CFP blog has moved!

September 24, 2008

If you are looking for the Cooperative Feeding Program’s blog, we’ve moved it over to  New posts, pics and video can be found there.  Of course you can always go to their main site and click the blog icon.

Thanks for reading!


Thanks to you The Cooperative Feeding Program was able to send 1000 Broward County kids back to school last week with brand new backpacks filled with school supplies.  A number of these families are homeless and also needed help accessing addittional resources for new uniforms and immunizations.  Many of you donated school supplies your own children selected while picking out their own supplies.  It was great to see all of you who dropped off backpacks and supplies.   Of course we also have to thank those of you who helped us purchase more supplies by donating or buying virtual supplies through our Changing The Present site.

Thanks again.  We couldn’t do it without you!

OK, so 2010 seems pretty far off and the census doesn’t really compare to the Olympics as far as the excitement factor, but try to pay attention anyway 🙂

Every 10 years we count heads. Head counting is important for a lot of reasons, but Broward County officials would like to remind you that a lot of federal funding decisions are based on census numbers. Essentially federal and state government uses the census to determine fun things like total population of an area (which also determines your representation in government), and demographics like age, gender, and race. It’s one of the ways they decide things like which areas need more social services funding assistance, who needs more public transportation and who needs to build more schools or senior day cares.

Just in case you were thinking of not participating, here are a few things you need to know:

* Census Day is April 1, 2010. Plenty of time to find a pencil.

* It’s easy peasy…the short questionnaire will be sent to all addresses in Broward County and you just pop it back in the mail when you are done. Here in Broward County special teams will be reaching out to populations that are often missed – the homeless, those in transitional housing or group facilities, shut ins etc. Cooperative Feeding is serving on the committee, so be sure to let us know if you are worried about being missed.

* Census data is protected for 72 years. What does that mean for you? No authority or organization, including Immigration, the IRS or the President of the United States, is going to know how you answered your census form and come looking for you. Unless of course you don’t return your census form. Then the Census Bureau will actually come looking for you. Oh, the irony.

* Census data really does impact the level of services our county can offer. This is a way to be sure that you and your loved ones are counted and that services are in place should you ever need them.

* The census is uber-American. It is mandated under the U.S. Constitution and there is nothing more American than that!

During the Great Depression, the homeless and down-and-out ended up living in shantytowns or tent cities. They were called Hoovervilles, after the president who lorded over the economic collapse, Herbert Hoover.

Certainly we’d never slip back to that reality. Right?

After all, we’re the living-large culture. Two TVs and three PCs in every home.

But at some point you begin to wonder … Manufacturing collapse. Housing collapse. Banking collapse.


How far are we, really, from Bushvilles?

We may already be seeing the first ones.

But our modern version of a shantytown is much different than those from the last century. Hey, the average middle-class American couldn’t survive in a tent unless it had central air, a Wii and plasma TV. With remote.

Tents would never do.

The 21st century Bushvilles are full of the very symbol of American middle-class abundance: cars.

Tony Santa Barbara, Calif., has opened 12 car lots where the newly homeless can safely park at night. The lots are open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and are monitored by a homeless advocacy group to make sure they’re safe and secure.

“The way that the economy is going, it’s just amazing the people that are becoming homeless,” Nancy Kapp, a lot coordinator, told CNN. “It’s hit the middle class.”

Don’t fool yourself into thinking this is an only-in-California thing. We’re seeing the same middle-class migration to homelessness here.

“All of our beds are full and they’re not full of people you think of when you say, ‘homeless,'” said Sally Gress, spokeswoman with the Salvation Army in Broward. “One section of beds that were hardly ever full before was our section for single women. Now those beds are almost always full.”

They’re full of the working homeless. Secretaries and teachers. People getting salaries that no longer keep up with housing, insurance, food, utilities and gas.

“We offer rent and mortgage assistance,” Gress said. “And before, the calls were always for help with rent. Now, the calls are for mortgage assistance. And they’re coming from all over the place.”

And, of course, with tighter family budgets, there’s also been a drop in giving. In a report by Christian fundraising group Dunham and Co., 46 percent of Christian adults said they had reduced charitable contributions.

Even those at the higher end have been affected. Thirty-one percent of those making more than $100,000 said the economy was stifling their charity.

Another perfect storm in this season of economic hurricanes.

And we’re just beginning to feel the damaging storm surge.

“It’s just now starting to affect people with higher incomes,” Gress said. “It almost makes you think it could happen to just about anybody who loses a job.”

