by Michael Bisch
What follows is an un-redacted email I received from Winters City Councilmember Jesse Loren yesterday morning. To say that I was moved doesn’t begin to describe my reaction to Jesse’s account. I asked for and was given permission to share her story publicly in order to advance the food insecurity conversation.
From: Jesse Loren
Sent: Wednesday, December 12, 2018 8:21 AM
To: Michael Bisch
Subject: RE: Rural food insecurity
Thank you for the information on Rural Food Banks. I’ve been thinking about the presentation I attended at Conaway Ranch. I wrote this to send to you then, but never sent it, and maybe now is as good of time as any.
Pulling young families out of poverty can change the world. You don’t have to buy them a house, sometimes providing an apple, an orange, and a little opportunity is all they need. Nutrition is the basic human need that Food Banks provide. Yet people can’t wrap their heads around the fact that we have so much need in California.
Last month, I was unable to find my voice while seated at the breakfast table at Conaway Ranch with other elected officials, dignitaries, donors and rice farmers who support Yolo Food Bank. One of the guests asked a question about food scarcity in the face of the fact that 1 in 8 lack enough food in California and 1 in 4 lack enough food in Yolo County.
When asked , “Can’t they just get a job?”, or “Why are there so many UCD students who don’t have enough food?” I didn’t speak, but I was one of those students.
Even though I had the grades to transfer from community college to UC Irvine, I didn’t have the financial resources and was only able to continue my education by utilizing assistance programs and by dint of careful budgeting. My two kids and I moved into student housing, and I took out loans for my tuition. I bought books thriftily, and often relied on obsolete editions or borrowed copies to get the schoolwork done.
I worked on campus as a researcher, which I thought would give me enough money to provide for my family, but there was a busing charge for my daughter to get to school that I didn’t know about and it ate up my food budget.
I applied for food stamps and was denied. I made a lot of oatmeal, beans and rice, and did everything I could to make ends meet. I grew a garden, but hunger grows faster than carrots.
A faculty member sponsored my family’s Christmas, and to this day, it was the best Christmas of my adult life. They provided gifts, but they also brought a food basket!
There was no place at that time to access fresh fruit or vegetables on campus. And I am pleased to learn that Yolo Food Bank has recognized the need.
Getting the UC Irvine degree allowed me to become a teacher, be financially stable, go to Grad school, be a homeowner, and all that allowed me to send my kids to college, and even run for office. Food can pull families out of poverty, food and opportunity are probably the only things that ever have.
During this holiday season and throughout the year, I hope people understand that the reasons why people are food scarce are complicated, but providing food can make or break their futures, and their lives.
Winters City Council
Yolo Food Bank is a privately-funded nonprofit distributing four million pounds of nutritious food throughout Yolo County each year, reaching every community of every size. With an unparalleled capability and capacity to collect, store and distribute this food, Yolo Food Bank provides unique services and opportunities to the region. It has the potential to transform the nutritional paradigm of our communities, thereby reducing poverty, increasing health and education outcomes and enabling social mobility of all kinds. What better time than the holiday season to support our neighbors who struggle to feed their families? You can share your holiday spirit with them by making a gift at http://give.yolofoodbank.org/.
Michael Bisch is the Executive Director of Yolo Food Bank