Hunger relief group assesses local need
There’s an increasing number of people in Truckee having a difficult time making ends meet.
“There is little work and rent is expensive,” said one woman at a recent meeting for hunger relief organization Project MANA (making adequate nutrition available).
High rent was the pervasive theme of the meeting – many saying they are unable to afford food because housing is so expensive.
“With Project MANA we’re looking at food nutrition,” said Project MANA’s Truckee program manager Nancy Claire Laird, “but you can’t help but notice the other issues surrounding it.”
The gathering was the third of four meetings held by Laird as part of a large effort to assess the nutrition needs of people who have trouble making ends meet.
“So far the feedback has been really positive,” Laird said.
“The information we’ve received so far makes me believe there’s an increasing need [for social services] in Truckee,” she added.
In March, the average number of people who went to the community center to pick up food doubled from about 20 to 40. At a recent food distribution, 67 people showed up for the complimentary food and more than 40 were lined up a half-hour early to be sure they got enough food for themselves and their family.
Although Project MANA has done a lot of outreach lately, Laird said she also thinks the increased turnout is due to the economy and the spring lull in seasonal employment.
“It’s hard times for people right now,” she said. “I just keep hearing that.”
Anecdotal information has been helpful for Laird to assess the needs of those who can’t afford food, but she’s searching for more hardcore data.
The needs assessment has included sifting through Census data and viewing previous community studies. Laird has also handed out surveys to more than 30 area non-profits, mostly through the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee, to find out their clients’ needs.
However, the most important, albeit challenging, piece of the study has been obtaining input from those who actually use the services of Project MANA through surveys, offered in both English and Spanish, and informational meetings.
The most recent meeting was part of that effort. Approximately 20 interested people showed up to give input on their needs and provided information so Laird can assess how to improve Project MANA’s services.
“You do wonderful already,” said one female attendee.
“It would be better if [food distribution] was there at 6 in the evening. I have to work,” said one man.
Project MANA currently distributes goods at 12:15 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Truckee Community Center on Church Street. Laird said the study may result in an additional food distribution time.
Many people at the meeting had never used Project MANA’s services, because they had never heard of the organization before.
Laird, who’s position at Project MANA is funded through a USDA community food and nutrition grant, said the outreach and assessment process has also created some “in roads” with Truckee’s Latino community.
“That’s taken some effort. It really takes knowing people in the Latino community and that’s taken some time. We’re just trying to bridge the gap,” she said.
After the fourth community meeting slated for June 5, and the demographic data is compiled, Laird said, Project MANA should have a map of what to do next to meet the needs of their clients.
For more information on Project MANA and its services, call 582-4079.
Project MANA food distribution hours and general information
— Food distribution is every Tuesday from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the Truckee Community Center. Participants should bring empty bags or boxes to take their food home.
— USDA comes with extra canned and non-perishable items to the regular food distribution on the third Tuesday of each month, from 12:15 to 1 p.m. at the Truckee Community Center. Starting in June, USDA will also provide additional goods on the first Tuesday of each month.
— For those who can’t drive, Project MANA offers delivery.
— The final community needs assessment meeting will be held Thursday, June 5 at Donner Creek Trailer Park from 6:30 to 8 p.m. There will be volunteers on hand for those who need assistance in filling out the survey.
— Help Project MANA assess your needs by picking up a survey at the food pickup.
— Call Project MANA to get involved with its community garden.
— Project MANA keeps all information confidential and clients remain anonymous.
— For more information on Project MANA and its programs, call 582-4079. Messages may be left in English and Spanish.
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