Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Cost of Thanksgiving Dinner Stable, Yet Many South Jersey Homes Are Not

Every year around this time the there is a report issued by the American Farm Bureau Federation announcing the cost of a typical turkey dinner for a gathering of 10. This year the Federation reported that the cost had gone down slightly (less than one percent to a total cost of $49.04). The finance analysts call this stable, yet for many families in our neighborhoods being able to put a good meal on the table is anything but stable. This is especially true at Thanksgiving.

We all know how special this time of year can be, and nothing makes it more special than a holiday meal—with or without all the trimmings. Remember the times that you’ve shared with friends or family—and it may have been a large gather or more intimate setting. Certainly the conversation and companionship were at the heart of the meal—but food was at the center. Whether it was Aunt B’s green beans or your older sister’s fruit cake (you know the one), food laid the foundation for great times and fond memories.

Now we’re told the cost of that meal has stabilized after climbing in recent years. This is great news for people who do not have to make choices about paying rent vs. paying for food or keeping utilities turned on over providing a meal. For so many families, the cost no matter how stable is still out of reach.

This Thanksgiving, many of your neighbors will be thankful for your donation to the Food Bank of South Jersey, for your ability to reach out and provide help to those in need. Your generosity will go a long way this holiday. Although the price tag for the average meal according to the Federation is right around $50, Food Bank of South Jersey optimizes its resources to provide a meal for less than $30. 

So you can rest assured that your support will go a long way to making sure everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving.

From our family here at the Food Bank of South Jersey to yours, have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Want to Keep Families Together? Teach Kids How to Cook

I'm so proud to announce that a recent study commissioned by The Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) has discovered that its Healthy Living Initiative cooking classes do more than fight obesity and teach good eating habits: they are giving South Jersey's children a secret weapon in the fight for domestic stability – the family dinner table.

Having reached over 6,000 people in three years of hands on, interactive cooking classes and watching obesity rates drop in New Jersey (the results of a recent Center for Disease Control study), the Food Bank of South Jersey asked Rutgers University to explore what their Cooking Matters instructors had been seeing for a while. Children exposed to Cooking Matters classes were taking their newly acquired skills and nutritional knowledge and bringing it home. Compared to control groups, more Cooking Matters families were preparing and eating dinner together.

The results were amazing. Compared to control groups, families exposed to our classes were more likely to cook at home (33% vs. 18%), eat together as a family (67% vs. 27%) and use what they learned in class to guide their nutrition choices when they shopped and cooked (50% vs. 18%) .” 

 A new ten-year study from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University shows that children who eat meals with their families frequently (five times per week or more) are half as likely to get into unhealthy or illegal behaviors than children who rarely get to sit down and dine with the family. And in urban cities like Camden City, where the problems with drugs, crime and poverty have often stymied attempts to help the city achieve normalcy. 

Certainly investing in infrastructure helps and is important to a city’s stability, but I think that there needs to be some thought on the most primal of social units – the family – the Food Bank is showing that what happens at home is bigger and ultimately better than all of that.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Joy of Food

I watched for the umpteenth time, Tortilla Soup.  It is truly one of my favorite food movies.  It was after viewing that movie 10 years ago that I became a serious foodie and realize that of all things you can give man, don’t give him the inability to eat. Eating is more than a physical act,  it’s mental and emotional too.

Eating is peaceful because it automatically calms us.  We are at our greatest peace when we are eating and especially when it’s good food.  Eating is medicinal because we are automatically feel less pain when we are eating – for some it makes us feel better.  Think of the feel of a hot bowl of chicken soup when you’re in bed suffering from the worse cold and sore throat you wouldn’t wish on your enemy. Having that warm savory liquid down your scratchy throat is like medicine from heaven. 

It makes us more responsible.  Whoa, Val how are you going to connect this to food?  Well, it’s a stretch but be real with me here and tell the truth.  Aren’t you more inclined to show up at a meeting if you knew there was going to be food served and especially from that favorite place that you can only afford everyone once in awhile?    Eating also keeps us in love.  I know that every time my husband cooks, I find myself falling more in love with him because from his hands comes my nourishment and my joy – food.

I think about the 173,000 people in South Jersey who don’t get to experience this joy everyday especially children and seniors.  And because of that, we (Food Bank of South Jersey) have this fierce determination that no one in South Jersey will go to bed to hungry if we can help it.  “Of all the things you can give man – don’t give him the inability to eat.”

Here’s to the joy of food for all of us!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Having the Right Stuff (and I don't mean the movie!)

I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
Leo C. Rosten 


This is Val Traore and I have the most awesome job in the world!  I'm the chief visionary officer for the Food Bank of South Jersey.  The Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) is the leader in sourcing and distributing safe and nutritious food to people in need in South Jersey.  At the center of a diverse network of public and private partners to include the media, FBSJ has sourced and distributed more than 100 million pounds of food to people in need since it opened its doors in 1985.   It is the largest human service organization in South Jersey organized solely to reduce hunger and malnutrition to people living in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem county.

I've been there for the last seven years but when I started in 2006, my plan was to stay for three and find my next gig.  Well, my next gig came and went, several times, actually.  And here I am seven years deep into an organization that has become so much more than my place of employment, it's my ministry.  I love going to work everyday.  Mostly, because of the people that work and volunteer there.  Our staff and volunteers are a reflection of who we serve which gives us an insight into the challenges and unique needs of our beneficiaries.  This is a company of people that give 100% heart and soul to their jobs!

We had a layoff a few months back which resulted in 20% of my staff reduced.  Well, you can imagine that the remaining staff wasn't looking forward to absorbing extra work on an already stretched organization.  But we're nonprofit professionals and we know that no matter what, we have to fulfill the mission.  And so we did. Everyone rolled up their sleeves and leaned in to get the vital services of food and nutrition education to those in need.  If you looked up the phrase,  "going the extra mile", you would see a photograph of my staff.

I like talking about my staff because I'm appreciative of how they have shaped my leadership.  I learn so much from them and I desire to be a leader that inspires people and move them to greatness.  My team makes me shine and I appreciate every lumen that they provide.  

I dedicate this 1st post to Team FBSJ!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A partnership between the Food Bank of South Jersey, Summit Farms and Campbells

Campbell’s just posted their Just Peachy video about the salsa success story born out of a partnership between the Food Bank of South Jersey, a South Jersey Peach Grower, and Campbells.