In the aftermath of Sandy

Over the last few weeks we have been very involved in helping people and providing support to those whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that in the North East, as we approach the winter season, thousands are already homeless, hungry and in need of help, when Sandy came along it just added to the tragedy and the need.

There has been a wonderful outpouring of support, as there always is, in the first days after the disaster. People have generously given and much needed help has been provided.
This in itself though is, in a peculiar way, part of the new problem that we face. There is only so much money to go around at this time of the year when so many think of those in need and give generously to help families who are hungry at Thanksgiving. Much of that money that we need to help and to feed the hungry has already been given and now we are asking you again to reach deep into your pockets and help us achieve our goals and help those in need this holiday season.

Pastor Steve Terry of the Oroville Rescue Mission said this week that this has been the worst year for donations and the greatest year for need that he has ever known.

Here at Turkey Club America we are still on track to provide Ten Thousand Turkeys to feed the Hungry and Homeless this Thanksgiving, but to do so we need your help.

Please give generously.

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A Different Approach.

One of the questions I am often asked is why we at Turkey Club America ask for you to give a regular donation to help feed those in need and do not even have a place on our website where you can give just a one-time donation.

To us the answer is simple. Hunger isn’t just a one-time thing. Once we feed a hungry child at a mission or feeding center it might make their hunger go away for that day but it will surely come back again tomorrow. When we deliver a meal to a hungry senior in their home it may well be the only meal they get for that day and by the time that the delivery comes around tomorrow they will be hungry again.

We need to be able to commit to the hungry that we will be there to feed them and help to take away their hunger, not just today, but every day until they can once again stand on their own two feet and do not need our help and support any more.

To be able to make that kind of commitment to the millions who rely on the organizations supported by Turkey Club America for their daily food or to supplement their weekly shopping because they do not have enough to be able to buy sufficient food to feed the family, we need for you to make the regular commitment to help fund this vital ministry.

Throughout this website you will see that we ask you to give the cost of just one or two meals a month to feed hungry children, families, seniors and veterans in America. Yes, this is a different approach. It isn’t just asking you to think about the hungry once a year at Thanksgiving or at Christmas, but to make a regular small commitment throughout the year to feed those who need it most.

Over the course of the year Turkey Club America supports organizations that feed over 6 million Americans. Hunger is with us every day of the week, week in and week out and so, rather than just asking you to make a single donation we ask you to commit to a small regular donation of the cost of just one or two meals a month to help those who are in need.

Turkey Club NewsBy means of our newsletter and website we will keep you up to date with what we are doing. We know that you trust us to spend your money wisely and maximize the amount of what you give that actually reaches those in need. We take that trust seriously and in return for your commitment to give on a regular basis we commit our lives to feeding those who are in need. It is the ministry that God has given us here at Turkey Club America and together with you we seek to make a difference every week of the year.

Our special programs “Formula for Growth” and “Ten Thousand Turkeys” rely on the regular gifts that you give to help those that are most vulnerable in our society. Children, families, seniors and veterans are our focus and we hope that you will join us helping to feed those that need it most.

If you would like to give a one-off donation, you can send it to us and we will gladly receive it with thanks in our hearts and apply it to the work of Turkey Club America, but here on our website we do take a different approach and ask you to regularly give the cost of just one or two meals a month to help feed hungry children, families, seniors and veterans here in America.

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Formula for Growth

Every day I read the news about hunger in America to select an article or two to feature on our news page. Many of you send me links to articles that have caught your attention so that we can share them with the members of Turkey Club America.

Every now and again, one of those articles sticks in my mind and I just can’t put it to one side. There is one particular article that was sent to me about 6 weeks ago and it has haunted me ever since. I even wake up in the night thinking about it. It was entitled ‘Hungry Families Admit to Formula Stretching. Better methods needed to identify those without enough to eat, researchers say’ 

Although it just reported the results of a clinical study that showed the increase in diseases and under development in food insecure families, what came through loud and clear to me was the anguish of the mother who had to decide to water down her baby’s food because there was insufficient formula to last out the month and nowhere to go to get some more.

Every day as I visit homeless shelters, food banks and feeding centers I experience all sorts of emotions. Many times our clients are cheerful and thankful that their needs are being met and grateful that somebody cares. Every now and again one is resentful, sometimes angry, often sad. But there is no emotion worse than the distress of a mother who cannot care for her infant child.

I started asking at our food banks about the supply of infant formula and sadly I found that often we didn’t have enough to provide for all the demand that was there and often had to turn away mothers who asked.

