Tuesday, May 22, 2007

"Food Banks Go Hungry"

That’s the headline for an article by writer Lauren Etter appearing in the today's edition of the Wall Street Journal on page B1. Food Banks, like the South Plains Food Bank, have seen a decline in the pounds of donated food given to us by grocers and food manufacturers.

The culprit? Better supply chain management and a drive for greater efficiency by food manufacturers have combined to reduce overproduction. That translates into less food available to donate to charities such as Food Banks and pantries. It’s a trend the South Plains Food Bank has been seeing first hand for the past several years.

Food manufacturers like Kraft, Kellogs and others continue to donate significant amounts of food to America’s Second Harvest some of which winds up serving the hungry here in West Texas. But the quantity of food coming through national donors has declined. To their credit, national companies and their foundations are supporting Food Banks in new ways through monetary donations.

While food donations are down, the number of hungry people in our country and in our region is increasing. It would be easy say that since food donations are down we’ll just cut back on the amount of food we put in food boxes or reduce the number of people we serve. To do so would be a disservice to both the hungry and to the volunteers and donors who join with us to feed the hungry. The mission of SPFB isn’t to just distribute what we have. It’s to feed the hungry. In a broader sense, it is to end hunger.

As food manufacturers and grocers have improved their ways of doing business, food banks have responded in new and innovative ways. SPFB is no exception. We are handling more fresh produce and dairy product, we are raising funds to purchase food for programs like the Kids Cafe, and we are growing, distributing and, through Breedlove, manufacturing, our own food.

All this to say that local food drives like the just completed Letter Carrier Food Drive (which brought in over 65,000 pounds) take on new significance as we work to insure we have enough food to meet the needs of the hungry. Working through our network of agencies, SPFB is providing food for more than 19,000 folks each week. That’s a lot of groceries!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Getting Ahead vs. Getting Fed

Grace, my soon to be thirteen year old daughter, is looking forward to the end of school and the beginning of Summer! She has a busy schedule planned. So it was with some interest that I read, an article by Sue Shellenbarger in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, "Helping overbooked kids cutback."

The story focused on the stress and anxiety children are feeling because their lives are becoming so busy with camps, music lessons, and all kinds of activities. The idea is that all these extra curricular activities give our children an advantage as the grow up and prepare for their life's vocation. I won't argue the fact.

At the same time, the end of school has a different impact for nearly 1 in 4 of the children across the South Plains. The end of school means the end of school breakfast and lunch programs that serve many of these youngsters. The meals they receive at school gives them the energy to learn, to play, and to develop into productive members of our community.

This summer, their focus won't be on activities to help them get ahead. Instead, they are looking for place to get fed. The South Plains Food Bank begins its Summer Lunch Program as soon as school lets out. In addition, we will start seeing more children showing up at our community soup kitchens.

Hopefully, getting fed this summer will help these children get ahead when school begins this fall.