Sonora, CA — A five-year old national story focusing on hunger in the Mother Lode went locally viral this week, lending food bank officials an opportunity to share an alarming shift in local needs to feed an increasing younger demographic.
The piece, actually a video-short, funded by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Foundation and initially released in January 2011 depicted compelling hunger stories of several Sonora and Tuolumne County senior citizens who were experiencing severe needs. As now, back when it was released, the picture was not meant to be representative of the mainstream senior community, according to Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency Food Bank director Lee Kimball, but to put a face on the issue of rural senior hunger across the country.
Of the video’s recent reappearance, Kimball states, “I want to thank the community for their concerns…I understand that an older video that AARP did of our seniors who struggle has gone locally viral on Facebook and on social media — and to help folks know that while we are concerned for seniors [who] are struggling right now, our greatest concerns are for children in the summer who don’t have food when school closes…feeding kids over the summer — and how fast we can we make that happen with the resources that we have.”
Adding to that challenge, Kimball says that ATCAA’s present food bank location, which has been in constant service for the past 15 years, has been forced to immediately begin undergoing a much-deferred renovation at a cost of some $50,000 that will require fundraising efforts as well as executing some tricky logistics to condense operations from a 10,000 square foot facility to a temporary work space of 1,000 square-feet plus storage containers. As the school year will be shortly drawing to a close, she hopes to also somehow still roll out initial plans to introduce a summer food program for children that will locate at local recreation and library facilities. Ahead of that, she is now reaching out to engage interested volunteers to help make that happen.
Currently, Kimball says that the region sees an average of 242 new cases per month involving new applications for CalFresh food stamps, largely due to the fact that the living wage calculator for the area indicates that a household of one adult and one dependent must make $20.14 per hour to maintain basic living and employment without assistance. That is up more than 72% from five years ago. More than a third of those receiving food stamps are children and 22% are living in poverty. She also shares that 65% of the county’s children are on free and reduced lunch programs; of those, 45% additionally receive their breakfasts at school. With so many depending on school food as their primary nourishment, summer becomes an issue for them.
Interested parties in providing volunteer assistance to help organize and support the roll out of the summer kids’ nutrition assistance program may click here for ATCAA Food Bank contact information.