Feeding the hungry: Organizations seek help on holidays
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — It’s the time of year to bundle up, sit in front of the fire with family and friends and enjoy the holidays.
But there are many in the community who struggle during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Each year, the offerings of food banks provide warm meals and a chance to sit with community members on what could otherwise be lonely holidays.
Organizations like the El Dorado Food Coalition, established in 1999, involving a handful of faith-based organizations, working to provide assistance in El Dorado County, grew to establish a full-service food bank in August of 2000.
“In 1999, my dad was passing away, and he asked me to build him a charity,” said Mike Sproull, director of the Food Bank of El Dorado County. “And I thought to myself, ‘I’m not doing that,’ but he made me give him my word. And I kept my word. And I think what I got out of it, or what he was leading to, he wanted his wayward son to be doing something that was good for the community and got him around good people, instead of bad people. And it’s changed my life.”
The charity began small, but soon grew to become the largest collaborative charity in El Dorado County, partnering with 30 other agencies. In an average year, they raise and distribute over three million dollars of emergency food assistance to communities throughout the county.
According to Sproull, these agencies come to the Food Bank of El Dorado every week, and they get their food and they go to their area and distribute it.
“In Tahoe, we provide food to Family Resource Center, Bread & Broth, Live Violence Free, the Presbyterian Church, and the Phoenix Food Closet,” Sproull said.
The Food Bank of El Dorado County also serves the Washoe Tribe, and they do a mobile pantry for Bread and Broth. They come up with their mobile pantry and another semi, and “we have free farmer’s markets where the people come and take whatever produce they want,” Sproull said. They’ve been doing this for the last 20 years.
“We serve 8,000-10,000 individuals a month through our network of all the charities,” Sproull said. “Upper Room Dining Hall, Bread & Broth, we supply them with 100% of their food. So to say how many homeless we serve, it’s thousands.”
When asked what the Food Bank of El Dorado County does for Thanksgiving, Sproull said that his organization supports the charities by doing turkey handouts. He also says he’s having trouble finding all the turkeys and fixings because they’ve doubled in price.
The Food Bank of El Dorado County has hundreds of volunteers. To become a volunteer, contact the food bank (https://foodbankedc.org). Every time they have an event or need volunteers, they send out an email. In Tahoe, all their volunteers help with the mobile pantry that they do every month.
“That’s what I want to be. I want to be judged on what we do, not who we are,” Sproull said.
Bread & Broth is a nonprofit, all volunteer charity, whose mission is to alleviate hunger in the Lake Tahoe South Shore community. It began in 1989 as a multi-dimensional food outreach program, inspired by the leadership of Father John Grace, who was the pastor of St. Theresa Catholic Church. Father Grace joined in partnership with the Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church, along with many other committed community members to achieve his dream of helping the hungry.
On Oct. 19, 1989, the first meals were served at St. Theresa Grace Hall at no charge to all who came through the doors. Since then, thousands of homeless community members have entered Grace Hall’s doors.
As funding increased over the years, Bread & Broth focused on improving the nutritional value of the food provided at the Monday evening meals. They currently serve 800 meals every Monday.
In May 2009, Bread & Broth added “Second Serving,” which serves soup and a simple entree every Friday at the Lake Tahoe Community Presbyterian Church.
“First Serving originally served twice a week in coordination with the Presbyterian Church, then numbers went down,” said Susan Baker, chairperson of Second Serving,in an email to the Tribune. “When the meals started to pick up again, Bread & Broth realized a need for a second meal each week so Second Serving was restarted in 2009 by Bill Homing at the Presbyterian Church. Second Serving was the name we created in 2009 to differentiate the two meal servings. It now falls under the umbrella of Bread & Broth and is funded by us.”
Second Serving currently serves between 40-60 meals each Friday.
In 2015, Bread & Broth added the Bread & Broth 4 Kids program, to provide weekend meals during the school year to the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, who are faced with the threat of going hungry.
“The program was started by a local woman 10-plus years ago,” said Cheryl Breitwieser, co-chairperson of the kid’s program. “She saw that children were going hungry during the weekend and wanted to do something about it. She started a small food program for kids. About eight years ago it became too big and costly for her personally, since she was not a nonprofit. At that time, she approached the director of Bread & Broth and asked if Bread & Broth could take it over. She met with Diane Weidinger and Christy Slouch, who presented her food program to the Bread & Broth Advisory Board. The Advisory Board decided to go with it and it was then presented to the church board, who approved it too. The Board renamed the food program, B&B 4 Kids. Around that time B&B had received a large monetary donation. That money was used to start the B&B 4 Kids program.”
On a weekly basis, throughout the school year, students in K-eighth grade are provided with weekend food bags containing seven meals and four snacks. Kids eligible for the program are determined by their family’s income and determined by school teachers and counselors from Bijou Community, Sierra House, Tahoe Valley, Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School and South Lake Tahoe middle schools. B&B 4 Kids currently feeds 130 kids, but they are hoping to get to 170 kids per week.
Bread & Broth will be hosting its annual Thanksgiving dinner on Monday, Nov. 21, and is in need of donations. It will be held at St. Theresa Catholic Church, Grace Hall in South Lake Tahoe, from 4-6 p.m. A traditional Thanksgiving meal will be served, featuring turkey and all the fixings. In addition, dinner guests will be given a food giveaway bag containing dairy products, fresh produce, bread, pastries, meat, and canned goods.
For more information on how to help with donations or volunteering, visit http://www.breadandbroth.org or contact Sabine Hardin, Bread & Broth director, at 530-318-8536.
The Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s mission is feeding the hungry today and solving hunger for tomorrow through community partnership. They provide food for families in need through more than one hundred fifty partner agencies across Northern Nevada and the eastern slope of the Sierra in California, including Nevada, Placer and El Dorado counties.
Serving more than 120,000 people every month, half of which are children, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada grew from a small pantry to a regional distribution center. A nonprofit for more than 35 years, and a proud member of Feeding America, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada boasts a network of more than 200 food banks, and it is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, providing more than four billion meals to nearly every community in the United States.
Jocelyn Lantrip, director of marketing and communications started working for the organization about 13 years ago.
“I was unemployed at the time,” she said. “I had been laid off and it was during the recession. I have always loved the Food Bank, but it was a happy accident that I ended up here. I love working for the Food Bank. My career before that time had always been in the for-profit arena, and I love being able to work for something that I feel so strongly about. Food shouldn’t be a luxury for some and I am happy for my part in helping people.”
The Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s Mobile Harvest program is a direct service program that allows them to distribute perishable foods into high-need neighborhoods. Each month they visit more than 45 sites throughout Reno/Sparks, as well as rural northern Nevada and eastern California.
When asked what the organization did for the homeless on Thanksgiving, Joycelyn replied, “At the Food Bank we offer food during the holiday season, but we do focus more on everyday groceries for families facing hunger. We do receive holiday and Thanksgiving food donations and we purchase some food as well, but we distribute that food throughout our network of 150 plus partner agencies.”
The Food Bank of Northern Nevada is always in need of food and financial donations. Every dollar helps to provide meals. Food donations are down, so they are working hard to meet the need. Donors can give at http://www.fbnn.org.
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