During a town hall meeting last week, Dunsmuir citizens helped identify problems that might be keeping those who need food assistance from accessing programs.
Alex Rivera, program Director for the Dunsmuir Community Resource Center, said a committee made up of representatives from 10 local food assistance programs, community members, and council member Bruce Deutsch plans to seek out more resources and try to work closely together with the source of the problem that was identified during the meeting.
The meeting on May 9, 2017 was led by Rivera, Andrea Herr of the Farmers Market, and Deutsch at Dunsmuir High School.
The 33 people attending were divided into three groups to brainstorm ways to help those who need food assistance. Along with identifying problems in accessing food programs and resources, dozens of suggestions were offered to improve food program enrollment and help families become food independent.
Rivera introduced representatives from organizations in the city that offer food assistance. A list of organizations and their services was made available.
Deutsch said via a phone interview following the meeting that the “desire is to identify all the people that are working to cover hunger in the area.”
Dunsmuir Elementary School Principal Helen Herd spoke about a backpack program that currently serves 35 students. She said Dunsmuir Rotary partners with DES to provide two breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for the student on weekends. The food is sent home on Fridays in the backpack. For three-day weekends, she said students receive three days of meals.
“Hunger doesn’t take a holiday on weekends,” Herd said.
Dunsmuir High School Superintendent/Principal Ray Kellar said DHS has students who fit the description of unassigned youth, meaning youth who are not living with their families. He pointed out that young adults and teenagers can qualify for programs.
In a follow-up phone interview, Kellar said these students “also need the avenues of sources for nutritional sustenance.” He clarified the number of unassigned DHS students is about 11%.
Rivera said they are working to normalize the CalFresh program – or food stamps program – to reduce any stigma associated with it.
She said 3,011 residents in Siskiyou County are eligible for the program but are not participating. If they were participating, she said the county would receive an additional $3.1 million annually in federal funds. Rivera said she obtained that information from the CalFresh website.
Rami White, representing the Dunsmuir Community Garden, said the garden is free and gardeners share watering responsibility. She said there is room for more people to have a garden space.
Some of the reasons identified during the meeting on problems that may keep people from accessing food programs were: lack of information about the programs, fear of paperwork, wanting to stay off the grid, lack of education, lack of cooking skills, and that people may not be able to get to the program office when they are open.
Suggestions to improve food programs were: create more community gardens, develop a community kitchen, volunteer or subsidized transportation to the program office, place donation containers in stores, and a mentor system to help people sign up for programs.
A third question addressed how to help people become “food independent.” It was suggested to offer recipes for meals, education at an early age, access to affordable food, school garden, and teach people how to use their lands for gardens.
Before organizing the townhall meeting the committee met several times to identify and coordinate services in Dunsmuir.
Following is a list of food programs in Dunsmuir:
Individuals and Families
• Cascade Community Church summer food program starts June 12 to August 11 Monday-Friday 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Cindy Rinne at 235-2527, 5962 Dunsmuir Ave.
• Dunsmuir Christian Life Center distributes to church members with surplus going to organizations that assist with food service in Dunsmuir. Contact Chris Langston at 235-0139, 4304 Stage Coach Road.
• The Dunsmuir Community Resource Center food pantry is open Tuesday to Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday 8:30 to 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at 5488 Dunsmuir Ave.
• Call for Great Northern Services food box distribution dates, fresh produce, CalFresh online application assistance and WIC clinic dates (for families with children age 0-5). Contact DCRC staff at 235-4400. GNS can be reached at 938-4115 ex.t 124 or on their website at gnservices.org for more information about food boxes.
• Dunsmuir Farmers Market is open Thursdays from mid-June until the end of September from 4 to 7 p.m. CalFresh/EBT, WIC and Senior Farmers Market coupons/purchases are matched up to $15. It is located on Spruce Street between Dunsmuir and Shasta Ave. Contact Andrea Herr at 925-4355.
• Siskiyou One4One Community Food Program offers seasonal Seed Bank education. Contact Jeanne Baker at 235-9882.
• Saint John’s Catholic Church offers the Saint Vincent DePaul food pantry program. The phone/message line is open 24/7. Food access and distribution is available Monday to Friday. Call 859-1039. The address is 5605 Shasta Ave.
• All Dunsmuir Elementary School students receive a free breakfast and lunch. Snacks are available during school and in the after school program.
• Dunsmuir Rotary Club and DES offer the Wildcat Weekender backpack program which provides DES students with kid-friendly, easy to prepare breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals and snacks for one student for the weekend. To register and for information call DES at 235-4828.
• Dunsmuir High School offers free breakfast, snack and lunch daily for students during the school year. Call DHS at 235-4835.
18 years and younger
• Great Northern Services offers a free kids summer lunch program served at the Dunsmuir Recreation and Parks District Office at 484 Dunsmuir Ave. Call Heather Solus at GNS 938-4115 ext. 128 or check their website at gnservices.org.
• Siskiyou One4One Community Food Program offers seasonal seed planting workshops and education. Call Jeanne Baker at 235-9882.
• Dunsmuir Community Resource Center distributes the GNS Commodities Seniors Program (extra food box). Call Heather Solus at 235-4400 ext. 124 to register and for dates and times of distribution.