UNITE4:HUMANITY INSPIRATION AWARD
Inspiration Award Winner
Nominated by: Feeding America
Category Name: Health & Human Services/Public Benefit
Cherie Jamason joined the Food Bank of Northern Nevada 25 years ago. With her leadership and expertise, the Food Bank has grown from a grass-roots food assistance program to a nationally recognized anti-hunger organization, providing services throughout the state of Nevada and a portion of eastern California. Under Cherie¹s direction, hunger issues have been brought to the forefront, garnering both attention and action. Cherie successfully implemented the “Nevada Child Nutrition” initiative, which provides summer food and after-school meal programs for low-income children throughout the state, a regional food stamp outreach program, and nutrition education for at-risk schools, and she secured the Commodity Supplemental Food Program for Nevada.
Cherie was instrumental in the Governor of Nevada¹s first-ever State Food Security Plan in which food security is named as one of the core functions of the state¹s government. Cherie has also been the driving force behind launching the new “Bridges to a Thriving Nevada” initiative that takes on poverty, one of hunger¹s most damaging root causes.
She received the University of Nevada¹s 2010 Distinguished Nevadan Award, the Dick Goeble Public Service Award from Feeding America and FRAC for outstanding commitment to ending hunger, as well as numerous local awards. Under her leadership the Food Bank of Northern Nevada was awarded the 2013 Food Bank Member of the Year award by Feeding America.
problem to alleviate
In Nevada, one in six people are food insecure; 63,000 seniors are living below 150% of poverty; and more than one in four children (183,360) cannot rely on receiving three meals per day. With the highest unemployment in the nation during the recession, the need for food assistance for Nevada residents has more than tripled, and Nevada remains far behind the nation in recovery. While we are in the top 10% of food banks in provision of food per capita and in delivery of nutritious food, clearly groceries alone will not solve hunger in northern Nevada. In a state with pervasive unemployment, an educational system that has not historically prepared graduates well for higher education or skilled employment, and a market in which ~50% of jobs do not pay a living wage, solving hunger far exceeds the usual scope of food banking. It requires changing the culture relative to poverty, and engaging in advocacy that will ultimately shorten the lines of people needing food assistance. It means connecting hunger, poverty, unemployment, economic development, housing, public health, education and similar core issues together at a high enough level to support the creation of public policy that will lay the foundation for a hunger-free Nevada.
solution to problem
In a state with few food resources, creativity and vision are key to addressing the growing need for food assistance. To offset a static volume of donated food, we brought in USDA nutrition programs to bring more meals — more than 5 million meals in our service area — into our community.
Implementing federal summer/after school meal programs for children, obtaining the federal senior food box program for Nevada, and implementation of food stamp outreach to help families access food have been critical strategies in our service area. Construction of a new, fully-funded regional distribution center gave us the infrastructure to meet the staggering increase in need driven by the recession, and quadrupled our food distribution. Staying alert to trends allows us to respond nimbly, and our strategy of collaboration creates a platform of relationship and synergy that enables cost-effective service delivery. Our willingness to reinvent ourselves as t he needs of our community changes has grown our thinking. Clearly, leading the effort to build a more sustainable community, as a means of reducing food insecurity is our most important strategy in reducing the need for chronic food assistance.
We are building a common language and culture through "Bridges Out of Poverty" training at all levels of government, through the non-profit sector, the health and education communities. While we currently count people and meals, we are engaged in developing metrics to measure impact and progress on improving community sustainability.
The impact of our work is measured on two levels. First, the degree to which we improve food security in our own service area, by meeting emergency and chronic needs, increasing participation in federal nutrition programs, improving family self-sufficiency through education, partnership and community development, and by improving local food systems through grassroots engagement. Nutrition education and increasing the distribution of fresh produce has also helped with the health of our clients and community. The impact has also been felt in tangible numbers. When I started at the food bank we had 2.5 employees and we served about 600 people per month, and provided about 416,000 meals through the course of the year. Today, we serve about 90,000 people a month.
