September 30th, 2014

According to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the official poverty rate decreased between 2012 and 2013; however, the Census Bureau explains that the number in poverty in 2013 was not statistically different from 2012. What does this mean for Americans currently facing financial barriers, though, and more importantly, what can be done to help families overcome these barriers?

LOAVES AND FISHESUSA Today’s Eric McWhinnie responded to these findings by identifying five reasons why these barriers continue to exist: median household income, wealth accumulation, employment-to-population ratio, food stamps and wages. At Loaves & Fishes, we have seen first-hand how these barriers contribute to our neighbors’ lack of financial stability. For example, the median household income for our clients last year was $14,400, and 8,250 clients of working age were unemployed.

While these numbers provide insight into our clients’ financial barriers, Dr. Deborah Frank, founder and principal investigator at Children’s HealthWatch, paints a broader picture and demonstrates how poverty impacts families, especially children. “Children in families who experience the most basic level of material hardships associated with poverty – not enough nutritious food, inadequate or inconsistent access to lighting, heating or cooling, and unstable housing – suffer negative health and development effects, which constrain the next generation’s opportunities to live healthy lives as successful participants in education and the workforce.” Thus, the cycle of poverty continues and creates more strain on our economy now and in the future.

LOAVES AND FISHESMany non-profit organizations, like Loaves & Fishes, have set out to create pathways to financial stability. We are preparing to launch our Client Engagement Model, which will integrate our grocery assistance service with educational and prevention programs to address our clients’ barriers. Loaves & Fishes volunteers will meet with client families to create care plans that will involve participation in job search support, skill-based classes (computer, financial literacy, nutrition, English as a Second Language), public benefit assistance, mental health counseling and legal solutions.

By creating care plans for client families, Loaves & Fishes will transition from a “serve” to “solve” organization by increasing clients’ job marketability, skill knowledge and, ideally, self-sufficiency across a continuum. Moreover, we propose that more organizations on the frontlines of combating poverty should evolve programming to address the root causes of issues such as hunger.

As Dr. Frank states, “Children in poverty cannot wait for the slow recovery from the 2009 recession to finally arrive. We need to expand and protect programs to keep all our children nourished, warm and safely housed.” We, as a community and nation, need to implement programs that seek to solve poverty issues rather than continuing to perpetuate the cycle.

For full U.S. Census Report, click here.
For full Eric McWhinnie article, click here.
For full Dr. Deborah Frank article, click here.

September 30th, 2014

The first three facts listed in Rob Greenfield’s Huffington Post article, “The Food Waste Fiasco: You Have to See It to Believe it,” are jaw-drop worthy enough…

  • We throw away 165 billion dollars worth of food per year in America.
  • About 50 million of our 317 million Americans are food insecure yet we produce enough food to feed over 500 million Americans.
  • To create just the amount of food that ends up in the landfills we waste enough water to meet the domestic water needs of every American citizen.
    2014-09-28-2…but Rob, an eco-adventurer, environmental activist and entrepeneur, went a few steps further. Rob traveled the US relying almost entirely on food he found in dumpsters. The picture on the right is what Rob was able to salvage from grocery store dumpsters in Chicago.

    At Loaves & Fishes, we pride ourselves on our food recovery system, which involves partnerships with many local grocers. Last year, Loaves & Fishes rescued 2,808,400 pounds of food from these partners, which we value at $7,975,856. Nevertheless, Rob provides an incredible illustration of the flaws of our national food system, so make sure to check out the full article (Click Here) to see what he was able to collect in major cities throughout America.

    August 26th, 2014

    The Power of Community Campaign was created to help Loaves & Fishes achieve the goals set forth in our strategic plan, including programmatic growth. Thanks to our community’s support to date, Loaves & Fishes will be introducing the Client Engagement Model, which will benefit more low-income families.

    What is the Client Engagement Model?

