommodate-religious-diets/#sthash.woiMaUSZ.bzo9loA1.dpuf

May Is Older Americans Month

Every year since 1963, May has been designated by the National Council of Senior Citizens as the month for the United States to appreciate and celebrate older adults and their contributions to our communities. Likewise, Feeding America participates in the movement by raising awareness and showing support for the 4.8 million seniors facing hunger in our country. 

This year, Older Americans Month comes on the heels of the release of our Spotlight on Senior Health: Adverse Health Outcomes of Food Insecure Older Americans research with the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH). The study reveals that senior food insecurity is associated with lower nutrient intake and an increased risk for chronic health conditions.

Compared to their food-secure peers, food-insecure seniors are: 60 percent more likely to experience depression 53 percent more likely to report a heart attack 52 percent more likely to develop asthma 40 percent more likely to report an experience of congestive heart failure.    

With your support, the Feeding America network provides food to more than 3 million seniors each year, yet we can see from these disconcerting statistics that we have much more work to do. Closer to home, Mid-South Food Bank has distributed more than 6,000 Senior Nutrition Boxes over the past 10 months, including more than 1,000 in April. Now is a critical time to raise awareness and show support for our older neighbors facing hunger. 

Emergency Food Assistance Delivered to Tupelo Tornado Victims

A series of tornadoes that scorched several neighborhoods and businesses in Tupelo, Miss., on the afternoon of April 28, left a path of destruction that the east Mississippi city will be recovering from for many days ahead. Overall, it’s estimated that nearly a quarter of Tupelo’s population was impacted by the storm.

The fast-moving tempest resulted, miraculously, in only one death while displacing hundreds of families from their homes due to falling mammoth trees. Many others remain unable to go to work because of power outages.

On May 1, Mid-South Food Bank, which annually distributes 1.2 million pounds of food to Partner Agencies in Lee County, delivered almost 19,000 pounds of emergency food relief to two emergency shelter locations. Items included cases of water, fruit juice, assorted fruits, meats and vegetables. Boxes of toothpaste and paper towels were also delivered. Another 4,500 pounds of water was delivered to another affected area in Aberdeen, a few miles farther south of Tupelo.

Regional food banks, like Mid-South Food Bank, that are a part of Feeding America, the nation’s food bank umbrella organization, are the first responders for food assistance in times of disasters.

Mid-South Food Bank responded to Tupelo’s relief efforts by pulling ready-to-eat items from its regular inventory designated for its Kids BackPacks and Senior Grocery programs.

After learning that her son was OK despite storm damage to his house that forced him to temporarily check into a hotel, Diane Dye put a case of bottled water into her car and sped off from her home to help volunteer on May 1.

“The storm has affected people from all walks of life - we’ve seen all kinds of families arrive looking for help, as well as all kind of people stopping to donate goods. You can’t measure the outpouring of emotion,” Dye said from the check-in table at a vacant warehouse that had become an emergency outreach location.

Food, as well as personal hygiene supplies and baby care products are the top needs, according to Ricky Jaggers, the emergency management response coordinator in Tupelo.

“What we are focusing on right now is finding out what supplies we have and where we have them so we can direct people to go to the right location,” he said.

At St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, a Food Bank Partner Agency, two local businesses had volunteers feeding lunch to the homeless. Meanwhile, utility workers and other volunteers worked to move debris at the church - which lost its steeple in the storm - as well as homes in the surrounding neighborhood where national guardsmen helped direct traffic.

Susan Gilbert gave a cheer when the Food Bank’s tractor trailer pulled into the Salvation Army’s Tupelo center. Over just two days, the center had fed almost 6,000 meals and helped hundreds of families pick up sacks of meals inside its gymnasium. The need for food was heightened, Gilbert said, because the food in both of Tupelo’s Walmart stores and at the Sam’s Club spoiled because of the power outage. Meanwhile, several restaurants that lost electricity took the initiative to cook meals and feed needy families before its food ruined.

“This food (from the Food Bank) is a huge help,” she said. “It will enable the center’s ability to keep helping with the need for meals.”

Gilbert is unsure how long it will be before normalcy returns for the residents. “This is not going to be fixed overnight,” she said.

* To help re-supply Mid-South Food Bank’s inventory, diminished with the emergency relief allocation, click on www.midsouthfoodbank.org or call 901-528-1172 and donate. Every $1 donated to Mid-South Food Bank is equal to 3 meals.  

Give 365 Responds to Child Hunger, Sponsors Kids BackPack Site

By Ashley Harper, guest blogger 

On Sept. 20, a group of local philanthropists listened to representatives from 17 different nonprofit organizations tackling community-wide challenges in the Mid-South that they and that most people probably would prefer not to know. 

Efforts to tackle problems highlighted included issues of poor transportation, lack of educational opportunities and food insecurity - challenges that don’t affect many of us, like not knowing if, where and when our next meal will derive. It was striking to note that while people in the room listening might very well indulge in a leisurely weekend breakfast of pancakes, eggs and bacon, 23% of Shelby County children might not have so much as a bowl of cereal or even a banana. 

While free and reduced school lunches can feed hungry children, we were reminded, it happens only on school days. When there is nothing at home to eat, the weekends don’t provide the rest and relaxation most of us look forward to on Friday. 

The philanthropists who heard about so many of our community’s problems were members of GiVE 365, a collective giving program at the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis where individuals and families pool as little as one dollar a day with others to make larger donations to causes that matter. Learning the magnitude of the problem of food insecurity in their own community was shocking to many in the room: With 1 in 5 children experiencing hunger at home, it’s hard to imagine there is much to do to alleviate the problem. 

And that’s where Mid-South Food Bank’s Food for Kid’s BackPack Program comes into the picture. In this program, over 1,900 Mid-South children are supplied with their personal backpack filled with nutritious food, easy-to-open meals to take home every weekend during the school year.  Each backpack contains enough wholesome food, ranging from cereal to fruit juice to peanut butter, for the child to have three complete meals every Saturday and Sunday, plus snacks. 

 By making a $10,000 grant, GiVE 365 members funded the BackPack Program for approximately 100 children at St. Patrick Elementary School in the Vance Avenue Neighborhood. By combining resources and working together, GiVE 365 members responded to help the Mid-South Food Bank fill its role: feeding the need. 

