by Diana Bulls
Although it may seem hard to believe, a hunger crisis has been unfolding right here in Fresno County—the breadbasket of California, or as we who live in Reedley like to say, “The World’s Fruit Basket.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quick Facts about Fresno County, 22.1% of the population was under the poverty level in 2008 compared to 13.3% in all of California. But there are two local organizations taking hunger seriously and doing something about it.
The Full Gospel Church and Streetlight Ministries, both located in Reedley, have partnered with the Community Food Bank to bring groceries to local families. Community Food Bank serves the counties of Fresno, Madera, and Kings through local food pantries, community kitchens, day care centers and shelters. The agency has been in existence since 1992 and receives most of its food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other partner agencies. Most communities in these three counties have one or more distribution centers.
Prayers answered for Full Gospel Church
According to the USDA, one in six Americans is food insecure and one in four children lives in a food insecure household. These are statistics that the congregation of the Full Gospel Church felt they could change. The church has a history of reaching out to the community and has been consistently praying for direction for over a year.
“We have been studying demographic materials concerning the greatest needs of our community, and we are very aware of the 30% plus unemployment in the area,” said Full Gospel Pastor Ronn Hobbs. “We were looking for a way to help in a practical way.”
Full Gospel Church is an authorized and approved food distribution agency. It will be distributing food on a monthly basis starting November 20 at 8:00 a.m. In the first shipment it expects to receive 600 boxes of dry and canned goods, including a few holiday foods. These 600 boxes will feed approximately 300 hungry families. The next distribution will be December 18 at 9:00 a.m. and then beginning in 2011, distributions will take place on the fourth Saturday of each month.
Assisting the Homeless and the Hungry
Streetlight Ministries was organized in 1982 by John Miller. Its purpose was to assist and support the homeless and hungry of the community, with emergency services provided according to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It began with a thrift store located at 1024 G Street.
Earlier this year, Streetlight struck an agreement with the First United Methodist Church to lease a former Sunday school building for one dollar per year and turn it into a food pantry. After extensive remodeling, including a new roof and electrical service, and the installation of several freezers, Streetlight is ready for its first food distribution.
“With our new facility we will be able to serve people in a clean and uncluttered environment,” said Streetlight board member Ruth Kundert. “By taking food service out of the back of the thrift store, we can revamp that space to utilize more display space for selling items.” Ruth said she is pleased that Streetlight Ministries will be able to help Reedley people during times of great need.
Streetlight is an authorized food pantry. For every $1 it contributes, it receives $8 worth of USDA groceries. Sometimes it receives free fresh vegetables or special holiday foods. It also receives donations of canned goods from local organizations like Reedley High School, Bank of America and Chase Bank. Savemart donates bread and “sweets” every Friday and Saturday that can be frozen until distribution day.
Since Streetlight is a designated food pantry, it has the ability to distribute food during emergencies or other times of need. It accepts vouchers from Love, INC, local churches, Fresno County, etc. Unlike Streetlight Ministries, the Full Gospel Church is a distribution center only and does not keep surplus food on hand—all food is either given away or returned.
Streetlight’s first distribution will be on Wednesday, November 23 from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. at their Food Pantry location, 1427 11th Street (building at the rear of the parking lot of the First United Methodist Church). They will be giving out food and holiday meal boxes—enough to feed 325 families.
The holiday meal boxes contain everything a family of four would need to enjoy a meal together: cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, rice, beans, potato flakes, macaroni and cheese, canned vegetables and fruit, cake mix, and a whole chicken. December’s distribution will be Wednesday, December 22 at the same time and then on the second Wednesday of every month in 2011.
Clients qualify for food according to USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program Income Guidelines. In California, a household’s gross monthly income cannot exceed 130% of the Federal poverty guidelines. For a household of four, this is $2,756. Each client must sign a statement that they meet this criteria and they must show identification proving they are legal residents.
The food shortage situation in Fresno County is only a microcosm of the larger problem in the U.S. The USDA recently released new data on hunger; some 14.6% of Americans went without enough food in 2008. This year alone (2010) has brought record levels of American families to the USDA food stamp program.
The Full Gospel Church and Streetlight Ministries are running their programs with volunteer help, and Streetlight needs a volunteer coordinator for the food pantry. If you would like to help please call Ernestine Huebert (Full Gospel Church) at 638-4236, George Avalas (Streetlight) at 638-4986 or Henry Laemmlen (Streetlight) at 305-2021.
“We believe as a result of our prayer this is only one of many ways we will practically help our community in the next year,” said Pastor Hobbs.
With the inspired help and dedication of these two local organizations, there will be fewer hungry people in Reedley.
Special note from KRL’s publisher: At this holiday time and beyond, I’d like to challenge us all to take the time to give back to those in need in our own communities by volunteering to charities like these.