IV Food Bank Celebrates 20th Anniversary Next Week

IMPERIAL VALLEY FOOD Bank Executive Director Sara Griffen, left, receives a copy of a proclamation read by Holtville Mayor David Bradshaw, right, at a meeting of the Holtville City Council Monday. The city declared next week ‘I.V. Food Week’. Photo by Luke Phillips.

By Luke Phillips
On June 6 the Imperial Valley Food Bank will be celebrating it’s 20th Anniversary with a small presentation and a proclamation from Congressman Bob Filner.
The food bank was started in 1991 by a college professor at SDSU in Calexico who ran the operation out of garage, collecting canned food and handing it out. Today the food bank distributes millions of pounds of food every year to needy Imperial County families, says Executive Director Sara Griffen.
“We’re just going to talk a little about where we are right now,” Griffen said. “Very few people know about the food bank or what we do so we just need to re-introduce ourselves and show how incredibly important this organization is right now with the stress of the economy.”
A recent study completed by non-profit organization Feeding America showed that 31.4 percent of the population of the Imperial Valley, or 50,320 people, are suffering from ‘food insecurity,’ a term Griffen says covers everything from families that are skipping meals and watering down milk and soup,  to those who are in even worse shape.
The study marks Imperial County as the hungriest county in the state and one of the hungriest in the nation.
The study found that the equivalent of 8 million meals are missed in the county each year and $18 million dollars would be need to close that gap.
With the food bank filling such a huge need in the community, Griffen says they can use all of the help that they can get. Griffen says the organization is currently launching a new three-pronged marketing campaign that urges advocacy, donations and volunteering.
“We need help on all three fronts,” she said. “We need to mobilize people here in the valley.”
Griffen urges people to keep in contact with their elected officials and remind them of the need of Imperial Valley families. The food bank will be launching a new web site in the future that will keep residents aware of new legislation regarding feeding programs and will keep them in touch with their elected representatives.
“Advocating is so huge,” she said. “It’s important that we be very loud right now. A lot of these representatives think that poor people don’t vote. We have to change that perception. We need to be heard.”
Griffen says that donations have been down in recent months and the organization is in need of funds for food, infrastructure and staffing.
“Donations have been pretty dismal,” she said. “It seems that the valley isn’t paying attention to non-profits. Event-based fundraisers are good, but we need more steady donations.”
The agency is also suffering from a lack of volunteers. Griffen says the food bank a couple of people who volunteer through the Cal-Works program and are being paid by the state and a few college students who volunteer for the credits, but none that volunteer strictly out of a sense of duty or community.
“We need a core of people who enjoy being there,” Griffen said. “I think this is a really awesome county. There’s something special here. I do believe there’s a real genuine, authentic generosity. People want to take care of their own and we need them to step up.”
Griffen also wants to let people know about a new piece of state legislation that could make things easier for those that need food stamps, a program she supports because she says it provides long-term food security, something the food bank isn’t able to provide.
Assembly Bill 6 would remove a fingerprinting requirement from the state’s food stamp program and Griffen says she
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