 Learn more about the Food for Kids BackPacks Program by clicking on www.feedmidsouthkids.org, where a $7 donation fills one child’s BackPack with six meals this weekend. 

*Ashley Harper is the director of Grants and Initiatives for the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. 

Rising Food Prices Put Strain On Customers, Food Banks

By Bruce Kennedy/CBS Market Watch

Consumer Price Index data released on April 15 showed that inflation remains largely in check. But within those figures was more sobering news about rising food prices, which jumped 0.4 percent in March. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it expects "normal food price inflation" in 2014, with your regular supermarket bill projected to rise 2.5 to 3.5 percent compared to 2013 levels. But for some analysts, food prices remain an economic wild card. 

A new report by Goldman Sachs highlights the major price spikes in beef and other livestock, as well as agricultural commodities such as corn, soybeans, wheat and coffee. 

Those food price increases, the investment bank says, have been driven by a combination of "weather and politics." The record-setting drought in the agriculturally-essential state of California, along with similar weather conditions in Brazil, Mexico and West Africa, have put pressure on food prices both in the U.S. and globally. 

Goldman also points to the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, which have raised concerns about Ukraine's substantial export crops of corn, wheat and sunflower oil. Chris Christopher, an economist with research firm IHS Global Insight, thinks that while the overall inflation picture remains "relatively bland" for now, escalating food costs will be a burden for many Americans. 

 "Average consumers will have no cause to consider inflation rampant," he noted in an analysis of the government's latest inflation numbers, "but living standards will suffer as a larger percentage of household budgets are spent on grocery store bills, leaving less for discretionary spending." And with food prices expected to continue their climb in the second quarter, Christopher called those increases "a kick in the stomach for those households that have a hard time making ends meet." 

Those rising prices are already forcing many families to further stretch their food budgets. In Nebraska, Janelle Shere is looking for discounts as she shops for her spouse and five children. But she worries the family's food bills will outpace her husband's income. 

"Just because the grocery store prices rise, it doesn't mean he gets a raise," she told the Omaha World-Herald. Gary Rodkin, CEO of Omaha-based ConAgra Foods (CAG), says grocery stores have been reducing their margins to keep their prices low and attract bargain-seeking consumers. But he told the World-Herald such practices are unsustainable, and a "race to the bottom." 

Meanwhile, many people are turning to hunger relief organizations for assistance. In downtown Memphis, Tenn., the Mid-South Food Bank has reportedly distributed 629,000 pounds of various meats so far this year. 

"Families cannot afford to buy meat at this time, particularly senior citizens," Estella Mayhue-Greer, Mid-South's president, told WREG-TV. "We've had seniors tell us they haven't been able to purchase meat in months."                 

At Youth's Birthday Party: BackPack Donations Trump Gifts

Guest blog by Toni Zoblotsky

Back in February, when the Northeast was being plummeted with yet another snow storm, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was criticized in the press and in social media for keeping schools open.  I followed the story with great interest, given that local schools shut down over less than an inch of snow, so I found the regional differences fascinating. 

It was the New York’s Mayor’s reason to keep school open, however, that hit home to me when he said: “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day, a safe place where they are not only taught, they get nutrition, and they are safe from the elements.” 

(In picture, Food Bank CDO Shelley Alley poses with Auden Zoblotsky, 7, who collected $400 in donations at his 7th birthday party instead of traditional gifts.)

The word safe is mentioned twice ­- in the context of a school being a safe haven and the school providing safety from the elements.  But to me, there was a profound insinuation here in his nutrition statement, in that, when some kids are not in school, they may not eat.  

This story stayed with me and although I had been marginally aware of the Mid-South Food Bank’s Food for Kids BackPack Program in Memphis, I decided to dig a little deeper to learn more about the cause and the degree in which area children don’t eat when not in school.  

For those who don’t know, the Food for Kids BackPack Program provides a weekend’s worth of food to a child who’s been identified as at risk for improper nutrition, usually by a guidance counselor or teacher.  Nearly 2,000 children across 31 area counties participate in the regional program. Given the food has to be child-friendly, defined as easy-to-open and ready-to- eat, Mid-South Food Bank has to purchase these special foods and relies 100 percent on donations for ongoing funding.  

It costs $7 to fill a backpack, which equates to roughly $14,000 per week to sustain it. The day I visited, the upcoming weekend menu consisted of fruit cups, tuna, milk boxes, cereal, and beanie-weanies in pull-tab cans among other items. Tasha McCraven, Childhood Hunger Program Manager at Mid-South Food Bank, said macaroni and cheese was the most popular item, and red beans and rice has been the least popular, as they regularly survey the children for feedback for program improvement. 

She said that the Mid-South is fortunate to have a generous and charitable community and cited several church and youth groups who come regularly to fill the backpacks with food at the Food Bank’s office.  

Inspired by my interaction with both Tasha and the volunteers that day, I encouraged my son to forgo gifts for his upcoming 7th birthday party and asked if he would be amenable to accept $7 donations to fill backpacks instead.  He agreed, and on March 22, we raised $400 for this worthy cause.  

I was a very proud mama but this was a win-win for all involved and I’m on a crusade to spread the word from a busy mom’s perspective:            

Win #1Clutter be gone! Most parents I know have homes overrun by toys, why add to the mayhem with more stuff?  Instead, opt to buy your kid a special gift he’s been wanting, and in exchange, ask he forgo the gifts from others by asking for donations instead.           

Win #2One less errand!  The parents of the other children who come to your party will be delighted you took this route, as now they don’t have to shop, gift wrap, etc.  Further, $7 is a good deal for a birthday party gift.          

Win #3Time saver!  Kids are usually pretty picky and only like certain things.  Rather than have returns to deal with and all the thank you notes to write, opt for the donation route.         

Win #4: Teachable moments!  Causes like this have a viral pay it forward affect.  One parent experiences something like this at a party and replicates it for a cause that’s close to their heart. 

Please consider a similar action for your child’s birthday party, and even better (I think) if you donate to Food for Kids BackPack Program via the Mid-South Food Bank.  To learn more or to make donation, go to www.midsouthfoodbank.org 

Further information can also be obtained by emailing Andrew Bell, Mid-South Food Bank Marketing Manager, at abell@midsouthfoodbankorg.

