What would happen if we brought together all of the experts who are serving the hungry in Long Beach? Imagine all the information and ideas that could be shared. Think of the number of resources and contacts that could be collected.
These ideas have been percolating among our staff for the past year and in April Food Finders spear-headed our first “Food Bank Think Tank”.
Upon visiting our many partner agencies, it became apparent to me that many were doing much more for their community than handing out bags of food or serving hot meals. Services such as computer training, nutrition education, Covered California enrollment assistance, job and housing referrals, laundry services and community garden access have been added to the multitude of services that our amazing partners are offering locally in Long Beach. Creating a forum to bring everyone to the same table, literally, to share information and best practices could only help to better serve our community.
We focused our first Think Tank in the West and Central Long Beach areas and both larger and smaller agencies were present. A round table discussion allowed us all to hear the details of what each of agency was offering. We also took this opportunity to identify what gaps in service we had in this particular Long Beach area – as a group, we realized that Friday is a tough day of the week to find open food pantries, and we hope that accommodations can be made soon to address this under-serviced day.
Food Finders also invited a guest speaker from the CalFresh program (formally known as the California Food Stamp program) to help provide information and dispel myths surrounding eligibility. There are a large percentage of people who are able to receive CalFresh but are not tapping into the benefits. Information was shared explaining how agencies can utilize the CalFresh outreach program/personnel so that their clients can be signed up for CalFresh using their new streamlined application process.
Our hope is that our partners were able to walk away from the Think Tank with concrete ideas of how they might be able to expand or consolidate their outreach efforts. The level of compassion for their clients and their genuine interest in gleaning ideas from others was apparent. I look forward to building on our momentum as we organize our next Think Tank for our agencies in the North Long Beach, Lakewood and Bellflower areas.