Second, our impact is measured by the degree to which we are able to influence and improve public policy at the federal, state and municipal level, to effect progress in systems that impact family self-sufficiency and food security (e.g., state and local food policy, effective implementation of USDA nutrition programs, affordable housing, workforce development, public health, etc.). This is first and foremost an advocacy initiative, requiring leadership, knowledgeable staff, collaborative effort and strong public/private and organizational partnerships.
how project exemplifies the unite4:good mission
For the past 25 years I¹ve led the Food Bank of Northern Nevada in meeting the needs of those who are hungry (especially children) and in growing food security in Nevada. We have educated and enlisted the partnership and collaboration of a wide variety of individuals, board members, business leaders, contributors, politicians, legislators and community leaders. We now have a strong network of people who understand the issues of hunger, food insecurity and poverty, and take action as volunteers, advocates, policy makers and contributors in fighting these issues. Our leadership has resulted in a Nevada State Food Security Plan, verbiage in the federal Farm Bill (with a lot of help from our friends) that paved the way for dramatic improvement in state food stamp participation; a county human services plan; the engagement of more than 400 businesses in hunger-fighting initiatives; volunteer services by 5000+ individuals and 160 groups who regularly participate in whatever task is needed.
It is my duty as a leader to think beyond today. In the same way that we have introduced federal nutrition program solutions to our communities, we are now examining the root causes of hunger. The work of building integrated food systems and tackling the issue of generational poverty and its effect on hunger are the challenges that will define our next chapter. These are long-term issues, and shifting the conversations around poverty, hunger and public health are vital steps in true systemic change. I believe that we cannot back down from challenges that seem too large. Our “Bridges to a Thriving Nevada” Initiative is taking the first steps in this fight with training of state welfare, judicial system, and healthcare workers. This program will lead to cultural change that will improve economic mobility and create a healthier, more sustainable community.
project’s community support & awareness
The Food Bank of Northern Nevada was recognized as Food Bank of the Year in 2013 by Feeding America for our work nationally and locally as a leader in the anti-hunger community, for our innovation, and for program and organizational excellence. Locally, we work with hundreds of partner agencies to help distribute food and raise awareness on the issue of hunger. We are recognized in our community as the gold standard for non-profit organizations, and by the state as the leader on hunger and poverty issues. From this position, we are able to generate support and awareness around solutions to end hunger and food insecurity. Our credibility on the topic of hunger and food security has extended to our messaging on poverty issues. As CEO and leader of the Food Bank for the past 25 years, I am afforded the respect and broad credibility of our organization. The reputation of the Food Bank and my personal social capital have driven the broad awareness of our anti-poverty initiative, which has engaged more than 1500 people in in-depth training over the course of the past 18 months and is beginning to change current thinking.The Food Bank of Northern Nevada was recognized as Food Bank of the Year in 2013 by Feeding America for our work nationally and locally as a leader in the anti-hunger community, for our innovation, and for program and organizational excellence. Locally, we work with hundreds of partner agencies to help distribute food and raise awareness on the issue of hunger. We are recognized in our community as the gold standard for non-profit organizations, and by the state as the leader on hunger and poverty issues. From this position, we are able to generate support and awareness around solutions to end hunger and food insecurity. Our credibility on the topic of hunger and food security has extended to our messaging on poverty issues. As CEO and leader of the Food Bank for the past 25 years, I am afforded the respect and broad credibility of our organization. The reputation of the Food Bank and my personal social capital have driven the broad awareness of our anti-poverty initiative, which has engaged more than 1500 people in in-depth training over the course of the past 18 months and is beginning to change current thinking.
communicating project’s mission
We have a strong working relationship with our local media and have unmatched credibility and outstanding media coverage. We are the recognized experts to whom the media turn for stories on hunger issues and comments on news or policy issues. We are fortunate to be mentioned on radio, television or in the newspaper weekly throughout the year, and multiple times weekly during the holidays.
We have a strong website (http://www.fbnn.org) and digital presence which provide outstanding tools for education and advocacy mobilization. We provide op-ed pieces to the newspaper, and as an example, have spent considerable time over the past 15 months educating the public on the Farm Bill, how federal farm policy affects food security, food stamps and other nutrition programs, and the relationship between unemployment and high food stamp/SNAP utilization, to build understanding and tie to local hunger issues.