As Americans struggle to feed their families during these tough economic times, communities are relying on food banks to provide nutritional meals for disadvantaged households. For the northern California community of Mendocino County, residents in need are finding help in the Fort Bragg Food Bank, run by the Mendocino Food and Nutrition Program, a local nonprofit. Serving about 1,100 households each week, the food bank distributes emergency food to low-income coastal Mendocino County residents from Elk to Westport, including the towns of Mendocino and Fort Bragg. Their mission is to provide nutritious food that supports people in creating a healthy and better life.
Once a week, clients may pick up a bag of staple foods and choose from a variety of fresh produce, bakery items, and limited quantities of meat, eggs and dairy. Also, once a month, eligible seniors and families with children under age 6 may receive a box of staple foods through the Commodities Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) which is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. But their work doesn’t stop there. In addition, the program distributes commodities to food banks, food distribution sites, soup kitchens, and homeless service agencies throughout the entire county, providing over a million pounds of food each year to clients countywide.
With the help of a Community Development Block Grant, in 1993 the program purchased a 4,800-square-foot warehouse, and with additional funding from local nonprofits and donors, they installed walk-in refrigeration, pallet shelving, and a kitchen, and purchased forklifts and vehicles.
Fast forward to 2011. With the downturn in the economy and food price pressures, the program has seen a 30% increase in demand in the last two years. To help meet the community’s growing needs, the food bank was awarded a $16,000 Community Facilities grant that will be used together with $13,100 of their own funds to help address deferred maintenance to their warehouse. The project includes roof and parking lot repairs, exterior painting, an awning and other building repairs—improvements that are long overdue.
While the Mendocino Food and Nutrition Program has received funding for food, nutrition education, and operational expenses through various government and private groups, monetary contributions from the local community provide half of their cash budget, and local food donations make up about 45% of the food they distribute. This is truly a grassroots organization and USDA is proud to support it.