Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Greatest Generation

I met Elmer while visiting a food shelf in Cass County.  He was the center of attention as he picked up his monthly NAPS (Senior Commodity) box and received a few other items like bread and produce.  You could tell that the staff and volunteers really liked Elmer and looked forward to seeing him.  I had a chance to visit with him while conducting a client survey.  He was in his mid-80’s, happy and positive, despite major health issues and the struggle to make ends meet.

He left school by the 8th grade and worked as a farm laborer and bus driver all his life.  He told me several stories about how he enjoyed his time driving school bus.  I’m sure he was every child’s favorite bus driver, so kind and friendly.  I bet he bought treats for the kids on the last day of school.  I had a bus driver like that once.

Elmer lived on less than $500 a month in social security.  He never made much money at the jobs he had over his long working life. Thanks to subsidized housing and food provided by a charity, he was just barely able to survive.  Here is an example of our “Greatest Generation” living in poverty despite a lifetime of hard work. 

It’s a good thing that we have programs like NAPS Commodities, food shelves and soup kitchens for people like Elmer.  But I regret that he has to depend on charity to get enough food to eat.  Our “Greatest Generation” deserves better. 

Sue Estee, Executive Director

Monday, May 19, 2014

Minnesota Partners to End Hunger: Standing up for low income Minnesotans at the Capitol

St. Paul MN—(May 19, 2014)— Today, as the 2014 Minnesota Legislative session came to a close, anti-hunger and poverty advocates and legislators highlighted new policies that will benefit the over 500,000 food insecure Minnesotans. Minnesota Partners to End Hunger hosted a celebration with Minnesota legislators on Monday morning to highlight new hunger-fighting policy.

Over the last two years, the Minnesota Partners to End Hunger Legislative Agenda advocated policies that help to stabilize low-income seniors, and un- and under-employed families with children so they may have access to adequate amounts of food as the recession slowly recedes.

Colleen Moriarty, Chair of Minnesota Partners to End Hunger and Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, praised Senator Jeff Hayden and other legislators for their outstanding leadership on behalf of low income Minnesotans. “Low income Minnesotan’s personal economies are not bouncing back as fast as the rest of the economy after the recession. We are pleased that our leaders are creating policies that will make sure all families will be able to put food on their tables.”

Grass-roots advocates successfully advocated at the Minnesota Legislature for a variety of policies designed to put more food on the plates of hungry Minnesotans:

  •  In March 2013, the Legislature voted to support a bill that added $750,000 in additional support to the Minnesota Food Shelf Program, as a way to relieve pressure on the state’s resource-strapped food shelves, raising the total state funding to $1.7 million for the year. This is the first-ever permanent increase in a legislative allocation to Minnesota food shelves and a testament to the hard work of many anti-hunger advocates.
  • In 2014 Minnesota increased the Minimum wage. Minimum Wage has passed at $9.50/hour by 2016, with indexing of up to 2.5 % starting in 2018 that can be suspended if the economy is doing poorly.
  • Minnesota schools are now directed and funded to expand free school lunch – this would cover the 61,000 children whose families fall into the gap between full price and free. The legislature also eliminates the stigmatizing use of hand stamps and stickers on children if parents have unpaid lunch bills at school.

"It was a great day for Minnesota's children this session when, with unanimous bipartisan support, the bill to ensure that no child goes hungry in a Minnesota school because of a family's inability to pay passed the MN House of Representatives,” said Representative Yvonne Selcer. “I was honored to carry this bill, and am grateful to Legal Aid, Mazon, and the many organizations that worked so hard to ensure passage."

  • Schools are also able to serve Universal Free Breakfast for all students in Kindergarten
  • The legislature has approved a 5 percent funding increase for home- and community-based services, which includes home-delivered meals and nutritional services for seniors and people with disabilities. Home- and community-based services like Meals on Wheels bring nutritious food to seniors and people with disabilities, while also providing general support to Minnesotans who want to remain in their homes as opposed to moving to more costly institutional care facilities. The funding increase will help ensure more people in need will be able to use home- and community-based services, while also providing more equitable wages to the direct support professionals and caregivers who help deliver these services.
  • Farm to Food Shelf is a new initiative that provides a $2,000,000 grant to move surplus edible agricultural crops and commodities from fields to food shelves statewide, working with the six Feeding America food banks that serve Minnesota. Between 200 and 300 million pounds of edible crops are either not harvested or harvested but not sold each year in Minnesota.

“Second Harvest Heartland strongly supported this legislation because we are committed to pursuing innovative ways to bring more healthy and nutritious food to our hungry neighbors,” said Rob Zeaske, CEO, Second Harvest Heartland. “The need is still high in our communities, and we thank legislators for supporting this effort to bring more fresh food to those who need it. We look forward to working with Minnesota’s generous growers to make that happen.”

