It’s been in the news a lot lately… fears of rising unemployment, economic stagnation and mortgage woes. We’re seeing it at The Cooperative Feeding Program. Where we used to provide 300-400 hot meals a day we’ve been well over 400 for a while now and have had a number of days in the 550 range.

It can be quite overwhelming and a lot of times individuals feel they have no power to effect change. Everyone is looking for someone else to have answer, the President’s stimulus package, a bail out of Bears Stearns, or some solution to the mortgage debacle. While we certainly need some leadership in these areas at the end of the day there is something you can do – put your money where your mouth is.

Money definitely talks in our society. If you don’t like what a company does, don’t support them. Just as importantly though if a company is doing great things – supporting the community, treating their employees fairly or building a more sustainable corporate environment – help grow that by choosing to buy from them. There are lots of great companies, big and small, doing some great things. You’ve seen a few of them mentioned in this blog or on our website –UPS, Target, Transworld Business Brokers, Jarden Consumer Solutions, CASF, BankAtlantic, First Data, ABB Con-Cise – they’re all doing things right now!

I’ll make it easy for you to get started. On April 1st (no, it’s not a prank) at 7 P.M. Dorian Cirrone, a local author, will be at the Barnes & Nobles at the Broward Mall to sign her new book – Prom Kings and Drama Queens – a story about high school students staging an alternative prom. Come out to the store and support a local author working to empower youth to make better decisions and….. if you use this nifty voucher when you purchase something, Barnes & Noble will donate a portion of the proceeds to Cooperative Feeding. If you can’t make it that night, the voucher is good through April 4th. See how easy that is?

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The quickest blog post ever….. Andy Cagnetta (CFP Board member) is holding his annual “Andy’s Family Pasta Dinner”, a fundraiser benefiting The Cooperative Feeding Program in our efforts to end hunger in Broward County.  This year’s event is February 17, 2008 at the Signature Grand.   Adult tickets are only $25 and youth are free if they bring a bag of food or hold a personal fundraiser through Firstgiving.  This a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon and help defeat hunger.

Here’s a letter from Andy (copy/paste makes for way easy blogging) with all the details.

Dear Friends and Family,

How’s this stat “1 in 6 Broward residents go hungry every day”!! Many of them kids! Can you imagine trying to get good grades being hungry!!!

Here are some easy instructions on how to get involved (I will send a few emails out describing the event). First step is I need more sponsors. Especially the presenting sponsor! I am about to hit the airwaves and print and would like to mention the presenting sponsor on the air!!! So call me now if you want to be the presenting sponsor!

Or follow step one.

1) Sponsor the event! The Presenting Sponsorship is $10,000, and we have levels at $5,000, $2,500, $1,000, $500, $250, $100. Download this form here or go to http://www.firstgiving.com/pastadinner and just use a credit card.

I would like to thank our Major Sponsors thus far:

South Florida Sinus and Allergy Center
Bank of America
Transworld Business Brokers
The Signature Grand
Solomon Snow Advertsing
Miller Construction
WQAM

The next emails will outline the next steps of getting your kids involved, donating if you can’t come anyway, auction items, buying tickets. The short story is below.

2) Get YOUR kids/young adults involved now! Call me or all the information is here http://www.tworld.com/pastaforms/2008VolunteerGuide.doc

3) Not going? Live far away? Help me anyway! Just Donate here now! http://www.firstgiving.com/pastadinner (or use Lauren/Rachel’s site http://www.firstgiving.com/cagnettagirls )

4) Send or help gather auction items. http://www.tworld.com/pastaforms/AuctionItemPasta2008.doc

5) BUY TICKETS AND JOIN US!!! Go to the website http://www.feedingbroward.org/help_EventAndysFamilyPastaDinner.asp or the main site and click tickets.

Still confused? Email me back and I will help you help me!

I look forward to a record year in raising money, gathering food, and involving our young people in community service.

Andy Cagnetta
Transworld Business Brokers

They’re here…….doing all sorts of things. Things you should know about.

Teens are here leading. Yesterday The Cooperative Feeding Program posted appeals in several places for help to refill the pantry’s very empty shelves. Who was the very first person to jump in to action? Jenna Iden, a high school student at University School of Nova Southeastern. Yup, you read it right. The leader so far in this critical drive is too young to vote, run for office or miss curfew. She forwarded the info to loads of people, encouraged them to participate, and was the first person to donate through our online virtual food drive . Well done Jenna.

Teens are here caring. Today the Harold Reitman Unit of the Boys and Girls Club of Broward County came to help us hand out coats (yes, it even gets cold in Ft. Lauderdale) and spread a little cheer during the grey, chilly morning. The coats came primarily from 2 sources; The Good Morning America/Burlington Coat Factory coat drive through One Warm Coat and the teens’ own coat drive. They came. They gave. They cheered. This isn’t the first time either. We’ve been very privileged to have them with us before. In fact they were just here on Christmas Day handing out hygiene kits and shirts. Imagine that. A bunch of teenagers giving up their Christmas morning and doing so fully equipped with big smiles, cheerful faces and a happy to be here attitude. We can’t wait to have them back here again.

The teens are here. Not just here as in a physical location. They’re here – leading, caring, helping to shape a more just and sustainable future. They are here helping in the pantry, serving on the line, taking a turn at the front desk, even sorting mail. They’re here at their schools, their clubs and homes.

The teens are here. Where are you?