Mobile Pantry

Feeds 550 Families, Highlights New Pantry in the Delta

A Delta community that has been void of a consistent, available food pantry for a few years has taken new reigns to help fight hunger among neighbors. In April, the Quitman County Food Pantry will begin food pantry operations as an official partner agency with Mid-South Food Bank inside the Trinity Community Center in Lambert, Miss.

On March 31, 550 households in the county struggling with hunger were fed a week’s worth of nutritious food when Mid-South Food Bank held a Mobile Pantry at the former Casco building parking lot in the center of Marks. The distribution of about 20,000 pounds of food that included bakery goods, assorted meats, beverages, fruits and vegetables and rice, was partially held to highlight the new pantry and to also send a signal to the community that one of its fundamental challenges was going to be addressed.

Volunteers and organizers say Monday’s distribution was an opportunity to demonstrate that a cross section of people are united to help, said Butch Scipper, Quitman County Administrator and volunteer at the distribution.

“We had efforts to help feed a few years ago, but those efforts faded,” he said. “We now are hopeful that we have a broad enough range of volunteers signed on to help that the pantry will be sustained for the future.”

Another organizer, Mamie White, said that the plan is to begin exploring ways to start up a Food for Kids BackPack Program, which consists of at-risk children receiving ready-to-cook meals in backpacks for the weekends when school resumes in the fall. “We want volunteers and food donations, but what we are looking for the most is a dollar commitment from people so we can count on how much we can give,” White said.

Scipper’s wife, Debbie, coordinated 18 student volunteers from Delta Academy for the Mobile Pantry. When she informed the students they would be helping to feed 550 families, “They were amazed,” she said, at the need.

A critical aspect of becoming a Partner Agency with Mid-South Food Bank is ensuring that the food distributed has a high nutritious value. That’s particularly important in Quitman, with a population of about 8,000, because it ranks No. 2 in 82 all Mississippi in terms of having the highest obese population.

An agent with a regional state extension agency, Angie Crawford, said plans are to have healthy cooking demonstrations and to provide healthy recipes with each pantry distribution. Scipper said the community’s pledge to address hunger is poised to continue efforts by it to transcend any invisible, dividing lines.

“When you don’t have a skill and can’t find a job, you give up. Then you get on government assistance and it’s not enough to get by,” he said. “So then you start to starve to death slowly. “We want to work to not let that happen to this county.”

Bolton High Partners With Food Bank, Starts School Pantry

The start of Bolton High’s Food Pantry can be retraced several years ago when the school’s chapter of the National Honor Society began an annual Christmas food basket drive for the community, then next for the entire student population at a nearby elementary school.

One day last October, Bolton High guidance counselor Becky Baker walked into her peer’s classroom, saw teacher Marti Martin preparing for another upcoming school food drive and said, perhaps, the obvious: “I just wish we could be our own food pantry.”

From that point, Bolton High has taken “baby steps,” Baker said, to become the lone school pantry in the region - with sponsorship from Broadmoor Baptist Church - to partner with Mid-South Food Bank. Getting it started was helped by Baker’s familiarity with the process as a regular volunteer at an existing food pantry, Impact Food Ministry, during its distribution in Frayser on the weekends.

Since last December, the Bolton High Food Pantry has provided extra needed food monthly for an average of 30 families who reside in the Bolton school zone near Arlington, Tenn. The recipients are families of BHS students identified by the school’s guidance counselors and teachers, and the food distribution remains strictly anonymous while the deliveries have remained discreet.

“We arrange flexible times at the campus where the families come and receive the food and we usually time it when there is a school holiday,” Baker said, also mentioning the exchange of confidential correspondence via take-home letters each month.

Bolton High principal Chad Stevens said because of the school’s strong response to contributing to food drives over the years, his approval for a Bolton food pantry was a “no brainer.” He credited Baker and Martin for the idea and lauded the students in the National Honor Society and International Baccalaureate program who manage the pantry on a weekly basis.

“They understand the reason for the work and they see the need in the community. And the effort that they put forth to make sure it’s a success is amazing,” Stevens said.

{Watch the video at http://wreg.com/2014/04/17/scs-high-school-opens-food-pantry-to-feed-students-in-need/}

The food assortments contain nutritious items like peanut butter, protein, fruit and soup and crackers. Pantry supervisors also shop at the Food Bank’s agency mark to include bakery items. Students rotate out of their study hall to volunteer in the pantry, located in a closet in the school building. Bolton High School collects funds for the food and also promotes collections of non-food items like paper plates.

“Not every person is aware of how many people are affected by hunger, but the pantry has helped open our eyes to the struggle and when you are filling the sacks with food, that’s when you see how big an issue it really is,” said senior Shane Riding. Added Chandler McCollough, another senior: “We take pride in the pantry, and we want to set the example,” for other schools that might consider starting one.

Baker said that because school’s pantry workers took note that many of the families in need include grandparents they have ordered Senior Nutrition Boxes from the Food Bank, which include food selections that complement senior citizens’ dietary needs.

“When the families come and pick up the food, they want to spend a few minutes talking with us and sharing their stories. It’s emotional,” Baker said. “They are humbled and thankful and all pledge to help the pantry when they get back on their feet.”  

To learn how your school organization can become a partner agency like Bolton High, contact Tonya Bradley at tbradley@midsouthfoodbank.org. Or call (901) 527-0841.

Pilot Program Feeds Homebound Seniors

Don’t listen to Ursula Smith praise the 28 extra meals she’s received the past two weeks, she insists. Just watch her move.

The 64-year-old resident of Bearman Golden Gardens assisted living facility in south Memphis has experienced a newfound vitality recently. She attributes it to being a recipient in a pilot food program, the Senior Nutrition Collaborative, launched jointly by MIFA and Mid-South Food Bank to help hungry and undernourished homebound seniors.

“I especially have enjoyed the cereal for breakfast, it’s helped me to get out and move around more” in the complex, Smith, a native Memphian who lives alone, said.

Starting Feb. 10, MIFA and Food Bank officials launched a 20-week pilot program aimed to help a specific population – initially in the 38109 zip code ­– by providing weekly boxes filled with 14 meals like canned vegetables and protein easily suitable for cooking for breakfast and lunch. The nutritious items are intentionally selected to help seniors by not just addressing hunger, but by also providing food that complements necessary medicines seniors typically need, like the medicine Smith is prescribed by doctors for diabetes.

