Food Drive Tips

This weekend is the Stamp Out Hunger , letter carriers food drive. 

Here are some tips to make your donations go as far as possible: 

Food Drive tips

It may be awhile before your food is sorted so please donate items that do not need to be refrigerated before being given out.

Breakable items tend to break and squishable items like bread had to get squished so make sure your packaging is sturdy.

You might love sardines and other Specialty Foods, but we don’t know what the people who are receiving the food will like. Common and traditional food are the best donations because they can  be given out to most anyone.

Donating things may make you feel really great and it is a good opportunity to clean out your cabinets of food that you fight but me never eat. With that in mind, please check the expiration dates on your food because we cannot donate food that has already expired.

I Need a New T-shirt . . .

AKA – if you donate to @MENDpoverty and tell them I sent you : I can have a new shirt and your TAX Deductible donation will be Doubled! Don’t feel you have to break the bank – even a $2 donation is cool with me.

Write my name on the screen
this is where you say my name . you can write my name, or website, or just “Tell Sonya Hello!”
Please help us reach our year end goal by donating to MEND! Refer four

friends from now until June 30th to give a total of $100 and win a limited edition t-shirt designed by our friends at Big Citizen HUB.

Remember that any donation we receive by June 30th will be doubled, thanks to a matching gift by a generous donor!
Join us in breaking the bonds of poverty and paving a pathway to self-reliance for our neighbors in need.

For an even better time, you can write things like ” I love Tarry ”  ( she is in charge of fundraising ) , “Scott looks great in a tie ” ( he is the math wiz doing the budgets ) or something else fun.

To End Poverty, we need to Mend Poverty. We can meet each need with dignity!”

Hungry and Frustrated , Hey Los Angeles County: what gives?

Recently I became ill -( falling over in the office and having to be out of work for over a month kind of ill). On February 10th I had to take a leave from my job.

Absence meant I was without my usual paycheck and still had to pay for child care for my youngest daughter so I could spend several hours a week in medical offices. Being a single mother with successful and employed friends, day care remained my only option.  I still had housing expenses, medical co-payments, utilities, car insurance and gasoline as well as food and cell phone bills to pay. I have been living on credit card debt (before I had no debt, so there is a high interest cushion here ) and loans from my father.  As you know, I work as a social worker for an undisclosed county contracted company in the welfare services. My income is so low that saving is almost impossible and  I , like many of my coworkers, often qualify for the same services we refer clients to – such as WIC and Healthy Families type health insurance.

I took the time to apply for State Disability – I have not seen a dime. Eventually I received a notice that I was approved for a payment but it may go on a debit card and I should wait 5 more days for that to arrive. It has been over a week since then  and nothing has arrived.

I went to, where I volunteer,  on a Thursday in early March and tried applying for CalFresh and that weekend I broke out the internet and my document scanner to test drive the online DPSS portal I tell my clients about. I think I even said it was an emergency situation where we were about to run out of food.

Nada, Nothing, the only response I have from Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services has been several mailed notices of a PIN number for the online portal. I have not had a follow up phone call , voice mail, email, text message or paper notice. The online portal says “PENDING”. I scheduled an appointment to go to the DPSS office on Thursday, but I don’t have any sick time to keep the appointment.

There is a customer service phone number. It is a joke. Please, look up the phone number and call. The message you will hear, in English and Spanish, is that there is a second number now required to reach someone. I called the second number and spend 20 minutes listening to various phone ques and never reaching an actual person. Fortunately I am not on a limited cell phone minute plan as many low-income Los Angelinos are.

I have been back at work for two weeks now and I have not been paid in over a month. I had to return to work, there is no way I could remain housed if I stayed out and addressed my health. Child care tuition was due today and I did not have the money. I was hoping to qualify for some kind of assistance such as CCRC. Subsidized Child Care requires that i have an active DPSS case. I can’t have an active case until DPSS gets around to my application. I may not even qualify  – since a mythical Disability check is supposedly on it’s way for less than half of what my usual wage was.

