For more information about the food bank, go to www.atcaa.org or call (209) 984-3960.

The Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency Food Bank in Jamestown received an emergency donation of $50,000 from the Sonora Area Foundation to keep the doors open following the loss of a major source of federal funding.

Darrell Slocum, executive director of the foundation, said the board of directors decided to make the donation because the food bank is an integral part of all feeding programs in the county, including food pantries at churches, Interfaith Community Social Services, and the Meals on Wheels program.

“They’re in significant need and this grant was given to address that need,” Slocum said.

The need stems from cuts in funding from the federal Community Development Block Grant program that ATCAA Executive Director Raj Rambob said began under the Obama administration.

Rambob said the CDBG program traditionally provided about $150,000 to the food bank each year, but the federal government decided to shift most of the money in the program toward projects as opposed to services.

“The federal government has always kind of intended it that way, but there’s been some leeway in interpretation for some time and now that leeway is no more,” Rambob said. “If the food bank wanted to build another warehouse, we may be able to get funds (from CDBG) to do that.”

Staff at the food bank has been reduced to three full-time and one part-time position as a result of the funding cutbacks, which ATCAA says is not sustainable in the long term.

The food bank served more than 5,500 people and distributed more than 1 million pounds of food last year, in addition to receiving, processing and storing food that was distributed through 16 partner pantries throughout the county.

Rambob said he spent most of his career working for private nonprofits as opposed to public agencies like ATCAA and plans to use more of a private funding model that draws from many different sources to help sustain the food bank into the future.

“Most private nonprofits piece together a bunch of different funding sources to fund operations, along with collecting donations and doing fundraisers,” Rambob said.

The plan is to host fundraisers in the spring and fall to raise awareness and educate people about the food bank’s importance. Rambob is also working on a list of organizations that provide grants for such causes.

Rambob said they have pieced together the potential for up to $300,000 in funding from outside sources. He wants to the potential to be even a higher amount than that because the success rate on applications is usually about 10 to 20 percent.

“We have to increase that potential total so we have a reasonably good chance, but I think we can,” he said. “We haven’t exhausted the database yet.”

The California Food Policy Advocates conducted a recent study that determined 7,900 people in Tuolumne County were food insecure, representing about 15 percent of the overall population. Twenty percent of children in the county are considered food insecure.

Deni Avery, director of the food bank, said the clients she sees rely on the service they provide through no fault of their own.

“Many of them are on fixed incomes who would otherwise need to choose between food and other necessities such as medicine or electricity,” she said. “Many others are working families who can’t stretch their dollar far enough to provide adequate nutritional meals.”

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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