Smith said it’s been a long time since she’s enjoyed three solid meals every day. “I’m very glad to get the food and it’s needed,” she said. She is one of three seniors at Bearman Golden Gardens, and one of 25 altogether, that are the first –  and hopefully not the last –  pool of seniors to benefit from the program.

The initiative originated out of discussions between MIFA and Food Bank officials exploring how they could combine both organizations’ resources to better help an underserved population: The Food Bank is providing the man hours to order the specific food items and volunteers to pack the boxes. MIFA is delivering the meals.

(Watch the Video of Press Conference Here)

The pilot program is effectively in concert with a Food Bank initiative, started last year, to help food insecure seniors, as well as MIFA’s ongoing mission to deliver meals to vulnerable homebound seniors. Both organizations are hopeful that the community will respond generously and provide funds so that the program can extend beyond 20 weeks and add more needy seniors.

Philandra Lofton, site manager at Bearman Golden Gardens, said there are many more senior citizens she interacts with who would benefit from the program.

“Lots of residents would get help from this, especially because the meals are easy to manage and cook,” she said.

Bringing Fresh To The Food Bank's Shelves

If you only had $1.40 to spend on a meal, would you buy 1 head of lettuce or 3 boxes of macaroni and cheese?  For thousands of our Mid-South neighbors, that’s a daily and weekly choice. 

The average monthly SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often called food stamps) benefit per person in Tennessee is $132.20, which works out to roughly $4.41 per person per day, or $1.48 per meal. For a household, its $271.50 (all of this was tallied before the recent $40 billion dollar cut to the program). When you are trying to feed a family on such a limited budget, fresh produce often simply doesn’t fit in.   

But the Mid-South Food Bank is working to expand access to fresh produce and other healthy foods to the nearly half a million Mid-Southerners in need. According to Bob Fritchey, Food Resource Manager at the Mid-South Food Bank, “the days of ‘anything is better than nothing’ are over.  There are too many health problems caused by lack of proper nutrition.  Food Banks have to work hard to be part of the solution.  There is more cost involved, but we have to deliver healthy, nutritious food to the underserved.  We work to source the healthiest options possible, from lean protein to low-sodium canned foods and products without extra sugar and corn syrup.  And as much fresh produce as we can.”  

In the Mid-South, 20% of the population struggles with hunger and food insecurity. Food insecurity means that you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Or, as Feeding America, the largest network of Food Banks across the country, says “unable to consistently access nutritious and adequate amounts of food necessary for a healthy life.” (The Mid South Food Bank is part of the Feeding America network).

It might be the last days of your pay period and there is no money left or the last week before your next benefit check.  It might mean you live in an area where transportation costs are high and there is no ready access to grocery stores. People in need make use of soup kitchens and food pantries supported by the Mid-South Food Bank to fill the gap.

The Mid-South Food Bank serves 31 counties in Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi through 277 partner agencies with 332 charitable feeding program.  Mississippi and Arkansas rank as the top two states with the highest rates of food insecurity, so it is monumental task.     

Providing fresh produce for clients has its own set of challenges. “Produce has a shorter shelf life so requires a quick turnaround to distribute it to those who need it most,” says Fritchey. 

It’s Fritchey’s job to source food for the Food Bank, from healthier packaged foods to meats and proteins and fresh produce.  When it comes to fresh produce, “We don’t always know what’s coming in or when.  I get a call from a store, a farmer or a trucking company that there is a load available and I need to get it to the Food Bank and then out to our clients in about 24 hours.” 

And that could mean anything – part of a truckload of oranges that came out of their crates, a delivery of cabbages delayed on the road and rejected by a vendor for being late, or some produce right from the farm that didn’t sell. Fresh produce also has to be kept in climate-controlled environments, like refrigerated storage and refrigerated trucks.  The Food Bank has those systems, but they are costly to maintain.  

The majority of the fresh produce the Food Bank acquires comes from retail stores like Kroger, WalMart and Target that donate produce that does not meet strict standards or is close to expiration dates.  The food bank is sometimes able to purchase food directly from farmers, either excess crops or slightly imperfect fruits and vegetables that don’t meet store standards. 

“We prefer buying directly from farmers, because the produce is fresher and has a longer shelf-life.  We can also negotiate better deals, but transportation costs add up,” says Fritchey.  Estella Mayhue-Greer, President and CEO of the Mid-South Food Bank points out that “The Food Bank has buying power with many vendors, so $1 in donations can purchase $6 in food.”

Produce also comes from local wholesalers and from gardeners who donate surplus.   Most of the fresh produce is distributed through the Mobile Pantry Program. Every week, partner agencies throughout the service area set up events and the Food Bank brings truckloads of food to be distributed directly to households. A Mobile Pantry distributes as much as 50,000 pounds of food at each visit.  The Kids Café program also benefits from available fresh produce. Kids Cafes around the area serve kids nutritious hot meals in a safe environment and volunteers teach important lessons about nutrition.

“And if we have enough fresh fruit, we can include it in the Backpack Program, where we send home a weekends worth of healthy food to kids who rely on the free school lunch for their nutrition,” says Mayhue-Greer.  Produce also makes its way to shelves of the shopping area that supply agencies like soup kitchens.  

Hunger is a health issue. Obesity is a marker for poor nutrition.  It is not simply that people eat too much, but that the food they have access to is not nutritionally complete.  

If a head of lettuce costs $1 and a box of instant noodles cost 39 cents, that is often the choice that has to be made.  Poor nutrition can also lead to increased rates of diabetes and other diseases. Kids who aren’t eating well have trouble concentrating and behaving in school, and that affects their overall achievement. For seniors, the choice is sometimes medicine, transportation to a doctor, or healthy food. 

And poor nutrition has an affect on the elderly too, making it more difficult to recover from illness or injury or to fight conditions like osteoporosis or heart disease. Incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables is not just about staving off hunger, it’s about building stronger bodies.   

What people eat can also be influenced by what they know. “I hate to hear that myth that some people are too lazy to cook so they eat packaged, processed food or fast food.  If you have never seen certain kinds of fresh produce, of course you don’t know how to prepare it.  Some people have never had access to every type of vegetable.”

