The Gary E. Milgard Foundation has contributed $75,000 too Emergency Food Network to help with the organization’s mission “to provide a reliable food supply so that no person in Pierce County goes hungry.” The gift came on the heals of a two-year, $30,000 annual gift from the Medina foundation as well as an anonymous gift of $50,000 to match $50,000 from the Murdock Charitable Trust. Milgard and Medina funding will help EFN distribute nearly three weeks worth of food throughout the community. The anonymous matching gift will go towards EFN’s $300,000 roof replacement project.
Helen McGovern, EFN’s Executive Director, says gifts like these are extremely important for the organization’s operations. “There are incredibly generous foundations in our region. They are a part of a system of generosity that helps assure that when a low-income or struggling member of our community faces tough choices about paying rent, healthcare, or for transportation to a job or an interview versus paying for food, individuals and families have emergency food programs that they can turn to.” EFN has seen more instances of people using food banks and meal sites for the first time and continuing to make visits, confirming what we already know about a difficult job market. McGovern stresses that the system of generosity includes individuals who donate and plan food drives, local businesses, volunteers, and food producers.
It is easy to take for granted access to healthy, abundant food in our own homes, in grocery stores, at a farmers market, or at a restaurant. Though statistics on food insecurity in Pierce County have not been updated since 2008 (when 1 in 10 residents could not be certain that members of their household would experience hunger) unemployment has since doubled and the demand for emergency food placed upon 67 area food banks, meal sites, and shelters has increased by 43 percent.
Emergency Food Network provides 80% of all food distributed by these programs, more than 1 million pounds of food each month. The organization receives government commodities, collects food from local food drives, receives truckloads of donated food from farms and grocery distributors, grows 150,000 pounds of produce on their own organic farm, and works with the Pierce County Gleaning Project to collect fruits and vegetables from people’s yards and local farms. Most importantly, EFN provides healthy, nutritious staple foods by through their Food Purchasing Program. EFN spends more than $500,000 annually on truckloads of grains, pasta, fruits, vegetables, frozen protein sources such as ground turkey, and cans of soup and chili.
Purchasing has become important since the quantity and quality of donated food has decreased under a tough economy. Spending on staple foods has increased by more than $200,000 annually, and the process has been formalized through the establishment of a Co-op distribution system for all 67 programs in EFN’s network. Co-op portions are based on number of visitors to food programs reported each month.
Each year, Emergency Food Network distributes more than 14 million pounds of food to 67 food banks, meal sites, and shelters in Pierce County. EFN is able to leverage their buying and donated food to distribute $12 worth of food for every $1 donated.
To learn more about EFN or to obtain a food drive information packet, visit www.efoodnet.org or call (253) 584-1040.