This article originally appeared in the Desert Sun, March 2022
Food Now, founded in 1959, serves families and individuals throughout Eastern Riverside County who are facing food insecurity. The organization provides healthy, nutritious food weekly on Wednesday and Thursday at their facility in Desert Hot Springs. Food Now is a member of Feeding America and also distributes food from USDA and local partners to approximately 350 families every week. Over the course of a year, the organization distributes 1 million pounds of food, which is enough for 800,000 meals.
“The residual effects of a food assistance program are boundless,” the organization’s Executive Director Dana C. Johnson said. “When you have food, you can allocate that money to buy clothing, pay rent, or repair your vehicle, and that decreases poverty.”
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for services increased, and Food Now rose to the challenge serving 750 families a week. When the organization realized that many of its clients could not leave their homes due to the health risk, it increased its home delivery service from 10 home deliveries a week to over 80. Partnering with local service organizations such as Rotary, Women’s Clubs and churches, Food Now was able to increase its services through the support of volunteers.
Volunteers are Food Now’s most precious asset, Johnson said. While the organization has a small staff, it depends on the support of at least 12 volunteers a day. In a year, volunteers give 15,000 hours of their time, and during the pandemic, this increased to 17,000 volunteer hours. The ages of volunteers range from teenagers to a 92-year-old who has been giving her time for 12 years. The organization always welcomes applications for new volunteers.
“We have the best volunteers,” Johnson said. “We are a family here and we have one goal in mind, which is to help others.”
Recently, Food Now received a grant from the Joyce A. Montgomery Donor Advised Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The organization depends on grants and donations to serve those in need. As the expense of renting a warehouse, paying electricity and the transportation of food continues to increase, Food Now’s need for support increases with it.
The needs of clients have shifted as well. Food Now surveyed clients in their Senior Needs program to determine which vital nonfood items seniors had difficulty obtaining. The organization now distributes items such as toilet paper, incontinency supplies, shampoo and deodorant. Clients can also get assistance with pet food to ensure they can care for what is, for some, their only companion.
In addition to holding on-site food distributions, the organization also provides homeless clients with a daily distribution of food that requires no refrigeration or heating.
Currently, Food Now is running a Spring into Action campaign to end childhood hunger. The organization provides 120 students at five elementary schools with a backpack full of food every Friday. Some children depend on school meals for their daily nutrition, according to Johnson. Children who receive backpacks can count on having food throughout the weekend. The Backpack Feeding Program is one of the organization’s most popular program, but also the most expensive as items require a long shelf life, must be nutritious and also easy open.
Community members who would like to help end childhood hunger can give to the campaign, and an anonymous donor will be matching up to $1,000 a month in donations. The more support the program has, the more children it can serve.
“We give families the opportunity to thrive,” Johnson said. “We give them healthy food that allows them to have a healthy diet so that they can do so much more and lift out of poverty.”
More information: foodnowdhs.org or (760) 288-7878
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