    Imagine having an opportunity to sit down with a client, discuss their family’s future goals, and create a plan to address the barriers that stand in the way of their success. That is what the Client Engagement Model will accomplish. We will integrate our Community Food & Nutrition Program and our Pathways to Empowerment programs to address hunger at the core.

    How will this evolved model benefit low-income families?

    Loaves & Fishes will strengthen our current relationships with clients. We will understand their needs, circumstances and motivations much better, and as a result, we will be able to serve them more effectively and solve their families’ barriers. Overall, we believe this transformation will empower more client families to self-sufficiency and will create a sustainable solution to hunger that can be replicated nationwide.

    Why is this evolution important to our community?

    LOAVES AND FISHESThe suburbs are increasingly becoming the address of America’s poor. Suburban poverty across the country grew 53% between 2000 and 2010, more than twice the rate of urban poverty, according to the Brookings Institution. For the first time, more poor people live in the suburbs than in cities.

    According to a Social Impact Research Center study in 2012, 7.3% of DuPage County residents live in poverty and 17% are considered low income. As a result, more individuals cannot count on three daily meals. Feeding America’s research shows that 9.1% of DuPage County is food insecure; of this population, 16.4% are children. This is especially troubling considering the link between obesity and being low income. By introducing this model, Loaves & Fishes can impact the physical, mental and financial well-being of our low-income neighbors, which will benefit the community at large.

    How will you achieve success with this model?

    10302159_10152152700250583_4211104904876379955_nThanks to the Power of Community Campaign, Loaves & Fishes was able to hire Duncan Ward, who has more than 18 years of experience in social services, as our Director of Empowerment Programs to work in conjunction with Jane Macdonald, who is now the Director of Nutrition & Wellness. Ward will be responsible for training volunteers how to build trust and create measurable goals with client families. Through client feedback, he will determine if any programmatic revisions need to be made and will continue developing and overseeing outcomes pertaining to empowerment programs.

    Macdonald will be responsible for creating nutrition incentives to encourage clients to enroll in empowerment programs. This integration is essential to our program success since many clients do not understand how to participate in on-site, anti-poverty programs. Moreover, Macdonald will lead efforts to encourage nutritious choices and to educate client families about healthy eating on a budget, so when clients are no longer in need of our services, they are providing a well-balanced meal to their children.

    August 26th, 2014

    This summer, Loaves & Fishes welcomed Morrel Francis to the team to learn about the different facets of a non-profit organization. Morrel, who is now a senior at Naperville North High School, was an eager student and provided excellent feedback and insight as he worked with staff. We are excited to see what the future holds for Morrel, because this mature, intelligent young leader is sure to make a name for himself in whatever field he pursues. Here is what Morrel had to say about his experience at Loaves & Fishes:

    IMGP0134I knew even before my junior year ended that I wanted to do something over the summer that would be interesting and give me practical experience. I started asking around my high school for local internships in Naperville. At first I didn’t have much luck, but eventually I got an offer from the CTE director at my school about an opportunity at Loaves & Fishes. I had heard the name before but I was not sure what they did. I looked up the organization and decided that this would be an experience I could get a lot out of, so I contacted Megan Selck, the Vice President and Chief Development Officer, and we arranged to meet at Loaves & Fishes’ annual Day Without Hunger event. When my dad and I arrived at the event, both of us were very impressed with how well organized it was and how much there was to do. We met with Megan and Shelly (the Director of Volunteer Engagement) and arranged a date when I could start interning.

    On my first day at Loaves & Fishes, I got the opportunity to sit in on a meeting with the board of directors about expanding Loaves & Fishes into other communities. This was just one of the amazing experiences I had while interning. I also got to volunteer in distribution and give food to clients. While I was working in the warehouse with Alan and Cary, I sorted bread, meat, and vegetables, I took inventory of donated foods, and I was able to ride in a semi-truck to visit one of the stores that donates food to Loaves & Fishes.