So now we are launching a new program called “Formula for Growth”. It is our desire to ensure that wherever there is are hungry babies there will be formula to feed them. Never again do I want to see the tears of the mother who cannot feed her baby nor hear the cries of the malnourished and hungry child. Through this program we are going to try to ensure that all our network food banks and pantries have sufficient baby formula to feed all the children of the families for whom we care

If this report touches your heart like it touched mine and if you would like to be a part of our Formula for Growth, you can do so by joining us at Turkey Club America and giving the cost of just one or two meals a month to feed hungry children, families, seniors and veterans.

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Shopping On-line.

Most every time you buy something on-line someone makes some money out of the deal.

If you click on a banner ad that takes you to the store the site owner where the banner is placed makes a percentage of what you spend at the store. If you search on one of the major search engines and click on a feature listing then Google or Yahoo! make some money simply because you clicked. You don’t even have to buy anything and someone, somewhere makes some money.

At last we have found a way to turn that to our advantage and, without costing you a single cent, receive a donation from every purchase you make at hundreds of on-line stores. The even better news is that very often you will get a better price or a special offer as well, just for shopping and supporting Turkey Club America.

Stores like Amazon, Macy’s, J C Penney, 1-800-Flowers, Barnes & Noble all participate and in return for you shopping with them have agreed to give a generous donation to Turkey Club America to help feed hungry children, families, seniors and veterans here in America.

To get started visit our Discounts and Shopping page and then download the We Care reminder. I have had this nifty little program working away in the background on my computer for quite a while now. Mostly it just sits there, then every now and again when I visit a participating store it pops up at the top of the screen and reminds me that my shopping will support Turkey Club America. That’s it !!! I don’t have to do anything else, just shop and a portion of what I spend is donated by the store.

Every day we also publish a “Deal of the Day” this can be anything from one of the stores that participate and often is a special exclusive discount not available to the general public. Once again, Turkey Club America gets a generous donation from anything that you spend at the site.

So, please, visit our “Deal of the Day” page every day, download the We Care reminder and then go spend money on-line, knowing that just by shopping you will be feeding a hungry child tonight.

Thank you for all that you do to help us here at Turkey Club America. If you haven’t already, please join us today and give the cost of just one or two meals a month to feed hungry children, families, seniors and veterans here in America.

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Feeling Guilty

I was talking with a small gathering outside the Church on Sunday morning. We were all excited about the launch of our new website and how we hoped that it would help us to expand our reach to many more people who would want to give just a small amount each month to feed hungry children and families.

One of our group suddenly piped up and said “I feel so guilty that I have so much when there are others who have so little”.

I thought it was really sad that someone was being stopped from enjoying the good things that they had by feeling guilty about what others didn’t have. I certainly think that with privilege comes responsibility, and that those of us that do have an abundance of good things are in a great position to help those that are not, but I cannot bring myself to feel guilty every day when I am able to sit down to a great home-cooked meal and enjoy what I have, that there are many others that are going hungry.

I think that God intended us to enjoy what we have with thankfulness in our hearts and appreciation for the situation in which we find ourselves and then, from that position of strength, reach out to help those that are in need. If we start feeling guilty about every need that we see or every person who is less well off than we are, if we start to feel guilty whenever we see a homeless veteran beside the road with a sign or a young mother with a hungry child then our whole lives will be wracked with guilt and we will never enjoy anything at all.

Being so closely involved in this ministry of feeding those in need it is very easy to become emotional over some of the heartache situations that we see every day and sometimes we have to just draw back a little so that we don’t become overwhelmed with the suffering of others.

Yes, we give what we feel is the right amount to help feed those in need, we work with so many others to alleviate some of the suffering that we see all around us, but once that is done we enjoy the bounty of what God has given us and the fruits of our labor  and, without feeling guilty we are thankful for everything that we have.

Rev Dr Stephen

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Try eating on $3.39 a day.

J. Patrick Coolican Las Vegas Sun.

 Some Las Vegans learned last week that it’s doable but difficult. Luckily for them it was just a one-week experiment, whereas for hundreds of thousands of our neighbors, it’s an ongoing challenge.

According to a 2011 report from the Food Research and Action Center, Nevada ranked sixth in “food hardship”; nearly 30 percent of families with children didn’t have enough money at some point in the past year to buy food.

The portion of Clark County schoolchildren receiving free or reduced-priced lunch increased from 39 percent to more than 50 percent in recent years.

Many families turn to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP and commonly known as “food stamps.” More than 350,000 Nevadans were receiving food benefits in November, up 10 percent from the previous year after several years of larger increases.

Even with food stamps, however, families still struggle with hunger.

To show the difficulty of living on a meager food budget, Three Square, a local food bank, offered a challenge to see if people could live on a food stamp budget.

(Before we go on, let’s make a deal: I’ll agree that hungry Americans have it better than hungry Haitians and that there is some (small) percentage of recipients who don’t need food stamps but get them anyway or who are obese but get food stamps if you’ll promise to share your outrage about said issues with your brother-in-law instead of my voicemail or email inbox. Deal? Cool.)

