Community Matters: Helping Truckee’s hungry
My dog, Blossom, had a great time at last year’s 4th of July parade. She picked up roadkill and pranced through Truckee’s roundabout with a stiff squirrel in her mouth. She was the youngest participant in the Bernese Mountain Dog contingent.
One of Blossom’s favorite activities is to play in the meadow behind Tahoe Donner’s tennis courts. There are always tennis balls for her to play with – the ones people hit over the fence.
Blossom plays with tennis balls when she is out there and then leaves them behind when her walk is over. She has no need to take a ball with her because her entire experience is one of plenty. Tennis balls will always exist in “her” meadow.
What happens when our experience is not one of plenty? I remember meeting a woman when I worked at a shelter for battered women. She came in for food and I helped her pack a week’s worth of groceries. She mentioned that she had been feeding her children boxed macaroni and cheese using water instead of milk. I said I couldn’t image macaroni and cheese mixed with water. The woman sighed, looked me in the eye and told me it was clear I had never really been hungry.
In a meeting with representatives from Project MANA (the sole hunger relief organization in North Tahoe), a person asked if hunger truly exists in our region. George LeBard, Project MANA’s executive director, responded that the hunger isn’t the swollen belly malnutrition witnessed in Africa and other third-world countries but, yes, there is hunger in our community.
Every night, here in the Tahoe basin, people go to bed hungry. Children are fed candy bars to fill their stomachs because healthy food is not available. Parents feed their children and eat nothing for themselves. Children on free or reduced lunch at school don’t get those nutritious meals during holidays or summer break.
Project MANA distributes food, assists with budgeting and refers families to other organizations that can help them obtain a basic level of subsistence. Project MANA staff believe food is a basic right of humanity and that their job is to help families break the cycles of hunger and poverty. A person or family can get food six times just by coming into one of Project MANA’s offices or distribution points. After that, family members meet with a Project MANA staff person to review their situation and look for ways for the family to achieve more stability.
Project MANA also works with grocery stores to receive donations of bread, vegetables and dairy products on the verge of reaching their expiration. These perishable foods are redistributed to local families in need of adequate nutrition. Last year Project MANA provided food to more than 5,000 households in our region.
My dog, Blossom, doesn’t know the people who leave the tennis balls for her. But because they do, she has the security that allows her to believe they will always be there. Surely a community as blessed as ours can provide that same level of security to families by making sure everyone has adequate food. Maybe we can’t solve underlying problems that lead up to someone not having food. But I do know without food it is almost impossible to have the strength to face those problems.
Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation supports Project MANA. We believe that our community as a whole can sleep better if no one goes to bed hungry. If you would like more information on Project MANA, please call George LeBard at 546-2416 or Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation at 587-1776.
Lisa Dobey is president of Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation. She can be reached at 587-1776 or firstname.lastname@example.org. TTCF’s goal is to grow philanthropy to meet community needs and opportunities.
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