“Shine the Lights on Sunnyside”

Story and Photos By:  Sandra Massie Hines

Houston Food Bank Benefits and Food Fair

HOUSTON – As an Outreach Minister for youth, elderly, women with children, and the indigent in Sunnyside, I find it amazing that so many people’s basic needs are not being met, and leading the way is the elderly population.  Many are suffering from malnutrition, simply because they lack access to food, finances, transportation and communication.  Communication is important because they can receive information on agencies that are able to help them get resources. Finances are important because they would be able to purchase what they need. Per Huffingtonpost, as of 2009, there were almost one million seniors in the U.S. who went hungry because they could not afford to buy food. Transportation will enable seniors to get to the location where the resources are located. However, again they lack finances, mobility, and a support system to help them.

Food would be beneficial in helping to meet their nutritional and health needs, except there are those who are disabled and cannot get out, and those who can get out, most times have to depend on government assistance and others. In my opinion if more is not done sooner, in this vast city and wealthiest nation, I see this group of elderly leading the way among those who are hungry.

With that being said, as the organizer of the End Hunger Sunnyside Collaboration (EHSC), a partnership that was formed in cooperation with about 125 organizations, agencies, churches and individuals. The EHSC focus is to provide (1) a link to social and benefit services, (2) food distribution and referrals (Mobile distribution feeds about 300-500 people), (3) assist elderly citizens with Sunnyside Commodity Food Supplement Program (CFSP) (which feeds about 500 to 700 on a monthly basis), (4) provide nutritional education, (5) provide outreach services including healthy choices of fresh fruit and vegetable through services and collaboration with the Houston Food Bank. Each organization can schedule their own dates and time for the food distribution weekly, monthly or yearly.
The Houston Food Bank has stepped in like a big brother forming a partnership to assist EHSC, in promoting nutritional programs, food and benefits for the much needed area.  Sunnyside is known as a food desert, meaning the citizens lack fresh fruit and nutritional foods that would help in preventing sickness and disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.

Did you know that the Houston Food Bank (HFB) is the largest Food Bank in the United States of America in distribution through a network of nearly 600 hunger relief charities in 18 southeast Texas counties?
When asked, Leona Baker, Senior Manager of Social Service Outreach at the Houston Food Bank stated these facts:

Our Mission: Leading the fight against hunger
Our Vision: Food access for all

We were named top charity in Texas by Charity Navigator for financial performance and accountability, the Food Bank feeds 137,000.00 people weekly. Our current goal is to provide 100 million nutritious meals annually by 2018. HFB Social Service Outreach Program (SSOP) assists clients with applying for state public benefit programs such as SNAP-food stamps, Medicaid, CHIP, TANF and others. Daily, Community Outreach workers travel to Social Service agencies throughout 12 counties (Austin, Harris, Fort Bend, Galveston, Brazoria, Chambers, Liberty Montgomery, San Jacinto, Trinity, Walker, and Waller). As Senior Manager of SSOP, I am responsible for oversight and direction of SSOP, project Manager for Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC)/Texas Food Bank Network (TFBN) sub contract in Region #6. Also, ensure SSOP, HFB, TFBN and HHSC policies and procedures are followed at all times. Content areas include; Budget, Compliance, Community Partnerships, Call Center, Social Service Outreach and Community Events.

Did you know?: There is 323,000 square feet of warehouse and office space at our Portwall Location, 50,000 unduplicated individuals volunteered last year which lead to 265,503 volunteer hours contributed,1,000 individuals can volunteer at once, we have an emergency food pantry on site, our conference center host 10 – 400 people, you may qualify to become a partner agency, the face of hunger is also working adults in need of a helping hand, Harris County alone has an access of $801.4 million dollars of unclaimed SNAP benefits for people (49%) who qualify and food insecurity is associated with obesity due to families having limited access to healthy food.
You Should Know: The Houston Food Bank Social Service Outreach Program has been providing resources to the Sunnyside community through the 3rd Annual Benefits Fair for 3 years now.  The team enjoys not just wishing the Seniors a happy holiday but ultimately empowering them through the resources provided. They are provided a myriad of information that will assist with their current and future needs. As a result, Senior Citizens are capable of creating a plan of action in advance should they encounter barriers.  Furthermore, they will have the knowledge of knowing who to call and what resources are available to them should they need additional assistance at any time.

Key Facts regarding the 3rd Annual Sunnyside Resource Fair held recently included, over 200 community members and 10,609 pounds of food were distributed.Those items included: potatoes, Ensure supplement drinks, celery, bread and other fresh items.
There were18 vendors who attended the event including: Prevent Blindness, Summit Dental, Harris County Lead Poison Control, Harris County Disaster Relief, College of Health Professions, Women’s Care, DentaQuest, Molina Health Care, Medco, Dental Smile, Sunnyside MSC, Kinion Insurance, BBVA Compass, Walgreens, Wellcare and Central Care.