I went to Walmart on Fort Apache and Tropicana with Brian Hoying, who is a techie at Zappos. He and his wife have two boys, so for the challenge Three Square allotted him $67.80 for five days of food. That’s $3.39 per day per person. Luckily, the boys are 2 and 3, so they don’t eat much.

Hoying tells me they usually spend $80 to $100 per week and eat out once or twice per week.

Hoying’s wife Larissa, who usually does the shopping, prepared a spreadsheet for Brian, which takes away some of the suspense.

“Our big challenge is whether we can afford coffee,” he says.

He’s surprised by the high cost of cereals and settles on a smaller, cheaper box of Cheerios, but that is more expensive per ounce, thus illustrating a common problem encountered by the poor: They can’t buy in bulk because they can’t afford memberships at places such as Costco and often only have a small amount to spend per week.

Brian grew up in Las Vegas. His dad was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base.

“We thought it was cool when we had pancakes for dinner,” only realizing later that his parents were stretching paychecks, he says.

Before getting to the produce area, he works his calculator: $42.39. He’s on track. He weighs his bananas and goes with iceberg lettuce instead of the pricier romaine. Looks like there’s money for coffee.

In the end, he comes in $5 under and walks away with egg noodle pasta, ground beef, eggs, cheese, bacon, canned soups, peanut butter and jelly, among other items. As Brian notes, he was blessed with advantages, including plenty of time to comparison shop, a car to hit the cheapest store and a wife to do some research.

•••

Food prices have risen in recent years due to growing demand in developing nations and speculative shenanigans in the commodities markets, but food in America is still cheap.

As Michael Pollan noted in The New York Review of Books, President Richard Nixon reacted to a spike in food prices in the early 1970s by shifting policy from supporting price stability for farmers to increasing output of a few crops such as corn and soy (this explains why there’s corn and soy in everything). As a result of this policy shift and technological gains that have increased productivity per acre, Americans spend less on food as a percentage of their income — slightly less than 10 percent — than at any time in modern history.

Hunger persisted, however, because at the same time the cost of housing increased markedly, which left people with less money for food. Thankfully, the cost of housing in Las Vegas decreased with the housing bust. Still, hunger persists, though now it’s because people can’t find work or their income is swallowed up by medical costs.

•••

At Macedonia Outreach on Clayton Street in North Las Vegas, people are lined up well before the food bank opens at 3 p.m. Lottie Robinson, a volunteer and member of the church, tells me when they started the food bank in 2010 they served about 80 or 100 families and are now up to 190. They’re busier at the end of the month, when people’s food stamps run out.

Nancy Forman, who says she is disabled with a chronic lung infection and was recently diagnosed with diabetes, receives $46 per month.

“By the time you get a can of coffee, meat, bread, eggs, that’s it,” she says.

Richelle Hardiman is a classic case of how many people are one medical event away from poverty. She says she was an account manager at Comp USA when she had a stroke.

“My left side doesn’t listen to me,” she says. She drowned her sorrows for a decade — “The beer told me it was OK to live out there on the streets,” — until getting clean three years ago.

Now she receives a $906 monthly disability check. Her rent is $550. Throw in utilities, and she’s not left with much. Still, because of that income, she receives the minimum in food stamps, which is about $16 a month. She buys food for needy friends because people helped her when she needed it, Hardiman says.

•••

Now I’m back at the Walmart in the west valley, this time with Stephanie Deppensmith and Alex Karvounis and their daughter Harper. Their budget is $54.45, which is about half their usual food budget. They also usually eat out once a week. Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom, though, so money is tighter since Harper was born.

Alex and Stephanie met as performers in “Jubilee” at Bally’s, and they have an endearing chemistry. Their approach, however, is a bit more chaotic than the Hoyings, and they’re more anxious about whether they can meet the challenge.

Like a lot of kids, little Harper, who is 22 months, has some food pet peeves. She likes her applesauce, for instance, from a GoGo SqueeZ, a fun squeezable pouch, which is five times more expensive per ounce than a simple jar. Alex wonders if this will be the week when Harper figures out that applesauce is applesauce.

Stephanie’s big item is coffee, plus flavored creamer. Alex goes along with it, but he loves his ketchup and wants the brand name.

“That’s my coffee!” he says.

He loses that battle, plus another one when Stephanie slides some peanut butter cups in the cart.

In the meat aisle, Alex confides, “It’s frustrating seeing the meats. I’m hungry, and I know I’m not going to get any.”

At the checkout aisle, Alex jokes, “We still got the chocolate in there. If this means we can’t get chicken, we’re gonna have words.”

Finished at Walmart, they head to Vons and Albertsons to finish their shopping, acknowledging they have the luxury of time and reliable transportation to get the best deals at three stores.