    Morrel's luncheon 081914When I wasn’t working in the warehouse, I was working with the staff responsible for marketing, management, empowerment programs, or development. While working with them, I researched new places that Loaves & Fishes could expand to, thought of new programs for clients, and helped improve how Loaves & Fishes uses social media. By the time my summer ended, I had gained hands-on experience in marketing, finance, operations, volunteering, project development, empowerment programs, and executive management.

    When I think about my future I know that the experiences I had at Loaves & Fishes will be beneficial no matter what field I decide to go into. While I was at Loaves & Fishes, I had the opportunity to watch someone else give a professional interview, and I looked over the 2014-2015 financial statement. It gave me a better understanding of the organization. The experiences I had at Loaves & Fishes were amazing not only because of what I learned, but also because of the awesome people I was able to meet. I will never forget my time here.

    August 24th, 2014

    Where would you begin if you only had $4 to spend on a day’s worth of meals? Recent online articles have showcased this emerging dilemma that many individuals and families are facing on a daily basis. For instance, in “The Percentage Of Americans Who Can’t Afford Food Hasn’t Budged Since The Recession Peaked,” Hunter Stuart, of the Huffington Post, chronicles the diet of Jill Taormina and her family: Totino’s Pizza Rolls with a side of canned peas.

    Jill Taormina with her daughters. Credit: Benjamin Lehman, Huff Post

    Jill Taormina with her daughters. Credit: Benjamin Lehman, Huff Post

    In the article, Taormina, a mother of two, describes her barriers to creating a nutritious diet for her family, “‘I can only afford to spend about $100 a month on groceries. I coupon as much as I can, but it’s just not enough.'”

    Similarly, Brooke McLay discusses her grocery experience with Tori, also a mother of two; however, Tori is homeless. As McLay states, “Low-income Americans are traditionally struck in a deeply unfortunate food cycle. With meager funds, they rely on the cheapest food sources, which are those being subsidized by the government: soy, corn, and wheat. These inexpensive crops are turned into inexpensive foods, mixed with sugars and highly processed, leading to chronic health concerns like obesity, diabetes, and cancer.”

    Credit: Brooke McLay

    Credit: Brooke McLay

    After shopping with Tori on a $50 budget, McLay realizes that “nearly every item under $5 is a shelf-stable item. Most of it processed, canned, or packaged…The two grocery items over $5? Fresh produce…If $11 of apples equals two snacks but $3 in Ramen will feed her entire family for dinner, how can she possibly pick apples with her limited food stamp budget? And how will she ever afford to fill half of every mealtime plate with fruits and veggies, the amount recommended by the same government that issued her food stamps?”

    These articles are effective in building awareness for this emerging problem in America; however, is there anything that low-income individuals can do to maintain a nutritious diet for themselves and their families? According to Molly Roberts’ article, “Cheap Eats: Cookbook Shows How To Eat Well On A Food Stamp Budget,” there is. Roberts tells the story of Leanne Brown, a student who recognized that Americans on food stamps were eating lots of processed foods and set out to create a cookbook full of recipes that anyone could make on $4 a day.

    Credit: Leanne Brown

    Credit: Leanne Brown

    According to Roberts, Brown’s cookbook, Good and Cheap “is free online and has been downloaded over 200,000 times since she posted it on her website in early June. A July Kickstarter campaign also helped Brown raise $145,000 to print copies for people without computer access.”

    Food insecurity is an emerging issue, and if we continue to work together to build awareness for our low-income neighbors, we can change more lives and benefit our community. Let’s be proactive, just like Leanne Brown, and find innovative solutions to address this issue.

    For Hunter Stuart’s full article, click here.
    For Brooke McLay’s full article, click here.
    For Molly Roberts’ full article, click here.

    August 21st, 2014

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    Between July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014, 1,561 volunteers donated 85,686 hours – the equivalent of 41 full-time employees! This hard work had to be celebrated, so we gathered at the Naperville Grand Pavilion with nearly 300 volunteers to enjoy music (from Belgio’s), food (from Gregg Eisel), and some fun yard games.

