33% of the people The Food Bank serves are children; 11% are elderly; and 11% are homeless families.
by James Barden, SNAP Outreach Coordinator
May is Older Americans Month. As we celebrate our elders’ contributions to our country, we also reflect on the harsh reality that many seniors are struggling to put food on the table. There are resources available, but only one-third of Massachusetts seniors eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) receive benefits, according to the National Council on Aging.
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is trying to change that.
In January 2013, The Food Bank was awarded a grant from the Walmart Foundation and Feeding America to expand SNAP outreach to underserved populations, especially seniors. SNAP can give income-eligible seniors (60 and older) a considerable boost to their often limited budgets.
Seniors, in particular, benefit from being enrolled in SNAP. Many elders without SNAP are making tough choices about whether they should spend their money on food or prescriptions. SNAP helps alleviate the need to make those kinds of decisions. Many seniors don’t realize that they’re eligible or might feel that they’re taking money away from another family by receiving benefits. SNAP is designed to expand when times are tough and contract when the economy improves; anyone who meets the eligibility guidelines can receive benefits.
The Food Bank staff and volunteers provides support to discover if elders are eligible and document their medical expenses correctly in order to achieve the highest deduction.
Many seniors recall the days when food stamps were issued as coupons, marking them in line at the grocery store. Currently, SNAP benefits are distributed using Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. It’s hard to tell if a customer is buying groceries using their credit card, debit card, or EBT card. This anonymity at the cash register goes a long way in helping to reduce stigma around this program.
The Food Bank’s SNAP Outreach department offers application assistance and case management over the phone and in person, at a variety of pantries, Brown Bag distribution sites, meal-sites, and other partner organizations throughout the four counties of Western Mass. The Food Bank also has a team of dedicated community volunteers who donate their time to help their neighbors apply for SNAP benefits.
If you’re interested in finding out more about eligibility for SNAP, call The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts at 1-800-247-9632 to be prescreened for eligibility and to apply over the phone.Comments Off
Marina Caputo from Worthington decided she wanted to do more to help her neighbors in need. After hearing about local hunger, she pledged to collect one ton of peanut butter to donate to The Food Bank of Western Mass.
Marina’s choice of food is an excellent one; peanut butter is one of The Food Bank’s most-needed foods because of its popularity among our 300 member agencies. It is shelf stable, high in protein, and kids like it.
The timing of this drive couldn’t be better. Marina hopes to reach her goal by the end of June, just in time for summer. This time of year is especially difficult for food insecure families with children who no longer receive free school meals. The peanut butter will be a welcome sight on pantry shelves. The price of this product has also skyrocketed recently. During one quarter last year, the cost of peanut butter went up 60 percent.
If you’re interested in donating to Marina’s peanut butter drive, you can drop off peanut butter at one of the following locations: Corners Grocery in Worthington, Williamsburg Market in Williamsburg, Whole Foods in Hadley, and Tanya’s Salon in Worthington. Help Marina reach her goal!
To recognize the hard-work and acknowledge the accomplishments of out hard-working and dedicated staff, The Food Bank will recognize staff members in a series of profiles.
By Christine Dutton, Food Bank HR Manager
How long have you been with the Food Bank?: I’ve been with The Food Bank for almost 5 ½ years.
Tell us about your work at The Food Bank: As the Volunteer & Development Coordinator, the primary focus of my position is to work with individual volunteers, both in recruitment and placement. I work with staff to find additional ways for volunteers to get involved. I also facilitate a volunteer orientation twice-a-month. These orientations are really great because, in addition to sharing volunteer needs, we also teach people about The Food Bank and hunger in Western Massachusetts.
I also work with community groups and civic organizations to schedule group volunteer opportunities, and help coordinate food drives.
I currently chair the organization’s Diversity Committee, and in the past have served on both the Staff Recognition and Wellness Committees.
What do you like best about Coordinating Volunteers: I love hearing about what volunteers did before they came to The Food Bank – there are so many interesting people involved – or the others ways they’re supporting the community. And most of our volunteers are not just volunteering here. They are lovely people to work with!
What are some of the exciting things happening with volunteers: Many of our volunteers are currently working on the 2014 Hunger Study. This is a big project, with over 60 volunteers participating. These volunteers go to emergency food providers and collect data from individual participants about their personal experiences with hunger.
We’ll be hosting an ice cream social here at The Food Bank for all of our volunteers on May 30th. It’s our way to thank everyone for their help, from the regular volunteers who sort donations day-to-day, to those who help with the occasional event. It’s a great way to recognize our volunteers for their dedication and support, and to also get them to meet other volunteers they wouldn’t necessarily work with.