When I reach the Hoyings and Stephanie a few days later, they say it’s been a learning experience living on less.

“It was definitely tough,” Brian says.

He and his wife went without snacks or dessert and noticed the difference in the quality of their cheaper foods. He says they rationed their meats over several days and wasted less.

Stephanie blogged about her family’s experience. Her writing is reflective, and she seems poised to change her family’s relationship with food and maybe even all material things. The experience got her thinking deeply about what we take for granted: “Having enough is a concept I know we struggle with as a family. We always have enough, more than enough, in our pantry, in our fridge, in our freezer.”

 

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It’s Hell Being Hungry After Christmas

It is the season of goodwill and in the run-up to Christmas there are many generous folk who dig deep into their pockets and give what they can to help the hungry.

There are the Salvation Army Kettles outside almost every supermarket, food drives abound in businesses all across the country where you can drop off a tin of this or a packet of that, all of which finds its way to feeding a hungry family.

Turkey Club America participates in the festive season with our Ten Thousand Turkey Program which seeks to make sure that at least 10,000 hungry people get to eat a full turkey dinner at Christmastime.

Every year we talk with so many grateful people who would not otherwise have had a special dinner for themselves or their families at Christmas. It is never nice to be hungry, but at least at Christmastime there are quite a few people out there who try to make things better for those that cannot afford to help themselves.

Then the Christmas season is over, the kettles get put back in storage to await next year’s challenge, the turkeys are gone, the food drives disappear and very often the hungry are forgotten until the next season of goodwill comes around.

But, the hungry are still there. Through the cold of winter young families, seniors, veterans all struggle to find enough to eat. The food banks are often empty, the kitchens depleted but the lines still form and the need is still as great.

Just one meal at Christmas, although greatly appreciated by those who receive it, will not meet the ever growing need that there is to fight hunger in America.

That is why here at Turkey Club America we ask you to give the cost of just one or two meals every month to help feed   children, seniors, veterans and those that are hungry all year round.

We sincerely appreciate all those that helped bring food to the needy this Christmastime. Now we ask you to show that same spirit of goodwill throughout the year and help us feed those who cannot help themselves. The need is just the same in January, February and March as it was at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The only difference is that fewer people are focused on it.

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People I Met

Hunger in America must end – period.

In this current economy the most unusual people are turning up at food banks and feeding centers as a last resort…

…in just one day I met some people I would never have expected to find there.

Ted – Just over a year ago Ted lost his job as a manager at a local building company that was forced to close through lack of work. With four children to feed, house and clothe he quickly ran through his savings and was left with just unemployment benefit and food stamps to provide for his family. At age 56 he found himself applying for jobs like flipping burgers that were always given to teenagers and younger people. There was no work in the construction business which was the only industry in which he was really skilled. He tried doing odd jobs, but there were so many in his situation that he could barely find any work and when he did he had to do it so cheaply that he couldn’t make any money. Having used all his food stamps to feed his family and finding nothing left for himself, out of desperation he turned up at the food center just to get a square meal. “It was so humiliating,” he told me but real hunger drove him to take what he thought were desperate measures. His final words as we parted were, “I just wish that when I had money I had thought to help people who were in need.”

Lucy – When she moved from the East Coast to California to take care of her aging mother Lucy didn’t think it would take long to find a job as an elementary school teacher. Her plan was to earn enough money to pay the bills and have enough left over to have someone come in and sit with her mother, who needed constant attention, while she was at work. With the State budget cuts Lucy soon found out that teachers were being laid off rather than hired and since she was new to the state she wasn’t entitled to many of the benefits she might otherwise have received. “All my life I have provided for myself,” Lucy told me as we sat and ate together. “I am so grateful to those who have made it possible for me to come here and at least have one good meal but I just wish that I could get back to looking after my mother and myself again.” Lucy helps out in the kitchen while a neighbor sits with her mother for a couple of hours. “I don’t have money to give to pay for the food I get, but at least I can do something to help out.”

Lizzy is what we used to call a “bag lady” and probably more typical of someone you would expect to see at the feeding center. Homeless for years and now quite elderly Lizzy will never settle down in a conventional fashion. I got the impression that she didn’t often talk about herself these days, probably because she feels that no one really wants to listen but when I pressed her for her story she told me that she had grown up in an abusive family and run away from home at a very young age. She made her living on the streets, had several relationships that went from bad to worse and started walking or hitching rides from town to town making a little money wherever she could but never able to settle down. As the years rolled on it just became a lifestyle and now at age 63 it is all that she knows. As I listened to her story I couldn’t find it in my heart to condemn her. It may be that it is her own fault that she has ended up where she is, but talking with Lizzy for just a few minutes left me with an overwhelming sadness and most of all a real desire to help.

Pictures and some identifying information have been changed, but the stories are real.

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