So now, more than ever, it’s time for those of us who aren’t living out of our car, or a cardboard box, to step it up.

And I’m not talking about handing your wallet to the alcoholic vagrant on the corner.

It’s about supporting already-established programs such as the Broward Coalition to End Homelessness and the Salvation Army in both Broward and Palm Beach counties.

You don’t have to be rich. Every Thursday morning this summer, my wife has been taking our kids to work at the Cooperative Feeding Program.

The kiddos complained at first, but have come to enjoy it. It didn’t hurt that they were allowed to dole out the desserts.

Besides, feeling a sense of purpose through service can be addictive.

Particularly when the people you’re helping don’t look so different from you.

Ralph De La Cruz can be reached at or 954-356-4727 and 561-243-6522.

PS – In case you are wondering –  no Cooperative Feeding did not know that one of our volunteer’s spouses was a Sun-Sentinel columnist.  He mentioned us all on his onsies….Sure is one small world……

With jobless rates still rising in Florida (we were up .5% from April – May 08 and up 1.6% for the year) and food costs going even higher, more and more working poor are falling in to crises.    According to the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) from March 2007-March 2008, the price of milk has risen 13.3%, egg prices rose 30%, cheese increased by 12.5% and bread costs 15% more.  Caught in the squeeze many families are for the first time ever needing to reach out for help.

FRAC reports that 1.5 million more people nationwide participated in the USDA’s food stamp program in March 2008 as compared to March 2007.  In Florida we saw an increase of 19% for the same time period. That’s an increase of more than a quarter million persons for our state alone.  From March 2003 – March 2008 we Florida saw a staggering increase of 37.5% in the number of persons participating in the program.  What is even more amazing is that the USDA estimates that approximately 1/3 of all eligible households have not even applied for benefits.

Besides helping families purchase nutritious food, the food stamp program provides local economic stimulus.  According to the USDA, for every $5 in new food stamp benefits, $9.20 is generated in local community spending.  (Click here for the story from the USDA)  They further estimate that a 5% increase in the national participation rate would create 2.5 billion in new nationwide economic activity.

Navigating the system can be tricky for first time users.   If you, or someone you know, wants to find out about eligibility they can either come on down to The Cooperative Feeding Program (we operate a satellite food stamp office on our campus) or check out DCF’s website for eligibility guidelines and other information.


Police say teens beat homeless Ohio man to death

Fri Jun 27, 2:10 AM ET

CLEVELAND – A group of teenagers beat a homeless man to death as passers-by slowed to watch the attack, some of which was caught on videotape, police said.

Anthony Waters, 42, suffered a lacerated spleen and broken ribs during the attack Wednesday night and died at a hospital, police said.

“The pack mentality going on in the city of Cleveland must end,” police Commander Calvin Williams said Thursday at a news conference where he urged the attackers to come forward.

Portions of the attack were caught on a surveillance camera outside a towing company on the city’s east side. Police said the videotape shows passing cars slowing to watch three teens attack Waters until he staggered into the parking lot, where he was assisted by employees of the towing company.

“It was just horrifying the way he looked,” said Marlo Massey, Waters’ sister, who saw her brother’s body after the attack. “They beat him to death and I just can’t stop thinking what was on his mind while it was happening.”

Waters suffered from blunt abdominal trauma, a head injury and damaged internal organs, the Cuyahoga County coroner said.

The attackers, who appeared to be between the ages of 14 to 17, robbed Waters of a music player and headphones, police said. No arrests have been made.

Waters was a welder by trade but had been staying at a Cleveland-area homeless shelter, said Paul Eadeh, a friend.

“He’s a good guy, a hardworking person,” Eadeh said. “He was just trying to make some money to eat and to live.”

Eadeh said Waters worked odd jobs for him at a beverage store.

The National School Lunch Program provides free or reduced cost lunches for thousands of children in Broward County.  In fact 49% of all students in the county are eligible for the program.  That’s over 104,000 children.  For some this may be the only guaranteed, nutritious meal they have for the day.  Now that schools are closed theyhave lost access to that and their families have to find other ways to feed them.  With rising food costs and limited job opportunities the simple act of giving your kids summer lunch – a ham and cheese or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a slice of pizza or some mac and cheese – they’ve become items to be budgeted, worried over.  As you enjoy your summer fun, keep these kids in mind.  Keep an eye out for those 2 for 1 sales….1 for you…1 for your local food pantry to share with a needy family.