It’s also for plenty, which is what we don’t have right now. The holidays are over, but hunger isn’t. In 2 months The Cooperative Feeding Program moved over 210,000 pounds of food, which is over 6000 emergency boxes. It’s a fantastic thing to be able to put such a basic necessity of life into so many hands, but all the hard work has left our shelves empty and warehouse depleted. I know, it’s a bit depressing, but around here there is no time for depressing! We’ve pulled on our bootstraps, circled the wagons and are sending out the word – Virtual Food Drives now!  Here’s how you can participate in the drive and restock those shelves.

1. Jump on our website and click on the virtual food drive link (it’s on the left). You’ll be redirected to our secure server where you can shop in our virtual grocery store.

2. Go to our Firstgiving page and do a personal fundraising campaign. You can do it all on your onsies or challenge your friends to a fundraising duel.

3. If you’re a local, shake down your cupboards, your mom’s kitchen (with her permission of course), your friends’ pantries (you should ask them first too), anywhere some non-perishable food might be hiding out and bring it on over. We’ll be sure it goes to a good home.

4. Pass it on. Forward this blog to all of your contacts. You never know who just might have 6 or 7 pallets of peanut butter lying about waiting for us to come get!

Wheee Doggies!

January 2, 2008

Well campers it’s been very busy here at The Cooperative Feeding Program. In November alone we served 11,750 meals and gave out over 3,300 food boxes. Needless to say we were a bit busy. Our web updates, (including our e-newsletter) have been a bit sporadic lately. So, in order to be sure we tell you all the great things going on, thank as many wonderful people as possible, and keep you up to date on hunger, homelessness and social justice issues I’ll be updating the blog, Facebook and MySpace quite often. Get ready!Each update will be fairly short, so if you don’t see yourself, group, or question addressed,wait a bit and see if it doesn’t show up soon. Of course, you can always drop me a note if you think we missed you or someone else. As always feel free to e-mail me (maureen@feedingbroward.org) any pics, videos, or info on your volunteer group activities for The Cooperative Feeding Program.

Oh and you social networking volunteers? I haven’t forgotten you. In fact I’m probably calling you right now…….

Best of all things good and sustainable in 2008!

Spam hurts

November 27, 2007

It really does, especially a few cases of it in a crate wielded by Jillian, Cooperative Feeding’s Deputy Director, as she collides with you on her way to fill the pantry shelves. Of course the Spam in question is the real world, potted meat kind and we’ve gone through an amazing amount of it this month. Just to give you an idea…between November 1st and the time we went home on November 21st (the day before Thanksgiving) we gave out over 2900 food boxes. Usually in that same number of days about 1800 boxes would be given out. How did we do it all? One word (no, not Spam) – volunteers.

The week of Thanksgiving volunteers from all over were doing food drives, receiving and sorting food donations, packing food boxes, working in the kitchen, making hygiene kits, rolling forks, stuffing envelopes and a whole host of other things. University School of Nova Southeastern University, Northeastern High’s Spanish Club, Doric Masonic Lodge #140, BCC Sociology, Archbishop McCarthy High School, E Sciences Inc., Representative Ron Klein and staff, Interact Club, Ramat Shalom Synagogue and Marlow, Connell, Valerius, Abrams, Adler, Newman & Lewis were all here along with many others.

On Thanksgiving Day, 100 Target volunteers gave up their day off to run the festivities here. They did everything from cooking and serving in the kitchen to cleaning and sorting in the pantry. They also provided a very generous donation to offset the expenses of the day and handed out hygiene kits and supplies. The Sun-Sentinel included them in a Thanksgiving story you can read here.

Our volunteers are amazing. So amazing in fact that last year they accounted for more than 40% of the labor needed to operate Cooperative Feeding. That’s not just Thanksgiving time, that’s 365 days a year. If you weren’t able to be with us last week, what are you doing tomorrow, next month or the middle of July? Our volunteers are here then too. Maybe you can be one of them. Watch out for flying Spam though. It really does hurt and I have the bruises to prove it.

Are you a Bubba?

November 17, 2007

The Cooperative Feeding Program was fortunate to be featured in a story on diminishing federal aid to food banks by the Sun-Sentinel last week. If you didn’t catch the print version it included a very nice picture of Barbara, our Pantry Manager, and Bubba, one of our customers, as she handed him his bag of food. It was a nice picture and we passed the paper around commenting on it and how much we liked Bubba. He volunteered with us often, helping others through their morning meal. Everyone had a story to tell, a connection to make.

This morning the picture went around again, but for a very different reason. Bubba was shot a few days ago and died after suffering a massive heart attack on the operating table. Of course we were all shocked, another act of senseless violence right here in our hometown. What really struck me though was what a big hole in the world, one which can be palpably felt, his passing made. He was no political leader, no major philanthropist or life saving surgeon, but he was kind, compassionate and genuine. If your life was over right now, in this instant, how many people could say that about you?

Most of us will never broker a Middle East peace accord, discover a cure for a disease or be a captain of industry, but we can all be kind. Hold the door for a stranger. Smile gently at someone on the street who looks in need of a little kindness, a little compassion. Acknowledge the cashier at the grocery store and for the few minutes it takes to check out engage with them, ask them how they are and mean it. If someone cuts you off in traffic, slow down and let them in. Be thankful that you didn’t have an accident and your life come to an end sharply, abruptly and without warning.

These are not big things, not complicated acts. But if we each were a little kinder, a little more compassionate, a little more like Bubba wouldn’t the world be a better place? As we move into the holiday season ask yourself this question….. Are you a Bubba?