The Epidemic of Hunger in the Valley

Fresno, CA, USA Take the west Fresno county town of Mendota with its population of 96-hundred people for example. At noon a few days before Christmas a crowd gathered outside the youth center waiting for a holiday box of food. Inside the center's director, Nancy Daniel explained why, "We distributed 7-hundred bags of groceries on Thursday and Friday and had to turn away approximately 50 then." But under a brooding, darkened sky this day would bring disappointment as well as Daniel walked down the hundreds in line to tell them, "No, aye comida (we're out of food)."

Times are hard here, water allotments to farming have been cut, a sugar plant closed; leaving a wake of unemployment at a staggering forty percent. Nancy Daniel explained that, " ... with no water the growers can't grow anything and our people can't work." Still they look for work and they stand in line for food. Most of which comes from the Community Food Bank in central Fresno where the need has doubled this year.

Fresno County's overall unemployment rate is closing in on 12 percent. This is how Dana Wilkie, who runs the food bank puts it,:In the Central Valley nearly 1 out of 3 people don't know what where their next meal's coming from and 40 percent of those are children."

Eighty percent of the food bank's warehouse is empty. Its fleet of trucks is parked inside, waiting for next year's donations of food and money.

Brian Stewart of Fresno's Community Brethren Church gratefully picked up donated Fresno state turkeys to feed a growing number of hungry neighbors. Brian Stewart, community brethren church Fresno: it means a lot of families in our neighborhood are going to get fed. It's increased last Sunday night to 77 people, families that are attending every Sunday night."

Back in Mendota Linda Bustos is one of the fortunate; she was among those who got a box. Food for her table set for six: her in-laws, two children, herself and her husband. Linda Bustos, Mendota resident: her husband is out of work, out of un-employment and so they're in need right now."

These days unemployment reaches into every sector of our society and like the volunteers in Mendota everyone, says Dana Willkie, can play some role in helping others in need. Dana Willkie, community food bank, make a donation, donate a can of food, even spend an hour volunteering ... for every dollar we get, we can turn that into 8 dollars worth of food ... we can make sure that hungry families like those in Mendota, in the hardest hit areas, have their needs met."

Donations to food banks and other non-profit organization are tax deductible and as you can see very much appreciated and needed.

For more information about the Valley's food banks and opportunities to volunteer check out the links below.

Fresno, Madera, Kings Counties

Tulare County

Merced and Mariposa Counties

Kern County


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