Says Mayhue-Greer. “We had cabbages at one Mobile Pantry event.  Many of the seniors hadn’t seen cabbage in years and many of the younger folks had no idea what to do with it, so they were sharing ideas and recipes.”  The Food Bank works with Feeding America and local agricultural extensions to create recipes and provide them to agencies and clients.   

Fast food is sometimes the most expedient choice.  “If you can’t pay the power bill, you can’t cook,” says Mayhue-Greer.  If a refrigerator, stove or oven is broken and there is not money for repairs, a fast food restaurant maybe the only option for a hot meal.  A popular chain Dollar menu includes a small side salad, but also a bacon double cheeseburger.  Including fresh produce in a diet determined by cost is an uphill battle, and the Mid-South Food Bank is leading the charge.    

So how can we help? Donate funds to the Mid-South Food Bank and advocate for the important work the Food Bank and its partner agencies do.  Encourage your local stores to donate surplus fresh produce.  If you are a gardener, donate your own surplus – either directly to the Food Bank, or call to get the contact information of an agency convenient to you.    

Mid-South Food Bank 239 South Dudley Memphis, TN 38104 midsouthfoodbank.org   Story by Perre Coleman Magness, a member of the board of Mid-South Food Bank  


Rural Churches Unite To Hold Mobile Pantry, Feed 486 Households in North Panola

A rural community’s faith leaders united to address a fundamental need for its neighbors. 

On Feb. 4 at Cistern Hills Missionary Baptist Church in Como, Miss., a Mid-South Food Bank truck delivered more than 15,000 pounds of fresh food where over 50 volunteers - representing a dozen churches - then packaged the items and placed them into the individual vehicles of recipients who had circled the church in a drive-thru fashion. 

After three hours – and during a cold rainstorm - 486 households got an extra amount of food for the month, which included fresh fruits and vegetables, assorted meats and bakery goods, and cabbage.

“The collaboration of churches to sponsor a Mobile Pantry began in June. To see the response and commitment of the volunteers who braved the elements to organize and deliver the food was inspiring and rewarding,” said Tonya Bradley, Mid-South Food Bank vice president of programs. 

While the Food Bank regularly distributes food to two Partner Agencies in south Panola County, Miss., no food pantries are presently available for folks to turn to for assistance in its northern quadrant. Mobile Pantries are designed to distribute food to underserved areas just like north Panola. 

Church organizers said their plans are to assess how the initial Mobile Pantry fared, but conversations have already begun toward possibly sponsoring Mobile Pantries in the Como area in the future, and ideally every other month. 

Margaret Wilburn, a volunteer from Como Church of Christ, said she has been a financial donor to Mid-South Food Bank for several years, but just learned that the Food Bank has long distributed food to Panola County. She was impressed by the Mobile Pantry, but also “amazed” at discovering the profound amount of hungry people living in her backyard. 

“When we started to register folks we anticipated about 250 households,” Wilburn said. “We ended up with 486. And next time we have one of these it will be even higher because word will get out.” 

Added Loraine Davis, member of Cistern Hills: “This (Mobile Pantry) is wonderful, a blessing for recipients and for those of us at the churches to work together in a Christ-like fashion.”

To learn how your and others can sponsor a Mobile Pantry, contact Tonya at tbradley@midsouthfoodbank.org.


A Model Approach To Giving

The Good Ham Company's sales structure includes percentage to Food Bank

By Guest blogger Suzanne Sampietro, Principal, The Good Ham Company   

Like any organization, The Good Ham Company strives to offer a great product and deliver that product with extraordinary service.  But, we also want to ensure that beyond the flavor, and beyond the purchase, is an effort to make a tangible difference in the lives of our neighbors.     

In our start-up plan, we stipulated that a percentage of our profit would go directly to Mid-South Food Bank. Since beginning in September 2013, this has calculated to be one ham out of every 10 sold going to those who are in most need of not just a meal, but a nutritious one.   

The response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive. Local companies like Stash and Ashley Furniture ordered hams as tasty holiday gifts for their employees and clients.  So too did some area residents such as attorneys Rush O’Keefe, Jim Walker, Lauren Wiener, Judd Tashie and Robert Morehead.

As a result of sales leading up to the Christmas and New Year’s Day, we were able to deliver 100 of The Good Ham Company’s smoked hams to the Food Bank. These will now be distributed to families via the Food Bank’s Partner Agencies.     

It was terrific to see how quickly both corporations and individuals said “yes” to an opportunity to support the Food Bank.     

Partnering with the Food Bank was an obvious choice.  Our hopes are not only to provide a meal for those in need, but also to remind everyone that there are children, adults and seniors in our community who go to bed and wake up hungry every single day.  This partnership is designed to prove that each of us has the power to do something about it.     

The Good Ham Company’s contribution arrangement for the Food Bank is distinctive in that the 1-to-10 contribution is on a permanent basis and not just for the days leading up to Christmas and Easter, when hams are popular to eat.   This arrangement represents a rather novel approach for a company’s relationship with the Food Bank. 

“Because people want to help feed their neighbors, I suspect that The Good Ham Company is going prosper in the community as people recognize its willingness to help in the fight against hunger,” said the organization’s president and CEO, Estella Mayhue-Greer. To order from The Good Ham Store, go to http://goodhamcompany.com/

In '13: 14.5 Million Lbs. Of Food Distributed

In 2013, Mid-South Food Bank distributed more food, including fresh produce, than ever since its formation 32 years ago.   

Relying on help from more than 200 Partner Agencies, support from individuals, corporations, organizations, and an army of over 6,000 volunteers who logged more than 30,000 hours, the various contributions made an incredible difference to the thousands of hungry people across 31 counties served by the Food Bank.   

“It was a remarkable year in terms of food distribution and contributions,” said Food Bank President Estella Mayhue-Greer about 2013. “But it’s also sobering to know that just as the Food Bank’s capability to collect food and deliver it to those facing hunger expanded, so too did the number of those struggling to find their next meal. The work continues as the challenge persists.”  

By the Numbers In 2013, the Food Bank distributed: *14.5 million pounds of food, up almost 1 million pounds from 2012*1.4 million pounds of fresh produce    

The record amounts could not have been achieved without community cooperation. The Food Bank received 8,242,870 donated items from all walks of life. The public’s response was also critically reflected in financial support. 