    Shelly Schmitz, Director of Volunteer Engagement, and Hilary Nelson, Volunteer Coordinator, created some special awards for the event. In case you missed them, here were the awards and winners:

    The Brady Bunch Award: The Mackh Family: Tracy, Charlie, Katie and Kevin
    The Newcomer Award: Beverly Nelson
    The Out-STANDING Outside Award: Gary Lund
    The Power Couple Award – John and Marlyn Steury
    The Mass Marketer Award – Fernando Fernandez
    The Rising Star Award – Julia Nauman
    The Backstage Manager Award – Marsha Howting
    The Warm Heart Frozen Hands Award – Terry Polivka
    The Saturday Superstar Award – Valerie Talsky

    Special thanks to Rick Wagner, who snapped pics of the celebration, Carl Schnibben, the Naperville Park Police Chief, Dagmar Kauffman, who perfectly designed and decorated the picnic, and Bob Elazan, who helped set up and deliver a cheerful beverage service. We can’t wait till next year’s picnic!

    August 19th, 2014

    I have been having trouble with bills and such since I was laid off and Loaves & Fishes has helped me a lot in being able to provide food for my three children. It has been so helpful and everyone is so nice. I am diligently trying to find a job and I would love to give back and help others as much as they have helped me and my family. ~Joanne

    Choosing healthy itemsAccording to Share Our Strength, more than 16 million kids in America live in households that struggle to put food on the table. That is 1 out of 5 kids. These statistics are especially troubling considering that a fraction of these children reside in the western suburbs. Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap” research shows that 9.1% of DuPage County residents are food insecure; of this population, 16.4% are children.

    What is food insecurity, though, and how does it impact a child’s health and well-being? The USDA defines food insecurity as not having access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Food insecure families report that they cannot afford balanced meals, and as a result, household food intake is reduced and the family’s normal eating patterns are disrupted.

    Courtesy of No Kid Hungry

    Courtesy of No Kid Hungry

    For children, a lack of food is detrimental to their overall development. Research by Children’s HealthWatch indicates the hungry children have trouble concentrating in the classroom which often results in poor academic performance. Moreover, hungry children are more likely to develop headaches, stomachaches and colds and display behavioral problems. According to Dr. John Cook, Professor at Boston University and Researcher for Children’s HealthWatch, “Children are the primary engine for long-term economic growth and prosperity. They provide leadership, innovation and revenue to upgrade our social infrastructures and provide the resources we need to be healthy and happy as we become ‘the elders.’”

    To ensure the well-being of the next generation of leaders, Loaves & Fishes has developed specialized grocery initiatives that serve this at-risk population with nutritious food items. Through our School Nutrition Initiative, Loaves & Fishes supplements a family’s normal groceries with extra breakfast items, including milk and eggs, so children have a healthy start to the day. Over the summer months, when government-subsidized lunches are not available, Loaves & Fishes provides summer lunch items, and during the school year, nutritious after-school snacks are distributed.

    LOAVES AND FISHESLoaves & Fishes assisted 8,516 children 18 and under last year, and we project an increase in our next fiscal year. In addition to these special nutrition initiatives, Loaves & Fishes seeks to end child hunger by empowering parents toward self-sufficiency through programmatic support, such as job search support, computer classes, public benefit assistance, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, legal solutions, financial literacy classes and nutrition counseling. By addressing the barriers that low-income families encounter, Loaves & Fishes can reduce child hunger in the western suburbs.

    July 11th, 2014

    What does it mean to be a food stamp recipient? The political landscape has been split in discussions ranging from program abuse to the perpetuation of poverty. It is a hotly debated topic (for more debate insight, check out this blog; however, when you consider who receives this public benefit assistance, what type of person comes to mind? Would you think of a college-educated, former television producer who grew up in the affluent suburbs?

    “This wasn’t supposed to happen to people like me.”

    As Loaves & Fishes works to provide assistance to what is known as one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, many skeptics question the clients we serve and their “need.” It is common that we will see an expensive car pull into our parking lot or see a client pull the latest iPhone out of their purse to answer a call. In Darlena Cunha’s experience, these material things don’t paint the full picture.

