Valley Focus: Campaign Underway To Support Food Bank

For more than 25 years Community Food Bank has helped put food on the table for thousands of families in Central California. No easy task as its leaders explains one in three children is hungry in Central California.

Now it has a new home and name but its mission is the same.

Community Food Bank CEO Andy Souza unveiled the non-profit's new name: Central California Food Bank. He joined Valley Focus host Margot Kim in the ABC30 studios to discuss reasons for the name change,

the move to a larger warehouse in Fresno and the new campaign to raise money for the facility.

Margot: What's behind the name change to something that we've been familiar with for so long?

Andy: Yeah, it was a really difficult choice. I mean, the Community Food Bank has a long name and a longstanding reputation in the community, but over the last

three years, we've expanded our service area to now we're in five counties through here and Central California -- Madera, Kings, Tulare, Kern, and ourselves here in Fresno.

And so we just felt like it was time to re-establish the breadth. Most people don't realize we serve all five counties, so by the name of Central California, really puts a stake in the

ground that we're serving up and down our Central Valley here.

Margot: And because a lot of people may have assumed you're just Fresno-centered or located and not realizing the vast area it serves.

Andy: Absolutely. I think that's -- Again, the good side is, we have a very strong reputation. The downside is, it tends to be very Fresno-centric.

We were often called Fresno Community Food Bank, and so now, being the Central California Food Bank really does identify all of the people we're serving here.

Margot: And along with that new rename is a new location, as well.

Andy: Yes, it is. It's exciting. Well, we are about a month and a half from moving into our new facility, but it's gonna triple the size, which is wonderful,

because our current location, we've been there for over 10 years. And we were there when we were distributing about 5 million meals a year.

We're now at 33 million meals. So we were really a size-10 foot in a size-8 shoe, as with kids outgrowing all the clothing. But bigger than that, Margot, we were having to turn away food

and volunteers, and those are really donated food, and volunteers are really the core of how we provide the service we do at the expenses that we do.

So it has really been a great opportunity. We're gonna have three times space, which is exciting. We're gonna be able to store all the fresh produce on location

now instead of having to have cold storage in Reedley. So it's really a great opportunity for us. And you were touching on that community commitment, the donations that come into the

food bank. But you also need funding to keep this new facility going.

Andy: We do. We're still in the capital-campaign phase. We still have a few months left of that. Our goal is to reach $5 million towards the purchase price. We're well on our way to that,

but every little bit helps, so folks could go online to and there's a building hope-- Building Hope campaign button that they could hit and make a donation there.

'Cause, again, every dollar that we don't have to pay for the loan on the building is seven meals a week we can provide here in the Valley.

Margot: So every donation you're able to stretch even farther.

Andy: We really are. It's just the nature of being here in the Central Valley in Central California and the rich agricultural region and the tremendous generosity of the ag

community as well as families here. We're able to take that dollar that's donated, turn it into seven meals.

Margot: What about the growth of the food bank? Unfortunately, you are serving more meals, and there is a growing need. What is the status of that across the Valley?

Andy: Sure. When I started in 2010, we were serving about 120,000 people a month. We're up to 280,000, and, unfortunately, we're only hitting about half the need here

in the five counties we serve. The 33 million meals represent about half of the 65 million meals that we need to be distributed so that nobody has to go to sleep hungry.

So while we're making great inroads, the challenge is still a big one that's in front of us.

Margot: And these are families from all walks of life.

Andy: They really are. What we've seen is that hunger is in every neighborhood in our community. It can be your next-door neighbor, it can be the family that may have had a temporary

hiccup with a furlough or somebody being laid off, and it is just, unfortunately, far more common than we tend to see in the everyday life.

Margot: You talked about they could be our neighbor.

Andy: Yeah.

Margot: So how do we help our neighbors?

Andy: So, for us, the easy way is -- and it always sounds so mercenary, but if folks make that financial donation to the community food bank, we're able to stretch that into food that goes out throughout all five

counties and really have the opportunity, working with our partner agencies, to really stretch that dollar a long way. And the other way is, there's just something also, Margot, about handling food that you know

is gonna be on somebody's table. So food drives are also a great part of what we do, but any support we can get volunteering, it always really helps to stretch the resources we have.

Margot: It always strikes us, the irony, of living in the most, the richest agricultural center in the world, and still, we have a hunger problem. And that's not to say that

donations from all of our great farming families come pouring into the food bank, but there is still that need for the richest farmland in the world.

Andy: There really is. And I think if you look into the depths of it, we still have an unemployment rate in our region that's twice the state average and twice the national average.

So, the recession is long over through most of the country, and there are still pockets, especially when you get into the rural communities here in the Valley that is really

struggling. Families are still just really working hard to make ends meet.

Margot: So we can give to the capital campaign.

Andy: Yes, yes, please.

Margot: Are you open for volunteers,as well?

Andy: Absolutely. We always -- Volunteers are such a strong part of how we're able to keep our operating costs down and stretch those dollars even further. So if folks want to volunteer,

they can call us at 237-3663, extension 1106, and they'll get Jobelle, and she'll get it all set up.

Margot: You need a lot more bodies to fill that new facility, too.

Andy: Absolutely. That's one of the great things about it -- we won't have to turn away volunteers anymore. We certainly will have a lot of projects for folks to join us with.

Margot: Yeah. So, a new era, all the way around, for the Central California Food Bank.

Andy: You know, it really is. We're pretty excited about it and the bright future that's before us, and, hopefully, we just get to, day to day, see

that as few people as possible have to go to sleep hungry at night.

Margot: All right. Well, Andy, we appreciate that the food bank is here.

Andy: Well, Margot, thank you so much.

Margot: Well, show your support for the newly named Central California Food Bank, a new name but the same mission -- helping feed hungry children and

families across our Central California region. Go to to donate today.
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