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 dlade@sun-sentinel.com 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.

Define it

April 24, 2008

funny dog pictures

How many of you looked at this picture and thought get a job, get rid of the dog or go home to your folks? How many of you looked at it and thought these two need help, who can help them? If you are in the second group Cooperative Feeding can help and so can you by volunteering, doing food drives (which can include pet food) or just by spreading the word. If you are in the first group, maybe you need to come spend a little time with us in the food pantry or community kitchen and look at how you define home, need, unconditional.

Looking at this picture we can’t really know anything about this person or his furry companion, but I’m sure we all look at it, make assumptions, and react. None of us know what has brought them here, what other options they might have, or where “here” even is and that’s rather the point. You don’t know.

What I find most intriguing about this picture is that it raises the idea of defining homelessness and what homeless persons (the furry sort too) need or want. I think most Americans think of the homeless rather like this picture. The truth might surprise you.

Many of our homeless clients you would walk by on the street and never know they were living in their car, sleeping on friends’ couches, staying in one of the county’s shelters or living on the streets. Then there are those that have shelter, but worry each month if they will lose it, or perhaps they live with family or in a motel. Not technically homeless, but definitely not housing secure and they too often find themselves not paying utilities or buying food so that they can pay the rent.

They often have jobs, education, families. A health emergency, an accident, a bad decision, an addiction… things that could happen to any of us move them from living pay check to pay check to needing public assistance or being out on the streets. Sometimes what they need isn’t what you think. It could be that getting food stamps would have been enough to put food on the table and pay the rent. Maybe mental health counseling would help them move forward and maybe a beloved dog is what is giving them the stability and love they need to make it through one more day.

Maybe just a bag of dog food a month and a hot meal a day would help these two make it through life a little easier. Maybe just a kind word directing them to a place like Cooperative Feeding is all they need to help re-define home. They seem to have the unconditional part down pretty well.

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?

This Valentine’s Day show people where your heart really is and say no to stale grocery store chocolates and flowers that will just die anyway.  Join us over at Changing the Present  and send your special someones a virtual gift that benefits The Cooperative Feeding Program.  For just a buck you can send your sweetie a PB&J, your brother a toothbrush or your grandma  a pair of scoks to pay her back for all of those holiday ones she gave you.   $5 will grab you school supplies for needy kids and for $10 you can pick between sending someone to the showers or helping them get an ID.  Donate $20 and you can do lunch for 10 and $50 will feed a family.  Of course you could go for broke and donate $1,000 for a van load of food.  All fine choices and all way better than that stale box of chocolates.

If you are a Facebook user, you can send it direct to another friend on Facebook and let the whole of Facebook know where your heart lies.   Just look for the Changing the Present icon.

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