Starting to Make a Difference

Starting to Make a Difference

Today I felt the fruit of our labors. You’ll have to excuse the bad pun. Today I took 200+lbs of fresh produce that my husband, and co-founder of The Sacramento Reverse Food Truck collected yesterday. Two years ago when I became Vice President I learned about the pervasive problem of poverty in the US. For 10 years I had practiced in a relatively affluent area of the community and hadn’t thought about children living in poverty in my area. To really embarrass myself, I thought the question on our pre-visit questionnaire about WIC was there to alert the medical assistant to fill out a form for the patient.

Shortly after taking office I set out to learn more about the severity of the problem in my county and what was being done to address it. I attended meetings at the Sacramento Hunger Coalition; I visited food banks and spoke with directors, volunteers, and supplemental nutrition assistance program representatives. I met with food policy advocates and community members who had been working to address the issues of hunger and poverty for years. I did a lot of listening. Around the same time our local NPR affiliate (Capital Public Radio) started a community collaborative to bring people/organizations who were working to address hunger together for a Radio documentary they were producing called Hidden Hunger. (see January’s Newsletter). Each meeting with local individuals and the collaborative brought forth two pervasive emotions: humility and embarrassment.   I was humbled by the commitment and passion of these individuals in their work to improve the lives of the poorest members of our community. But I was also embarrassed. Embarrassed by the shock and amazement of the people that a health care provider came to the table. But what could I do? How could I help?

After months of talking incessantly at the dinner table about the problem of poverty and hunger in our community my husband, Richard, mentioned that he’d heard a story on the radio about a beer company in Minnesota that gave its profits to hunger relief in their community. As part of a marketing ploy they developed a truck (Reverse Food Truck) that collected donations (money and non-perishables) to further their hunger relief efforts. Richard suggested we bring a similar truck to Sacramento.

We approached the Chapter 1 board about developing this project. The chapter was awaiting notification regarding our 501c3 status so we also approached the AAP CA Foundation board. Both groups gave us the go ahead. We sought private and public donations, applied for small grants, and eventually applied for and received a grant from Kaiser Permanente Community Benefits.

We asked our food bank contacts and they told us that they have a roughly 15,000lb/month gap in the produce they need vs. the produce they have. The central valley in California produces almost 80% of the fruits and nuts for the entire country and yet our local families don’t have enough to eat and can’t afford to buy the produce that grows in our “backyards”.   This excludes the thousands if not millions of pounds that rot in our real backyards. Our truck would focus on fresh produce whenever possible, healthy non-perishables, and monetary donations (to keep us going). I’ve been quoted as saying we aren’t interested in food with no nutritive value…..With many farmers’ markets in the area we set out to have patrons of the markets buy more from the farmers and give to those who need and cannot afford. The farmers sell more and the food banks receive more. Win-Win.

Long, long story short. May 1st we had a truck ready to roll and collect food. We’ve only been to three farmers’ markets and have collected roughly 600lbs of food. We’ve delivered food to a food bank and a school where 100% of the kids are eligible for free lunch (973 families). [,@SacRFT, instagram: rftsac)

There is a lot more work to do, more grants to seek, and expansion of the work.

Today when I dropped off the food two middle school-ers helped me bring it in. They carried lugs of zucchinis and I carted in the stone fruit. When I put the fruit on the table I heard one girls say to the other, “There’s fruit!” I nodded and pointed to the vegetables too.

She told me, “We have vegetables at home but we don’t have fruit. Can I have a piece?”

“Of course,” I told her, “it’s for you.”

With that she reached for a peach and immediately took a bite.

“Wow, this is so good.” She grabbed another piece, encouraged her friend to take one and off they went to tell their friends.

Right then I knew our labors will make a difference.