For the calendar year, donations from individuals, foundations, faith-based organizations and corporations totaled $3.7 million. That total was punctuated during the last few days of December 2013 when the annual Action News 5 Holiday Food Drive generated $71,000 and 41,615 pounds. The all-day event held at area Kroger and Walmart stores was followed a few days later when Scouting for Food produced $1,510 in donations and 4,437 pounds of food donations. 

The two annual drives, however, were just two of nearly 100 food and fund drives organized in the region during December. The drives generated 147,680 pounds in canned food donations and $133,565 in funds.    

Nutrition: The Food Bank’s mission to end hunger in the Mid-South also includes an emphasis to ensure that when hungry people receive food assistance from the Food Bank’s Partner Agencies, the items are nutritious. Last year, the average percentage of nutritious food distributed was nearly 89 percent

“We recognized how important it is for people facing a shortage of meals to not just receive food, but receive nutritious food because we know that not getting enough to eat is a health problem and eating unhealthy food is not a real solution,” said Programs Vice President Tonya Bradley.   

As impressive as the spreadsheets and statistics are in terms of distribution and other benchmarks, the Food Bank’s work and dependence on assistance from neighbors wanting to help neighbors overcome one of the most fundamental day-to-day needs – eating – continues in 2014. 

“A new year means setting aggressive goals to get more food to the Food Bank, sorted, and out to those who are hungry more efficiently,” said Food Bank COO John Livingston. “The timetable to eat for someone without food sources is as soon as possible. That’s why the Food Bank’s mission is always urgent.”

Holiday Generosity Is Feeding The Need

True to expectations, the Holiday Season proves again to be the Giving Season in the Mid-South. 

The Food Bank’s annual Turkey Drive to provide families in need the staple of the holiday feast to enjoy resulted in 4,066 turkey donations, the amount generated either by personal deliveries of the frozen birds to the Food Bank office or by individual or collective drives. 

The amount, greatly bolstered by 2,880 frozen turkeys donated by Kroger in early November, was punctuated in the 24 hours leading up to Thanksgiving, when almost 1,000 turkeys were accounted for through donations. In short, the Food Bank staff was kept on its toes tracking the overwhelming, continual support from individuals, schools, organizations, companies, civic groups and social clubs – a welcome task to endure in order for families across 31 counties to properly enjoy the holiday. 

The Mid-South’s response was aptly followed up with tremendous response to the organization’s annual Action News 5 Holiday Food Drive, in which the Food Bank and television station, along with volunteers, accept food and monetary donations at area Kroger and Walmart stores in the region. 

Collections at six sites resulted in a total of 246,100 meals for hungry people – a record-setting amount for the drive and about 20,000 more meals than was generated at the 2012 event. 

“The flood of people making a deliberate effort to give time, money and food for our neighbors is humbling and simply fantastic,” said David Stephens, Mid-South Food Bank community relations manager. With the tough economic conditions across the nation and in the immediate region, outpouring from people from all walks of life gave – including retired educators, children, businesses - even a married couple directed their nuptial gifts to go to the Food Bank – reflects well on a community with a generous reputation. 

“People respond emotionally to both the need for others to sustain one of the very basics of living and to care for their neighbors in need,” said Food Bank President Estella Mayhue-Greer. “The process of helping connect generosity to the challenge of food insecurity is inspiring and relentless because for too many, their next meal is in the form of a question.”

Mid-South Food Bank distributed almost 13 million pounds of food to Partner Agencies in 2012. 

DeSoto Neighbors Line Up for Mobile Pantry

One week before Thanksgiving and the line of people ready to receive a cart full of fresh produce, meat, bakery goods and other items snaked around three-fourths of the Lander’s Center parking lot in Southaven on a weekday afternoon. {watch the line of people video http://youtu.be/MAO5G8YN3Uc}

It’s been about year since Mid-South Food Bank began distributing food through a Mobile Pantry in DeSoto County – with a population over 167,000 - and the need continues to grow. On Nov. 22, more than 1,000 households received the extra amount of food to carry them through until the next pantry distribution. 

It was the fourth time visiting the Mobile Pantry for Marilyn Zapp, of Horn Lake, who tipped off her friend, Enger Johnson, of Olive Branch, about the distribution. Both walked arm in arm, wearing smiles to their cars to load the food for home. Marilyn said her living situation is fluid. 

“I don’t get enough food, and I’m very grateful for this,” she said. “Without this help, I’m not sure how we can eat.” 

Jerome Crum, 57, was one of many who stepped out of the long line to get a flu shot, free of charge, thanks to Walgreens’ pharmacy employees. 

Offering the flu shots is, “A good way to impact a lot of lives in a short amount of time,” summarized Dr. Jeanette Scruggs, who, along with a peer, Dr. Musa Ceesay, administered the shots. “It keeps people out of the Emergency Room and out of the pharmacy.” 

Gwen Erwin was one of about a dozen volunteers from Southaven’s VIP volunteer police department, who formed the assembly line that included sorting food in bags and putting them in the recipients’ carts. {watch the assembly video http://youtu.be/oSR6qoZF3iM} The pantry was the first one Gwen has helped and she remained surprised at the large number of people in line up until the distribution came near to a close. 

“I never knew that there is this many people who are hungry,” Erwin said. “These people are your average, ordinary looking persons. And they are our neighbors.” 

One of these neighbors, Lorene Foxy, was getting food for her daughter and three grandchildren who recently moved in to live with her. Foxy is disabled due to complications from hip surgery two years ago. 

That was one year before her husband died. Wearing a wool cap framing serious eyes, she said paying expensive utility bills leaves little money for groceries. 

She once received $15 in monthly Food Stamps assistance.  But that pittance was stripped due to federal funding cuts. 

“It’s very tough to make it, and we do the best we can to make the food we do get last longer,” Foxy said, exiting the parking lot and thinking, she said, about Thanksgiving. “This food (from the Mobile Pantry) has become more and more critical.”

Hunger Trails From Mali To The Mid-South

According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Mali, a landlocked West African country, is ranked 182 out of 187 countries. (Determining factors include education, health care, sanitation, economic opportunities, etc.) 

You might wonder what this country has in common with the United States, which is ranked third in same index. The answer is hunger. 

It is true that Mali is much less developed than the United States, but there are also similarities when it comes to hunger. 

After spending two years in such an underdeveloped country, I have learned a bit about hunger and food insecurity and could not have anticipated how easy it is to recognize similarities upon returning to the United States. 