Advocates poised to continue next session: The hunger and poverty problem is still a concern.

The newly released report from the Minnesota House of Representatives and the Select Committee on Living Wage Jobs reports that 1 in 4 Minnesotans works in a low wage job. Along with low wages, Minnesotans are also facing high food prices at the grocery store. Minnesota Partners to End Hunger hear from families that need supplemental services such as food shelves. The group is dedicated to assuring that there is an effective and fair safety net so food insecure Minnesotans won’t have to worry about their next meal.

Preview of 2015 Legislative Priorities for the Minnesota Partners to End Hunger:
  •  Assist more seniors and rural Minnesotans with mobility concerns with Mobile Food Shelves
  •  Increase SNAP access at Farmer’s Markets with incentives for fresh produce
  •  Advocate for universal free breakfast at school for students in all grades
  •  Expand access to summer feeding programs

About Minnesota Partners to End Hunger

Minnesota Partners to End Hunger believe that Minnesotans have the right to adequate amounts of food to remain healthy and productive. Minnesota Partners to End Hunger is a statewide network of service providers and advocates working to end hunger in Minnesota by motivating decision-makers to take supportive action on state and national hunger policy issues.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Note from Sandy - Take Time to Listen

This month is set aside to honor the older Americans among us.  I have had to privilege to work with the Senior Population for about 10 years now.  I’ve met hundreds of seniors over that time, and have come to appreciate their value. My life has been touched by so many different smiling faces and kind expressions of “Thanks”. Serving the older generation has taught me many lessons, and gives me a sense of satisfaction.  I have many examples of persons that I could tell you about, but I will focus on a couple.

We were able to help a nice older lady, Shirley, for several years. Shirley was housebound. A volunteer generously offered to deliver a box of food to her each month. Every month before her delivery I would call her to remind her that the volunteer would be coming. It was as if she was waiting to hear from me.  She was so happy to hear my voice, as I was hers.  I would take the time to talk with her each time, 15 minutes or so.  Perhaps it was the only time each month she had outside interaction, I am not sure.  But each time we spoke she would tell me about the “Good Old Days” and raising her seven sons.

She told me of how hard she worked gardening to provide food for them. She experienced several great losses during the years I knew her. She would tell me about her sadness, and how she endured.  And, every time without fail she would thank me over and over how much she appreciated what the Food Bank was doing to help her. I never met her in person, just got to know her over the phone.  Her soft voice told me how kind and how frail she was. Without fail, every month, she would end our conversation with “Good-bye, I love you…” Sadly one month I called her to remind her of her delivery, her son answered.  She had passed away. He expressed his gratitude to me for the help that his mom had received from the Food Bank,  and he told me how I touched her life by being kind and taking a few minutes each month to talk to her. This experience will stay with me forever.

I also met a dear lady named Delores. Every month, without fail she came carrying “goodies” when she picked up her box of food. She would get up early on the day of the distribution, bake fresh brownies, sugar cookies, and bacon wrapped hot-dogs, dipped in butter and brown sugar.  I know this does not sound healthy… but several of the volunteers worked outside, in the cold winter or hot summer. Everyone couldn’t wait until she got there – looking forward to her treats! She would pack special packages for her favorite volunteers and a special package for me to bring home to my young son. Such kindness from someone of little means. She would come wearing a friendly smile, giving out hugs along with the treats. Turns out, we weren’t the only ones she brought treats to. She did this for many in the community, even the gas station clerk. Not only was she generous with the treats, she was generous with her time and limited resources. She was a volunteer driver, helping others in the community that were in need. Our lives were forever touched by this person’s acts of kindness and appreciation for what help she received at the Food Bank.

These experiences taught me many lessons, but most importantly; take time to get to know the older ones among us. They have so much value! Because they are advanced in years, they have so much experience and wisdom. Take time to listen, lend them a helping hand, and be assured that you will be the one leaving with the “gift”.

Sandy McKay, CSFP Coordinator

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive

Saturday, May 10th, our Grand Rapids letter carriers were busy picking up food donations from postal customers, resulting in 6,000 pounds of food and $295 in monetary donations for the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive. The carriers added another $300 to the total with a donation of their own. Their participation and extra effort during this national one day food drive helped call attention to the issue of hunger and helps fill the shelves of Second Harvest's Grand Rapids Food Shelf. The letter carriers hard work and the generosity of the donors go a long way to help make a better community and feed local families. Thanks to all our local carriers for their support and effort. 
Ellen Christmas, Program Manager