About that letter

Cherie Jamason is president and CEO of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

I want to respond to “Name Withheld’s” letter printed Dec. 24, titled “Free Food?” as no inquiries or requests for information were received from the RN&R before the letter was published.The Food Bank of Northern Nevada has served the hungry for the last 25 years. The record numbers of people seeking our services reemphasize our dedication to ensuring anyone needing help receives it. Last year, 90,286 people sought food assistance through our more than 110 partner agencies and our direct-service programs. The huge increase in demand has led to lines at our 50-plus food pantries doubling, even tripling in only a few months.

To help illustrate hunger, we often enlist media assistance. Television stations document the local economic impact, accompanying our staff to various Washoe County food pantries. The videographers are professional, generally accompanied by reporters, and rarely heard to utter a word, much less offer unkind, “contemptuous” remarks or looks to clients.

Hunger has touched many Food Bank employees, and we never condone filming anyone requesting privacy, understanding the stigma with receiving assistance. Much of the time, people are filmed from the back to avoid causing embarrassment. It’s our duty to protect our clients, and our food pantries should indeed be a place people feel safe receiving the help they need.

We collect client demographics required by funders and federal programs, information which is submitted monthly by partner agencies. One federal program requires proof of age, county of residence and self-declaration of income. All other programs require only household size, ethnicity and age. Information collected illustrates who our clients are, enabling better strategies to reach them and provides critical demographics for determining how to serve the hungry in the best way possible. While some pantries require photo identification for their own purposes, the Food Bank would never condone collection of credit data of any kind.

Agencies do not purchase our food. We raise more than $350,000 annually to purchase staple items we subsidize to our agencies. Partners pay strictly a handling fee, not for the food. That fee (between 1-18 cents per pound) helps cover roughly 20 percent of transport cost for that item and is only applied to some purchased items. We also provide millions of pounds of food, including nutritious perishables, at no cost. While many of our partner agencies receive food from sources other than the Food Bank, we have a very strict policy regarding food distribution and never distribute expired or spoiled food.

Hunger now touches every neighborhood, and we cannot fight it alone. Food Bank and agency resources are being stretched further and further. We need the help of the community we serve. Our operations, facility and programs are open to the public for tours and we urge concerned citizens to contact us with questions at (775) 331-3663 www.fbnn.org.