Some think of hunger in the United States as a non-issue, but with 1 out of 5 people in the Mid-South struggling with hunger and a lack of consistent access to food, food insecurity is absolutely real. 

In Mali, from observation of the physical signs of malnutrition, I could see that some of my neighbors and friends were skipping meals. This is typically the first sign of food insecurity. 

While some skip meals, others decrease the quality of their food in order to keep their stomachs full. Cheap food is often less nutritious than fresh produce, proteins and whole grains, but that is the sacrifice many Mid-South families and other lesser-developed nations like Mali make in order to put food in everyone’s stomach. 

In Mali, where carbohydrates like rice and millet dominate the cuisine due to their affordability, families often stretch the few fruits and vegetables they buy. The result is that no one gets the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients. Hunger then can be experienced not only as a pain of the stomach, but also as the lack of adequate nutrition to be healthy. 

The abrupt change in diet I experienced coming from the United States to Mali gave me a firsthand experience of this. When first living with my host family, I went a few weeks eating only the food they prepared for me. 

Later my host mother went to a market - a few hours walk away - and bought me some peanut butter for my morning bread. I’ll never forget my body’s reaction to that first spoonful of protein. It was like something was screaming for me to eat as much as possible. 

The same thing happened after going several weeks without fat as I ate a piece of bread with butter. I was lacking a balanced diet even though I wasn’t necessarily hungry. 

I eventually learned to cope with the change in diet and even gained 15 pounds. It turns out that even active people like me are not immune to the affects of a mostly carbohydrate diet. Although not always easily accessible, I did my best to make trips to nearby markets where fruits and vegetables were sold. 

In the 31 counties Mid-South Food Bank serves, many people also have difficulty consistently getting enough healthy food and their health suffers as a consequence. Upon returning to America I’ve come across many places where food deserts exist, especially in the rural counties we serve. 

Even in larger cities with many grocery stores, there are areas where convenience stores provide food to entire neighborhoods. These stores may be convenient for people without cars or access to reliable transportation, but they often do not carry affordable fresh food. 

Many people in the Mid-South lack consistent access to wholesome food and feel the consequences of an unbalanced diet when quantity and nutritional quality fluctuate or remain low for extended periods of time.

Sara Rudolph is a Volunteer Coordinator at Mid-South Food Bank.

Food Bank holds first Mobile Pantry in Shelby County

While Mid-South Food Bank regularly distributes thousands of pounds of food, including fresh produce, to underserved food insecure areas monthly through its Mobile Pantry Program, it recently held its first distribution in Shelby County.

Collaborating with Catholic Charities of West Tennessee, a Food Bank Partner Agency, about 200 households received boxes of food at the parking lot of the Holy Church of the Resurrection on Nov. 7. 

(Watch a video clip on the event online at http://www.localmemphis.com/story/mid-south-food-bank-seeks-help-in-filling-10000-backpacks/d/story/luZKaMIkeUaSPxwr5P0DOw#.UoJWbVr0c0U.facebook) 

“We had been in discussions with Catholic Charities for more than a year about holding a Mobile Pantry in the Hickory Hill area of Memphis. Our understanding of the needs in that part of the county combined with the outreach to local families in that church bolstered a desire to offer help,” said Tonya Bradley, vice president of programs for Mid-South Food Bank. 

Food distributed included sweet potatoes, rice, bakery items, cucumbers, lettuce, snap beans and assorted meats. The distribution came at a pivotal time with financial cut in SNAP benefits. 

Mike Allen, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of West Tennessee, described the food distribution process in which about a dozen volunteers packaged and delivered the boxes to recipients without them having to get out of their vehicles, as “exceptionally smooth. 

“It is amazing what the partnership of two agencies like Catholic Charities of West Tennessee and Mid-South Food Bank can accomplish by working in tandem,” Allen said. 

Online Campaign Boosts Kids BackPack Program

The start of a campaign to expand Mid-South Food Bank’s Food for Kids Backpack Program began officially with a launch party on Oct. 29 at Minglewood Hall. 

More than a dozen invited guests, elected officials and sponsors of the BackPack Program, which puts six healthy meals in 1,500 Mid-South children’s backpacks every weekend, were first to see the unveiling of an innovative online giving campaign: www.feedmidsouthkids.org. 

Cummins Mid-South L.L.C., a longstanding Food Bank supporter, was the catalyst for the new webpage, supporting its development and providing the funding through a major corporate grant. The initial goal is to fund 10,000 backpacks at $7 each by Dec. 31, 2013. 

The program will be fueled by building backpack supporters via social media. On the website, donors can sponsor a child’s backpack as a gift in honor of friend. The recipient, in turn, receives notification of the gift in an email and is encouraged to make a gift. 

“We’re thrilled at the exciting, novel opportunity for the BackPack Program to gain more traction with greater exposure – and there are fewer places more popular for that to happen in the 21st Century than on social media,” said Mid-South Food Bank President and CEO Estella Mayhue-Greer. 

 Efforts to grow the program is critical, Greer said, noting a Feeding America survey determined there are about 122,000 children in the Mid-South who are food insecure. Many receive free or reduced school meals during the week, but may be uncertain about getting food on the weekends. 

The giving campaign’s online platform (www.feedmidsouthkids.org) is a user-friendly webpage created by Bigfish Inc., a Memphis-based social media marketing firm that hosted the launch party.  The site can also be accessed through Mid-South Food Bank’s website, www.midsouthfoodbank.org. 

Addie McGowan, Bigfish social giving community manager, said the interactive website was developed around the principles that people give when their friends are involved, when they understand how it matters and when doing so is fun and easy. 

“We first and foremost knew we needed to get friends involved in the giving. Receiving a request from a friend is so much more effective than receiving a request from an organization,” McGowan said. “Connecting each $7 gift to a backpack is a clear illustration of how that gift matters,” she added. 

To learn more about Mid-South Food Bank go to www.midsouthfoodbank.org. Go to www.feedmidsouthkids.org to visit the new giving web page.

A Community's High Cost of Malnutrition

If physical wellness is contingent on a wholesome diet and sufficient exercise, then a Food Bank stands as the community’s cornerstone where too often both blocks are on the balance.

The author Michael Pollan hones in on this interconnectedness and illuminates it in his book, “In Defense of Food.”

