California Public Libraries Collect Over 40,000 Pounds of Food For Hungry Families
This summer, public libraries across California partnered with local area food banks to collect food for those in need. The effort exceeded all expectations. Together, libraries from Tehama County to San Diego County collected over 41,000 pounds of food, well exceeding the original target of 10,000 pounds.
In recent years CLA has been hearing from libraries about a desire for more altruistic and service oriented summer programming. This past summer’s iRead theme, “Reading Is So Delicious,” seemed like a great opportunity to create a summer reading program that could address the issue of hunger in communities across the state. The program took the form of a statewide food drive called “Acquire A Taste For Giving.”
According to Feeding America, “For 1 in 6 people in the United States, hunger is a reality. These are often hard-working adults, children and seniors who simply cannot make ends meet and are forced to go without food for several meals, or even days.” In response to this, the “Acquire A Taste for Giving” program encouraged libraries to create partnerships with local food banks, hold summer food drives, run food-for-fines programs, and highlight issues relating to hunger in America. Over 175 branch libraries participated. Library collection totals ranged from 10 pounds at some libraries, to thousands of pounds at others. Every little bit helped. Whittier Public Library’s Sylvia Saenz said, “It was fun and an easy way to help those less fortunate.”
At Alameda Free Library the drive took the form of a food-for-fines program. The program resulted in 5115 lbs of food donations for the Alameda County Food Bank. According to Eva Volin, the Supervising Children’s Librarian, it was the first amnesty program the library had done in 28 years, so the community knew an opportunity like that wouldn’t come along again any time soon. The director of Alameda County Food Bank, Hank Leeper, said of the library, "That total is the second largest single infusion we will receive this year from a food drive. The largest will be the Boy Scouts food drive in November, which is the biggest public service project the scouts do all year, and involves hundreds of people. What you were able to do with very few people actively managing the program is just amazing!” The food drive was a great opportunity for libraries to create new community partnerships, specifically with their community food banks, and it seems as if many of these partnerships will continue into the future.
CLA President, Derek Wolfgram, said, “When libraries make a commitment to do something positive for their communities, they always follow through. I'm exceedingly proud of CLA and the 175 participating libraries for contributing over 20 tons of food to help fight hunger in California. This food drive, along with the highly successful Summer Reading Program, are excellent examples of the ways that libraries transform the lives of Californians.”
CLA and California libraries are also addressing issues of hunger through the Lunch at the Library program. In partnership with the California Summer Meal Coalition and funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, CLA just concluded piloting a free program that combined literacy activities with free summer lunches for children, to help them return to school in the fall healthy and ready to learn.
A big thanks to all the libraries that participated in the drive! For a list of the participating libraries visit the “Acquire A Taste For Giving” Food Drive page on the CLA website.
Summer Reading Program Associate
From left to right: Sherry Saacke, Gail Sankey, and Alex Weiss, hard at work sorting donations for Palos Verdes Library District’s “Reading Is So Delicious” Food Drive.