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Check presentation for Food For All was held on February 6, 2012
(From left to right) Megan Van Sant (Food For All Coordinator and employee of Mendocino County Health and Human Service Agency), Belinda Judelman, Mike Kalhoff (President & CEO of United Way of the Wine Country), Mari Rodin (Regional Manager of Mendocino and Lake Counties at United Way of the Wine Country), Cassie Dillman and Patty Bruder (Director of NCO Community Action of Lake and Mendocino), Marty Lombardi (Savings Bank of Mendocino and United Way of the Wine Country Board Member)
As part of the 2012 Strategic Investment Process, United Way of the Wine Country has awarded $10,000 to Food For All Mendocino. Food For All is a local coalition of non-profit agencies working together to reduce the amount of hunger in the community by increasing access to healthy food resources. One way of doing so is through a food stamp matching program at participating farmers markets. In 2010, a little more than $2,200 was used to purchase food at Ukiah farmer’s markets in Mendocino County through food stamps (CalFresh is the new Federal name for the food stamp program). Last year, that amount grew to nearly $7,000 with the addition of the food stamp matching program in Ukiah, effectively tripling the amount of federal funds going directly to local farmers. The United Way grant will help continue the successful food stamp matching program started last year in Mendocino County, and expand it for the first time to Lake County.
According to Megan Van Sant, coordinator of Food For All and an employee with the Mendocino County Health and Human Service Agency, “With our struggling economy, an increasing number of families are in need of a little extra help. You can have a job, own a home, own more than one vehicle, and still qualify for CalFresh based on your family income. Many families may need that extra help for just a few months. Other families are facing serious economic hardship that may last much longer. Regardless, we want to bring federal funds back to our local community and to our local farmers, and participation in the CalFresh program is one way to do that. ”
Food For All is changing the way the community at large thinks about food stamps by showing the diverse backgrounds of the clients, and how farmer’s markets are not just for the middle-class. Besides changing the way people eat, there is also a social aspect as customers share recipes, form relationships with local farmers and it becomes a fun activity for the entire family to enjoy as they see friends, neighbors and colleagues at the market.
As food stamps have become electronic it has lessened the social stigma behind using them. Clients receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card similar to a debit card. At participating farmer’s markets, the marketing manager scans the EBT card for the amount the customer asks for, with an additional amount up to $15 being added as part of the Food For All food stamp matching program. Instead of cash, the client is given tokens to spend during the day at the various booths found at the market. At the end of the day, farmers return the tokens to the market’s manager for the cash equivalent.
Patty Bruder, Director of Community Action at North Coast Opportunities, Inc., the fiscal agent for Food For All, also states, "A product of Food for All is the continued development of a food system with program partners and other current community efforts. Together, the health of the entire community is improving not only with better access to quality foods, but also economic health by keeping federal dollars from the food stamps circulating in the local economy. Everyone benefits when we support each other through local purchasing. The Food for All stamp matching program is an amazing way for a federally funded program to benefit local people the most.”
United Way is pleased to support Food For All and the efforts of the program to increase financial stability and nutrition within Mendocino and Lake Counties.
For more information about the Food For All program, or to learn how you may qualify call 707-46-BREAD (707-462-7323).