There are some programs available this summer for lunches.  If you or someone you know needs help feeding their children this summer, click here for sites and guidelines and of course families can turn to Cooperative Feeding for help. 

CFP…in the News

June 4, 2008

As struggling South Floridians turn to food banks for help, the cupboards are running bare

|South Florida Sun-Sentinel
May 31, 2008

Food banks and feeding programs such as Meals on Wheels are seeing more people seeking help. At the same time, donations are declining and they face the same economic factors that are sending more hungry people to their doors.

Charitable food pantries are handing out smaller take-home food boxes. Home-delivered meal services for homebound seniors are losing volunteer drivers, overwhelmed by high fuel prices. Palm Beach County‘s Meals on Wheels program is taking rice — which rose in price more than 12 percent over the past year — off its menu soon and has substituted a dairy drink for milk with the breakfast boxes.

Meanwhile, the lines for groceries and hot meals increasingly include even middle-class families, turning to charity for the first time after losing a job or falling behind on their mortgage payments.

Sister Jean Peter Wilders and her friend, Sister Chris-St. John Daniel, operate a food pantry and hot meal program out of their Household of Faith “convent,” a Lake Worth residential home. They are trying to feed hungry families, or the newly jobless, that say other feeding programs turned them down because they were out of groceries.

“We have people coming here sobbing. We’ve never seen it this bad,” Wilders said.

Concerned about increasing requests and the need to stretch donations further, the sisters now give groceries every other week, rather than weekly, to each family.

On a recent morning, Violet Ortiz, 61, made her first visit to the Household of Faith’s pantry. The sisters filled her cardboard box with salad dressing, canned vegetables and cereal — food for Ortiz, her daughter, her daughter’s boyfriend, and her 89-year-old father, all living together to make ends meet.

Ortiz, a widow, lost her job as a church secretary in October when the congregation had to cut expenses. At the church, Ortiz sometimes quietly referred financially strapped parishioners to the sisters’ pantry.

Now she has to seek help there herself.

“This has been a disastrous time for us,” Ortiz said.

The Cooperative Feeding Program in Fort Lauderdale also is seeing an increase in demand, as well as “people who are very different from the ones we served before,” said Director Marti Forman. “They are more nicely dressed, and are coming in nicer cars. Everyone has a different story, but they all have been hit by hard times.”

The program is serving daily hot meals to 500 to 560 people, compared with 300 to 400 a year ago, plus gives out 130 boxes of groceries daily. But Forman said Cooperative Feeding has reduced the box size, as the program is adding about 200 to 250 new mouths to feed each month.

New federal statistics show food prices in South Florida were up 7.2 percent in April over the previous year, the largest annual increase in the nation. April also saw the biggest month-to-month increase in food prices in 18 years.

Staples such as rice, bread and dairy products have been hit by double digit increases.

So the Meals on Wheels program that serves 1,426 homebound Palm Beach County seniors from Lake Worth to the county line has agreed its food provider, locked into a contract until next year, can eliminate rice from its dinners and use only seasonal fresh fruit.

The Palm Beach County Division of Senior Services expects the price of the 918 daily meals served at hot lunch sites at senior centers and community centers to rise from $3.10 to about $5 per unit next year. Service coordinator Tricia McCullough said attendance at those sites has been declining: “With gas prices going up, people can’t afford to drive there,” she said.

Fuel prices also are hurting Meals on Wheels in Broward County which, unlike in Palm Beach County, depends on volunteers to deliver to about 1,000 seniors — saving the agency about $204,000 in labor costs alone. The number of volunteers has dropped from about 250 to 197, said program services director Marlene Gray, as it becomes more expensive to fill their gas tanks.

Cooperative Feeding and Household of Faith are among the 800 agencies getting food through Daily Bread Food Bank, a massive South Florida collection agency that collects commodities from large corporate and government donors. Daily Bread, which must truck in most of its food from farmers or manufacturers in Georgia or the Midwest, has seen its food transportation costs doubling, with diesel fuel more than $4 a gallon.

At the same time, private donations are down.

“Families who donated food now are trying to fill their own cupboards,” said Phil Dickey, Daily Bread’s director of development. Large convention caterers also are watching their waste, he said, so there are fewer leftovers to give away.

Staff Writer Diane Lade can be reached at or 954-356-4295 or 561-243-6618.

