City of Ukiah, California

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The Food Bank Needs Our Help

Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective. 

If your goal is to keep people from committing a crime, one of the most effective things you can do is provide them with food, shelter, and jobs. A person who is not hungry, who has a place to live, who has the promise of a job, and who has the ability to provide for his or her family is a person who is less likely to commit a crime.

And preventing crime makes our community a better place to live, a safer place to live. 

I hope you have seen that the Ukiah Daily Journal and the Ukiah Food Bank are in the midst of their annual donation drive. For the past several years, the Ukiah Daily Journal has sponsored the Ukiah Food Bank’s annual funding drive. This drive is the primary funding source of the Food Bank’s annual budget. Without this drive – without your help – our Food Bank could not operate.

I am constantly amazed by what our local Food Bank achieves each year. It’s hard not to be impressed by the way they impact so many lives through their assistance, and also by the incredibly dedicated people who are passionate about providing these essential services to those less fortunate than ourselves.

In case you do not know much about the Food Bank, let me tell you a little bit about this wonderful organization and how your contributions can help our entire 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.

Who goes to the Food Bank?

  • 51 percent of those served are local families with children, often people who are unemployed or only have part-time employment.  
  • 22 percent of those served are local senior citizens on fixed incomes.  
  • 28 percent of those served are local individuals who are disabled and cannot work.

The food bank also provides emergency food to about 33 people a month who have nowhere else to turn.

Last year, the food bank integrated its administrative oversight with the governing boards of the Ford Street Project and Buddy Eller Center to make each organization more effective.

The Ford Street Project offers alcohol and drug treatment programs, including a detoxification facility. The Buddy Eller Center is a 64-bed emergency shelter that provides a bed, shower, and breakfast to homeless individuals and families. Because of the need in our community, the shelter is full or nearly full year round. And with the economic downturn, the number of women and children is on the rise. 

Once people connect with the Buddy Eller Shelter and Ford Street Project, they also receive referrals for drug and alcohol counseling, mental health counseling, and assistance in obtaining transitional and permanent housing.

Jacque Williams, the executive director of the Ford Street Project, Buddy Eller Center, and Food Bank, said that the integration of these three organizations has allowed the Food Bank to become even more efficient.

In partnership with the Ford Street Project and Buddy Eller Center, the Food Bank provides jobs for people who are transitioning away from dangerous drug and alcohol activities. The program, which offers employment and transitional housing, teaches participants how to meet their own basic needs and the critical job skills they will need in the future. 

Jacque Williams said she really likes that they can use the Food Bank as a place to get people back on track – away from drugs and alcohol.

Sometimes it takes time for those who participate in the back-to-work program to understand the benefits. Initially, they are not very excited about working at the Food Bank, Jacque explained. But, watching the transformation in people has become one of Jacque’s favorite parts of the program.

“Usually people are reluctant to participate at first, but after helping other people take food out to their cars, day after day, those who are working at the Food Bank have a new understanding and new frame of mind about how lucky they are to be transitioning away from drugs or alcohol. These programs really do help those working at the Food Bank and those who need our assistance with food,” Jacque said.

Along with finding innovative ways to collaborate with Ford Street and the Buddy Eller Center, the Food Bank is also finding ways to stretch donated dollars as far as possible. Recently, the Food Bank received an $11,000 dollar grant from North Coast Opportunities (NCO) and the Gardens Project. The goal of the grant is to refurbish the garden at the Food Bank and the garden at the Buddy Eller Center.

At the Buddy Eller Center, they are converting the garden to a year-round garden, planting different crops depending on the season. This winter the garden has been planted with cover crops to help rejuvenate the soil, and next spring they plan to plant peas, beats, spinach and more.

At the Food Bank they are establishing a small orchard of fruits trees (mostly apples and pears) that will contribute the Food Bank’s shelves year after year.  

With some of the grant funding from NCO, the Food Bank recently bought two commercial dehydrators and one flash freezer that will significantly improve the Food Bank’s ability to provide healthier food throughout year. By having this equipment, they can dehydrate apples, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables, and the flash freezer allows healthy vegetables to be used all year long.

The services the Food Bank provides are absolutely vital to the entire Ukiah Valley and greater inland Mendocino County region. Without these services, many people here would have no place to turn.

Yet, even with all of these services, we sometimes continue to give handouts to transients, enabling people to continue destructive behaviors. Giving money to transients does not help our community. Transients use money to buy alcohol, methamphetamine, or other drugs; and the use of alcohol and drugs leads to violence.

Rather than providing handouts, if you’d like to help people, please give your money to an organization such as the Food Bank.

Donating is simple: make your check out to UCC Food Bank and either send it to the Food Bank at 888 N. State Street, or drop it by the Ukiah Daily Journal at 590 S. School Street, Ukiah 95482.

As always, our department’s mission is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: 

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Safety · Professionalism · Community Service