What is your favorite story about Volunteers: We have some volunteers who help with just about any need we have; they’re very dedicated. Last summer, one such volunteer responded to a later afternoon email for help with Brown Bag distribution the following morning. I didn’t think we’d get anyone, and just a few minutes after the email had gone out, I had someone to fill-in. I am always so impressed by the level of dedication our volunteers show.
Could you share a little bit about yourself? What do you like to do in addition to coordinating volunteers? Well, I love music. My musical taste runs the gamut and is super-eclectic. I think I was born a few decades too late. I like a lot of older bands-the “Oldies”. I also love to read-I love a good short story and enjoy music biographies. And, I really like lifting weights. I’m a member at Pioneer Valley CrossFit in Hadley, and am proud that I can Deadlift 195 pounds for 5 reps. I also really like to laugh and make people laugh. I’m okay with looking silly.
Any departing food for thought?: It’s nice to work somewhere where the community really supports the organization. We are very lucky to have so much commitment from people in Western Mass.
If you’d like to contact Erin and become a volunteer, sign up for an upcoming volunteer orientation.Comments Off
For asparagus lovers Spring is the greatest season of them all. For health-minded eaters asparagus is a very low calorie vegetable. 100 g fresh spears give only 20 calories. More calories will be burnt to digest than gained, the fact, which fits into the category of low calorie or negative-calorie vegetables.
20 oz fresh asparagus
1 cup shell-shaped pasta
1/2 cup chopped carrots
2 oz sliced bell peppers
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp celery seeds
1/3 cup light Italian salad dressing
Nutrition Facts: 130 calories, 2g fat, 160mg sodium, 24g total carbohydrates, 6g protein. Contains 70% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin A.
Source: WIC Nutrition Program
With increased demand for emergency food from a growing community, the staff and Volunteers at the Easthampton Community Center are not short of things to do. But that didn’t stop Executive Director Robin Bialecki, who saw a growing need in her community and the clients that ECC’s food pantry serves. “Over the last year we have seen an upsurge of people needing gluten free foods. Upon speaking to several nutritionists and doctors in the area, I discovered that for many low income families it is impossible to get all of the foods needed for their family,” Bialecki said.
The ECC Gluten-Free pantry opened officially on March 4th, and it is the first and only gluten-free pantry in Western Mass., a fact not lost on Bialecki. “We have opened the gluten free pantry to all of Western Mass. that we can reach. We currently have clients from Easthampton, Southampton, Westfield, Chicopee, Holyoke, Amherst, and Springfield,” she said. The gluten-free pantry serves 40 clients who are allowed to come on an as needed weekly or monthly basis.
Bialecki says the biggest challenge has been keeping up with the higher cost of the gluten-free product. “The more people we reach the greater the need will be to purchase more food, and even at a wholesale price the food is expensive.” “A few of the [gluten-free] companies I am working with in Colorado and Ohio are asking other companies to help out and make donations whenever possible as well. The Gluten Free companies are very serious about helping those in need and have been very supportive,” she added.
In the just over 3 weeks since its opening the pantry has been featured on 22News WWLP, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and WFCR. “Area medical offices are excited and have been sending clients to us for help,” Bialecki said.
If you would like to learn more about the ECC gluten-free pantry visit them on Facebook, or call 413-527-5240.
Spring is here and this light and healthy recipe is right in line with warmer weather and celebrating National Nutrition Month this March. It features cottage cheese which is an excellent source of protein, with 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese providing 14 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 4 grams of carbs and only 90 calories. It is a heart-healthy treat and also provides calcium and potassium.
6 oz baby spinach
1/4 cup sliced green onions (scallions)
1/2 cup light raspberry fat-free vinaigrette
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 cup (4 Tbsp) chopped walnuts
2 cups fat free or low fat cottage cheese
Toss the spinach and green onions with the vinaigrette; divide evenly onto 4 salad plates. Top each salad with the strawberries and walnuts. Spoon the cottage cheese over the spinach mixture and serve.
Nutritional info: Per serving: Calories 220, Fat 5 gm, Carbohydrates 29 gm, Fiber 5 gm, Protein 16 gm, Sodium 520 mg Source: daisybrandhealth.comComments Off
The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts will be participating in the Hunger in America Study 2014, led by Feeding America, and we need your help. The data gathered during these nationwide surveys is a crucial part in helping to better understand food insecurity across America and right here in Western Mass.