Tammie Fills the Warehouse

In case you somehow missed it, this past weekend was the NALC’s 16th annual “Stamp Out Hunger” Food Drive. Across the country people were asked to donate non perishable food by leaving it at their mailbox for their letter carrier to pick up. In Broward County, that would be members of the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 2550. The response was fantastic, with almost 250,000 pounds of food donated to The Cooperative Feeding Program! (The final numbers aren’t quite ready yet as some branches have continued to receive donations and some of the smaller branches donations were given to other local agencies. )

What a lot of people don’t realize is how much volunteerism is involved in this project. This is a tremendous effort that is spearheaded by the NALC but involves people across the postal service and other AFL-CIO unions. Individual letter carriers lugged donations back to their branches on Saturday, May 10th.   NALC members, their families and community volunteers sorted, boxed and sealed the food for transport to CFP.   Amazingly they managed to process all that food and get it on to 10 tractor trailers.  The food was delivered to CFP throughout the day on Sunday, May 11th – Mother’s Day.

Fortunately we didn’t have to unload that all ourselves! NALC members and Target team members were on hand to help unload the trucks and stock the warehouse throughout the 11 hour day. Tammie Cadwell, the coordinator for Broward County, even got in a little forklift practice (see pic above). In between deliveries they cleaned and stocked the pantry, sorted out the warehouse and did a host of other projects that needed doing. It was a long day of work that netted huge results. I would say you all made your mothers proud!

See the article below for a great story on how one of our local 11 year olds is changing the world and taking action to end hunger. If you’re not quite ready to have a bill named after you, you can still be a mover and shaker by helping us take action on the Farm Bill. Go to FRAC’s website (Food Research and Action Center) to have your opinion heard and get this vital piece of legislation passed.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bill to help feed hungry named after 11-year-old advocate from Coconut Grove

from the South Florida Sun Sentinel

By Josh Hafenbrack

He’s only 11, but South Florida’s Jack Davis has accomplished a feat few can match: He’s poised to get a Florida law named after him.

The sixth-grader’s cause: Making it easier for restaurants to donate their leftover food to homeless shelters and charities.

Jack, of Coconut Grove, started writing letters to legislators after a family vacation last summer in Tennessee, where a hotel manager told him the leftovers at a breakfast buffet would be thrown away. The hotel, the manager explained, couldn’t risk a lawsuit if someone got food poisoning or had an allergic reaction.

Later, during a trip to his mother’s native Peru, Jack saw a nation with widespread poverty and came home determined to salvage leftovers headed to the garbage bin.

“I volunteered for my school’s outreach program, and we went to shelters and I saw what [food] they get,” Jack said. “They’re good people, with families and kids. I wanted to improve their living conditions.”

Two Broward County legislators, Rep. Ari Porth and Sen. Nan Rich, took up Jack’s cause, and the “Jack Davis Florida Restaurant Lending a Helping Hand Act” sailed through the Legislature. After getting unanimous approval from both chambers last week, the measure awaits Gov. Charlie Crist’s signature.

The bill named in Jack’s honor (SB276) expands Florida’s Good Samaritan food-donation law to provide a lawsuit exemption for restaurants that donate their leftovers to charities and nonprofit organizations.

Researchers say that about a quarter of the food produced in America is thrown away — enough to feed 49 million people.

“Not all restaurants have a lot of leftovers, but for the ones that do, it was tough for them to [donate the food] because of the fear of liability,” said Jennifer Garner, communications director for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, which supported the bill.

Jack’s legislative debut landed him a segment on ABC World News and a trip to Los Angeles as a guest on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Back home in South Florida, he got a standing ovation at an assembly gathered in his honor at Ransom Everglades School.”It has been amazing,” said Jack’s mother, Yasmin. “I told Jack, ‘Chances are, nothing’s going to happen. Concentrate on your schoolwork and quit writing so many letters.’ He proved me wrong.”

Jack didn’t stop at letters. He made a personal appeal at the Capitol, lobbying the governor and testifying at a House committee that was debating the bill. His mother said he was even careful to hide his political leanings — he’s a staunch Democrat and Barack Obama supporter — lest he spoil his bill’s chances in a Republican-led Legislature.

“It’s so exciting, to know that there are young people out there who are interested and want to make a difference, want to make a change when they see something that’s not right,” said Rich, a Weston Democrat. “He really pursued it.”

Added Porth, D- Coral Springs, “I haven’t ever been contacted by an 11-year-old about a bill before.”

What’s next for Jack? He said he’s not sure if he wants to run for public office one day, but in classic politician’s form, he’s not ruling anything out.