    “That’s the funny thing about being poor. Everyone has an opinion on it, and everyone feels entitled to share. That was especially true about my husband’s Mercedes. Over and over again, people asked why we kept that car, offering to sell it in their yards or on the Internet for us.

    “And even if we had wanted to do that, here’s what people don’t understand: The reality of poverty can spring quickly while the psychological effects take longer to surface. When you lose a job, your first thought isn’t, “Oh my God, I’m poor. I’d better sell all my nice stuff!” It’s “I need another job. Now.” When you’re scrambling, you hang on to the things that work, that bring you some comfort. That Mercedes was the one reliable, trustworthy thing in our lives.”

    Darlena’s story provides incredible insight about the perceptions of poverty from the inside and outside. Click here to read the full blog article.

    July 2nd, 2014

    It has been a busy week at Loaves & Fishes so far. After being featured in Harry Porterfield’s “Someone You Should Know” segment on CBS2 last week, we received many calls from potential clients seeking information about our programs. The result: we served 729 people on Tuesday, including 292 children! While this doesn’t break our record, it does demonstrate the growing need for our services in the western suburbs of Chicago.

    For some people, like Leslie Brown, blogger for Unhyphenated America, watching the coverage on CBS was an eye-opening experience. “I forget sometimes, as we all do at times, to be grateful for what I have, and not perseverate about what I don’t have. Comparison is the ‘thief of joy.'”

    As Loaves & Fishes celebrates 30 years of service, it is the future of our organization that matters the most. While our low-income neighbors need food assistance to meet their immediate hunger needs, there are barriers that must be addressed to help them become self-sufficient. Loaves & Fishes is dedicated to helping our clients overcome these barriers by providing coordinated, multi-faceted services that empower them. So as we enter a new era for our organization, we hope that you will Share the Joy of Loaves & Fishes with those you know because it is hard for some to imagine the need in our community and understand how they can be part of the solution. And for others that may be in need of our services, they may not know that help is right here.

    For Leslie Brown’s full blog post, click here.

    June 27th, 2014

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    DWH-thankyou_adIt was a perfect day, surprisingly, for Friday the 13th, which created the perfect setting for Loaves & Fishes’ Day Without Hunger celebration. Day Without Hunger, which began 7 years ago as a 24-hour event, is an opportunity for community members to learn about food insecurity and Loaves & Fishes’ innovative service model that seeks to solve this issue. Each year, the event has seen greater success as demonstrated by the number of guests as well as business partners and sponsors. We were honored to collaborate with so many businesses and individuals to make this year’s event possible.

    This year’s event was particularly memorable because it kicked off Loaves & Fishes 30th year anniversary and brought out some big announcements about our future:

    Loaves & Fishes Community Pantry is now Loaves & Fishes Community Services, and to launch this new era, we have announced our $6 million Power of Community Campaign! It is our first public fundraising campaign ever, and we are excited to see our community of supporters grow as we seek expansion opportunities.

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    Photo Credit: Robyn Sheldon, Naperville Magazine

    Two weeks after these big announcements, Loaves & Fishes celebrated Night to End Hunger at Heritage Prairie Farm in Elburn. Thanks to the incredible support of our guests, we raised $267,650 that night, which raises our Power of Community campaign total to $3,558,283, representing 59% of our $6 million goal!

    Whether soaking up break taking views, feasting on fine organic dining or enjoying live music, guest engagement was the catalyst for the success of Night to End Hunger, chaired by Celeste Wagner, Loaves & Fishes board member. Individuals and local businesses donated items including lavish getaway packages, appetizing dinner pairings and even activities for thrill-seekers, such as a fighter jet ride and fleet car experience that were featured in a live auction and choice raffle. After these items were purchased and won, auctioneer Bart Darfler rallied donations through a “Raise the Paddle” special appeal, which alone raised $63,250.

    We can’t wait to see what the rest of our 30th year anniversary brings!