Pollan’s emphasis: Because the amount of executives a person receives is greatly and directly impacted by what he or she is or is not eating, and because what he or she eats is conditioned necessarily on food purchases affordability, then those who fall into society’s lower economic class are, by default, at a greater risk for becoming more seriously ill and at a faster rate than any other subgroup.

This reality thus places the burden of responsibility on organizations like Mid-South Food Bank to serve as a critical counterbalance to a sector of society most vulnerable. Poor diet’s affect

According to Jane Nuckolls, Mid-South Food Bank Board member and Clinical Nutrition Director at Methodist Healthcare, malnutrition is one of the biggest problems hospitals are seeing among patients. “It’s really a result of hunger and poverty in the community,” she says.

Chronic malnutrition leads to obesity. Type II diabetes and heart disease – all of which can result in thousands of dollars more spent on healthcare – money the poor cannot pay. “The cost of malnutrition is huge in hospitals. It adds and extra $10,000 to $50,000 to the hospital bill to take care of a malnourished patient,” she notes.

In 2012, almost 13 million pounds of food as distributed from Mid-South Food Bank to more than 200 Partner Agencies across 31 counties. This year, the Food Bank is on pace to pass that number.

But along with the urgency to get more food to those who don’t know here their next meal will come from, is the charge to tell more people about food insecurity and its related consequences.

The hope is that with the community’s awareness of the health problems associated with food insecurity will improve the understanding of the role of the Food Bank as not just a food distribution center, but as an advocate and catalyst for health.  

- By Brittany Church, Mid-South Food Bank



'Challenged' By Hungry Clients' Stories

by Mary Campbell, Christian Brothers University

In 2012, with my colleagues from the University of Memphis, I began working on the Survey of Mid-South Food Bank Clients. I then presented the team’s findings at the annual Mid-South Food Bank Agency Conference on Sept. 5 at the Kroc Center.

My favorite part of the process was talking with the clients and the pantry managers during the focus groups and site visits.  The clients were open and honest with us about their food needs, likes and dislikes. 

One meaningful moment for me occurred when two women we interviewed at a rural pantry told us they had carpooled to the site together, a round trip that took over three hours.   Once a month the two travel three hours so that each of them can increase the amount of food in the household.

At all of the sites, people shared their stories and strategies for making due when food is scarce.  Clients dared us to feed a family of four on their budgets, something I’m not sure I could do.  Again and again we heard that clients are well aware that high-calorie processed food is far cheaper than fresh, low-calorie, low-fat food.

Clients crave fresh foods!  After starting this project, I found myself spending extra time in the grocery store comparing food prices; even for items I have no intention purchasing.  

Just this week a local store advertised a single bell pepper for 99 cents, while I know that in any given week four individually packaged processed noodle soups cost approximately the same. 

Food Bank clients are very savvy when budgeting for food and I find the more I work with them, the more respect and compassion I have for those struggling to meet food needs.  I also learned that I take my access to food and food choices for granted.

Throughout the research I struggled to place my new knowledge about food insecurity within a framework in which I can do something, take action, and solve problems.  It was a humbling process.

Today I know - I guess I always did - that I can’t make food insecurity go away just because we all want it to, but I can tell everybody I know what’s going on.  It just so happens that three times a week I have the ears of four classrooms full of students who I now challenge with:  acknowledging the problem of food insecurity, contributing to the efforts of food providers, accepting responsibility for eradicating hunger in the U.S.A, and maintaining compassion for our fellow humans.  

In every class, at least one person raises their hand and has a story to tell about a time their friends or family couldn’t afford much food.  

Dr. Mary Campbell is an assistant professor of Behavioral Science at Christian Brothers University in Memphis.

Action Month Ends; Turkey Drive Starts

As Hunger Action Month (HAM) comes to an end, we can reflect at a particularly busy and productive September at Mid-South Food Bank.

Events have included the annual Miles for Meals Family Festival at Overton Park, the kickoff to the Kroger-led Million Meals Challenge (an ongoing contest to raise dollars/food among Miss. State, Ole Miss and the University of Memphis), food and money donation drives at both musical concerts (Widespread Panic) and stage performances (Bolton High’s Greater Tuna) and Stuff A MATA Bus at the Poplar Plaza shopping center.

So too have there been multiple corporate/organization partners and individuals who have collected food/money on their own initiative and delivered them to the Food Bank office on South Dudley where we distribute the food to our Partner Agencies. While food and monetary donations were collected at the first Fair of the month, The Delta Fair at the AgriCenter, more collections at Saturday’s Mid-South Fair in Southaven ($1 off admission with donation), wrapped up HAM events.

The Food Bank will not have a final tally of all the food and money collections in September until next week, but we know the final figure will be in the thousands. We are grateful.

Another key aspect of HAM involves a united effort by Food Banks across the nation (there’s 200 of them) to drive awareness about food insecurity. In the United States there’s an average of one out of every 7 people who don’t know where their next meal will derive. Nor do they know if it will be enough.

It’s a remarkable statistic, and one more people need to hear. In the Mid-South alone, Feeding America conducted a study two years ago that determined there are 416,000 people in a 31-county area that are food insecure. One-third of these people are children.

Mid-South Food Bank has been busy pushing exposure, education, advocacy and raising food and funds, and we could not have managed to do it if it were not for the huge assistance of our volunteers, who were there every step of the way. But the effort does not slow down, because the problem is wide and deep.

In the remaining weeks, the holiday season looms on the horizon. While most people now have goblins, pumpkins and Halloween on their minds, there’s an urgent need right now to get food for families for Thanksgiving, then Christmas.

Children who live in households that are food insecure, even at the lowest levels, get sick more often, recover more slowly from illness, have poorer overall health and are hospitalized more frequently. Children and adolescents affected by food insecurity are more likely to be iron deficient, and pre-adolescent boys dealing with hunger issues have lower bone density. Early childhood malnutrition also is tied to conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life. §  Lack of adequate healthy food can impair a child's ability to concentrate and perform well in school and is linked to higher levels of behavioral and emotional problems from preschool through adolescence. The new AAP policy statement, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, also recommends that pediatricians keep on hand a list of community resources, such as food banks. "Pediatricians can have this information at their fingertips" to share with their patients in need, Schwarzenberg says.

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