#MemberMonday: Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency
December 6, 2021
For 40 years, the Amador Tuolumne Community Action Agency (ATCAA) has improved the lives of residents of Amador and Tuolumne counties. From 1981 to today, a lot has changed — mostly for the better, but with one exception: the number of community members experiencing food insecurity.
“We’re serving lots of people. We’re seeing a different, dynamic demographic of people who are being served. We’re serving more families. We definitely have seen a high increase in children that we’re serving,” says Joi Reeves, Food Bank Manager.
“Our Food for Kids numbers are staggeringly high on a weekly basis,” continues Joe Tobin, Food Bank Director. “It’s the highest I’ve ever seen.”
However, part of this increase is due to the type and quality of food that ATCAA provides. Joi, who has worked at the food bank for 10 years, is excited about the increasingly “mindful” approach to feeding kids. Where before there might have been cream of mushroom soup in the Food for Kids boxes — “I don’t eat that soup to this day. That’s super scary when you’re a kid,” explains Joi — now there’s plenty of kid-friendly and healthy foods to go around.
I think that our overall food quality is far better than it’s ever been in the 10 years that I’ve been here.
Joi Reeves, Food Bank Manager
“We finally have built our reputation of having mindful foods, and we have a wellness policy that’s pretty exciting,” continues Joi. “It’s not just ‘come and dump out your grandma’s pantry’ at the food bank. We’re very mindful about what we receive.
“You’re helping people who are already in a bad way. They don’t need slimy celery, you know what I mean? They don’t need rotten food. They don’t need outdated food.”
Some of this increase in quality is due to improved food bank infrastructure. ATCAA has been able to expand their capacity to serve, due to purchases such as an emergency backup generator that kicks on automatically after the loss of power, a large walk-in fridge, a large walk-in freezer, a 20-foot cold storage container, and a 40-foot cold storage container. This was all paid for by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, PG&E, Sonora Sunrise Rotary Club, and other public donations.
ATCAA also had a custom-designed walk-in freezer installed, and new pallet racking in their warehouse, paid for by both the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). They recently purchased a brand new 26-foot refrigerated truck and a forklift.
But thats just the beginning. “Were currently hoping to receive our portion of the $182 million for capacity and climate resilience through CDSS,” explains Joe. “We plan to purchase and install solar on the food bank, three new insulated, electric rollup doors, “speed doors” in front of those, insulation on all the exterior walls here, and a loading dock at our facility to help with shipping and receiving.”
“Because we are not in a large city, we don’t see as many donors as a larger, more urban food bank might see,” says Joe, emphasizing the ways that state and federal policy have helped shape the success of anti-hunger organizations like ATCAA. “Because we’re a member of CAFB, we go speak to our local representatives as well. We go in front of the Board of Supervisors, and we’re in contact with folks just trying to make a difference.”
Even though we’re trying to do a good thing, I feel like we always need to push, push, push just to try to be seen. We’re serving a large majority of our population. There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes, such as a generator or a freezer. Folks, they probably think it’s just a pantry with a bunch of canned goods. There’s a whole lot more to it than that.
Joe Tobin, Food Bank Director
ATCAA continues to fight every day for their vision: for residents to be self‒reliant, healthy, free from economic hardship, feeling sustained by the support of community and family, and able to achieve their maximum potential as engaged citizens.
They are a small but mighty team, and we at CAFB are so glad we get to work with them.
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