The CalFresh Food Challenge
In the weeks following the Valley Fire, our police officers were extra busy helping to provide extra law enforcement patrol for the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. Each of the UPD officers who worked in Lake County commented on the devastation from the fire and the tremendous outpouring of support coming from our community to help. It sure is a good reminder to know that so many people here in Ukiah want to help those in need.
While the fires caused many more people to seek assistance, some people in our community have been struggling to meet basic needs for a long time. Here in Mendocino County, more than 12,000 people (more than 13 percent of our county’s population) are enrolled in the CalFresh/Food Stamp Program. CalFresh provides low-income residents with a food budget of $5 a day. As you can imagine, these people have a hard time affording a healthy diet for their families.
So starting next week (Oct. 19 - 23), Mendocino County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) is asking all of us to take the CalFresh Challenge: to eat a healthy diet on $5 a day for 5 days. The challenge is intended to highlight how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods and stay healthy on a very limited budget.
If you’re up for the challenge, you can sign up to participate at www.healthymendocino.org; just click the CalFresh Challenge button to learn more about the challenge and to register for it.
I encourage you to read the journal posted by a family that participated in the challenge in 2014. It describes the day-to-day the struggles they faced as they tried to maintain a healthy diet with so little money. Even if you do not participate in the challenge, reading about how this family struggled to stretch a dollar really gives you an appreciation for how hard it is.
If you decide to participate, HHSA will send you a fantastic booklet that describes the challenge, provides some great tips for eating healthy on a limited budget, and provides a food log to track your progress.
I think the CalFresh Challenge is really important because it highlights the daily struggle many our local residents face. Finding affordable housing, paying ever-increasing bills, and staying within a budget to eat a healthy well is hard enough for most middle-income families. The CalFresh Challenge helps us understand the overwhelming struggles faced every day by those with low incomes and fixed incomes (including our senior citizens).
If you’re lucky enough to afford healthy meals each day, and you have enough to share, let me tell you about two wonderful organizations that could use your contributions to help feed our community.
The Ukiah Food Bank serves those who struggle to afford food for themselves and their families. Each week, the Food Bank distributes food to an average of 1,689 people in inland Mendocino County. With a meager annual budget of $112,775, the Food Bank serves more than 20,000 people each year. A small federal food stamp program funds some of the food, but the vast majority of the food comes from food donated by local grocery stores, private gardens, and food purchased with money generously donated by local community members.
Plowshares serves lunch and dinner at their facility on South State Street, Monday through Friday. For those who can’t make it to Plowshares, their Meals on Wheels program delivers 2,250 meals each month to homebound seniors and disabled members of the community.
To learn more about these and other local resources in Mendocino County (to get help or donate), visit www.211mendocino.org/food.
If you’d like to help through donations, both Plowshares (1346 S. State St.) and the Ukiah Community Center Food Bank (888 N. State St.) can always use your financial assistance to feed our community.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.
By: Chris Dewey – Chief of Police