The Emergency Food Assistance Program TEFAP puts ARRA funds to good use
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is one of the many crucial programs which received American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding. This program is responsible for the purchase and distribution of a variety of nutritious commodities to assist families and individuals in need.
In New Hampshire, with the assistance from the State Surplus Distribution Section, this commodity distribution effort is coordinated by Community Action Agencies (CAPS) in cooperation with a statewide network of food pantries, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. The program serves 500 locations and has 220 sites.
My name is Jennifer Livingston and I work at the Office of Economic Stimulus in Concord New Hampshire. I am the reporting and transparency administrator responsible for overseeing the timeliness and accuracy of our official quarterly reporting cycle to the Federal Government.
I am happy to have the opportunity to see first hand how New Hampshire is using and benefiting from the stimulus funding which our state was fortunate to receive. Fortunate being bringing some good thing not foreseen as certain. I want to share with you my experiences from the morning that I spent at the Concord Area Center located at 2 Industrial Park Drive in Concord New Hampshire.
Is there anything that is certain in our lives? Are you certain that you will have uninterrupted employment? Are you certain that you will be able to afford to have the basic necessities of food, shelter, and water?
As we all know it is a difficult time for NH families and small businesses. People lost jobs, retirement savings, health insurance, and some have not been sure how they will move beyond their current plights.
What if you lost your job tomorrow? How long could you maintain your present life-style with unemployment income alone? Can you imagine how you would feel if you found yourself unable to afford to go to the grocery store and purchase what you need? What could you give up? How could you have foreseen that this would happen to you? Who will help?
Fortunately the state of New Hampshire has excellent programs like TEFAP run by CAPS across the state. During the morning I spent observing and speaking with volunteers and paid employees I gained an appreciation for how much work and care goes into meeting the goals of this program.
I arrived at 2 Industrial Park Drive at 9:00 a.m. It was a warm day. The first thing I saw were boxes of food stacked high, a truck backed up to a loading dock, and a group of people forming a supply chain loading food onto the truck.
I met Barbara Chellis, Area Director of the Concord Community Action Program employee of 30-years. She was holding a clipboard with a check-off list of food items being loaded. Next I met Randy Emerson Director of the Emergency Food Assistance Program. He walked me through the warehouse and told me what was in the boxes and provided an overview of the program. He also assisted moving freight and worked the hand-truck to move large numbers of boxes to be put onto trucks.
Being curious I went to the area of action (the loading dock) and started snapping some photographs. Volunteers were working hard to load food which would be delivered to pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and charitable institutions.
As you can see from the pictures, I watched and photographed a hard-working group of individuals. Having been in the Coast Guard and having moved stores onto a vessel in a similar manner I know how hard it is and how heavy the boxes can be. It made me feel good inside to be around people who care about others and understand the value of their contribution.
I went on to view the entire Concord Area Center which was clean, organized, and welcoming.
While where I went next could lead us to a completely new story, I think it is important to "follow the cheese". One of the commodities purchased with ARRA funding was a block of cheese. This, I was told is "a real treat". Coincidentally at the time I was planning to leave I saw a truck pull up to the loading dock. The logo on the truck was "Friends of the Forgotten Children". The name tugged at my heart and I wondered how could anyone forget a child? I had to see how this organization worked. Then I saw the cheese being loaded and I remembered how Randy had said it was a real treat.
Follow that truck! (I said to myself). And I did. Where it took me was a very special place, a place that had food, clothes, and a wonderful Christmas room. I met with Andy Barns, Executive Director who is the only compensated employee working for the organization. As at the Concord Area Center I saw volunteers hard at work stocking shelves and organizing donations.
There were a few things that will stay with me from this visit to the Friends of the Forgotten Children. One of them is the curious little boy who I saw in the store room who held up the cheese with a shy smile on his face, and the second was the Christmas room. Andy told me that the organization started in the basement of a private home initially as a Christmas room.
We are all so interconnected within communities that everything we do has an effect on one another. I believe in focusing on the excellence within the people and organizations of New Hampshire. In New Hampshire we do good, we are honest, and we have and continue to put stimulus dollars to good use.