The last study took place in 2010 when more than 61,000 interviews with clients and surveys of 37,000 feeding agencies revealed that hunger was increasing at an alarming rate in the United States. With results of the 2010 study, the Feeding America network was able to assist an additional 12 million clients and better understand hunger across the country.
This is the only large-scale, national survey of its kind that captures the real-life experiences of people who struggle to make ends meet. By capturing these experiences, we’re able to give a voice to people who might not have a voice, and sharing their struggles with hunger in a country that has the resources to eradicate it forever.
And you can help. From April through August, you will work alongside other dedicated volunteers surveying pantry and meal site clients using tablet computers provided by Feeding America.
If you would like to be a part of Hunger in America 2014 and join our team, please email Erin Sullivan, Volunteer Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t do it without your support. Sign up here.
A Place at the Table makes its point known early. Its story is told through the voices of families struggling with food insecurity all over America, from Philadelphia, to Mississippi, to Colorado. Each story told is vastly different, but in the end the result is the same: hard-working families struggling every day to find a way to make ends meet and put food on their tables.
The Food Bank’s special screening of the film at Amherst Cinema was attended by over 100 individuals. Following the screening a panel discussion led by The Food Bank’s executive director Andrew Morehouse, Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), and Prof. Julie Caswell touched on the array of topics presented in the film.
The issue of hunger is complex and multi-faceted, involving agri-business, farm subsidies, living wages, and food deserts. To fix it, Rep. McGovern said, we will need “political will.” In response to an audience question about the topic of hunger on Capitol Hill, the Congressman said, “you’re never going to meet a member of Congress that’s pro-hunger,” and encouraged folks to call, email, or visit their legislators (and tell their friends and family to do the same) to demand they pay attention to hunger.
The Food Bank encourages you to view the film and submit your reaction and ideas to email@example.com. The film will be playing at Amherst Cinema, and is alternatively available on demand on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play.
You can view pictures from last night’s event here, and listen to clips from the panel discussion below.
The documentary A Place at the Table was theatrically released last Friday, March 1. The film tackles the issues of hunger and food insecurity in America while telling the story of individuals struggling to make ends meet.
Over the weekend, the reviews came in. Here’s what the critics are saying:
“The filmmakers vividly illustrate the power and depth of the long-spiraling problem of ’food insecurity‘ by immersing us in the hardscrabble lives of a cross section of our nation’s poor.” – Gary Goldstein, L.A. Times
“It’s a beautifully shot and reasonably balanced film, but one that struggles to find a hopeful note to end on.” – Roger Moore, Chicago Tribune
“After all, the numbers are scary. As rich as we are as a nation—still—many of our citizens are, at best, malnourished. One in six says they regularly don’t have enough to eat.” – Stephen Whitty, NJ Star-Ledger
“A Place at the Table presents a shameful truth that should leave viewers dismayed and angry: This nation has more than enough food for all its people, yet millions of them are hungry.” – Walter Addiego, SF Chronicle
“The film shows the challenge can be met only with involvement. It’s impossible not to care when you see the face of hunger close up. This terrific call to action gives us the look we need.” – Joe Neumaier, NY Daily News
If you are interested in viewing the film, The Food Bank of Western Mass. invites you to a special screening at Amherst Cinema on March 7th at 7pm. Following the film there will be a panel discussion featuring Food Bank Executive Director Andrew Morehouse, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA, featured in the film) and UMass Professor Julie Caswell. For ticketing information please visit www.amherstcinema.org.
Many Americans think they know about food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Frequently, this program, which offers low-income and food insecure families access to groceries, comes under fire for “causing dependence” or “draining the nation’s resources.” In fact, the average length of time a new recipient stays on the program is 8 to 10 months. And according to the USDA, every $5 that’s spent in SNAP generates more than $9 in economic activity. SNAP is proven effective in fighting hunger and helping people gain a foothold in trying economic times.
These facts aside, all too often the voices of those who receive benefits are missing from the conversation. To promote the premier of the upcoming film, the people behind A Place at the Table have created an interactive website profiling individuals who once relied on SNAP and are now leaders in the arts, government, business, sports and education.
Here are some words from those featured in the gallery and their experiences with food stamps:
“There were times when I was growing up when we literally didn’t have $10 to our name, so food stamps kept us fed when we were completely broke.” – Moby, 5-time Grammy nominated recording artist
“My mom did everything she could to raise my brother, sister and I, but sometimes there wasn’t enough money to go around.” – Ruth Riley, WNBA champion and Olympic Gold Medalist
“When my father was diagnosed with MS and had to stop working, it was food stamps that helped my family keep our heads above the water.” – Sen. Patty Murray, first female Senator from Washington