I totally understand that there are rules and that the Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services has 30 days to evaluate an application – but please explain that to my child care worker or my family.

I am fortunate because I can borrow but many of the citizens of Los Angeles County can not. Who is providing oversight? I hope that the Board of Supervisors, whom I’ve experiences to be intellegent and highly effective, realize that this program has some serious flaws and that they address them soon. I will be happy to tell them about my experiences over lunch, but only if they are buying – I won’t be paid for a week.


I will not tell you where I work , only that I am a fan of the work I do and my coworkers are great. 


#FoodStampChallenge is worse than a hard level of @CandyCrushSaga

Eating and playing a quick round of Candy Crush are what usually takes up the empty moments in my life. I can do either of them unconsciously – and both set off small burst of serotonin and adrenaline. Read: They make me physically happy and content. Well, happy until you find something like Level 65 on Candy Crush and are stuck there for days, weeks, it seems like forever.

shopping supplies
insulated @thirtyone bag  and coupons and recipe books
Produce First
Produce First – I admit, I had to @Google “pinto beans”

In Candy Crush you have a limited number of moves and sometimes chocolate creeps in and takes over the game board – ruining your chance for success. In the Food Stamp Challenge we have a limited number of dollars and hunger is always creeping in and ruining everything.
Last week: I experienced what happens when a two-year old sees neatly packed single servings of food and fruits that she can access when hungry. Darla ate her way through 3 days of food in a day and a half. Her childish, growth spurt driven hunger is like the annoying chocolate in the game.  Just when you forget it is there, or think you have a plan to address is soon – but not immediately – it takes over and ruins everything.
When I first starting playing Candy Crush – I just played it without learning too much about it. I did the 5 step tutorial at the beginning of the game and then decided I was smart enough to conquer based on my innate brilliance. Stop laughing at me. Somewhere around level thirty I became frustrated and turned to the internet for cheats and tips and tricks. –

Learning to budgeting on Food Stamps is like learning to play Candy Crush Saga. In the beginning you see lots of options. Instead of 40 moves, you have over $300 to buy food and it seems plentiful – overly generous in fact.

So – you take the money and start shopping.
 The first things you purchase are luxury foods, prepackaged, ready to eat, processed foods that won’t take time to prepare. Perhaps you even through deserts into the cart. Seriously, how long until we lose Twinkies again?!?  Next are all the juices (they are fruits, right?) Steak – because it isn’t really your money and so $16 for steak doesn’t hurt your feelings when it is basically free.

And once your cart is half full of every food that takes away your feelings of sequestration , you mentally block meals and days of eating – only to find that nothing in your cart can combine with anything else to constitute a healthy meal. So: back go the Twinkies, muffins, chocolate cake. Back go the sugar infused fruit juices and you can live without the T-bone steak as well … right?
Into your cart go the basics that are only found around the perimeter of the store:

• Bags of fresh fruits and vegetables (oranges, grapes, corn, cauliflower, peppers etc.) • A block of meat that you ask the in-store butcher to slice because it is more affordable per slice than the prepackaged and water logged meats.
• Bread and tortillas • Blocks of cheese (cheaper than bags of pre-shredded)
• Peanut butter • Bulk Chicken chests, packages of ground beef, etc
• Eggs • Salt, pepper, seasoning salt
• Butter • Oatmeal
• Flour • Beans and rice
• Oil • Sugar
• Cream of chicken, or cream of mushroom soups • Pasta
• Tomato paste • milk

And you realize that with these basics you can make tacos, meatloaf, quesadillas, burritos, breakfast, squeeze your own juice. Combining these works in several ways to blast the nutritional roadblocks and flavor blocks you were so afraid would ruin this for you. Using these ingredients you can even make ice-cream.

Screenshot_2013-08-12-11-41-47-picsayIt is like combining a striped candy with a wrapped candy or color bomb. Magically obstacles disappear when you plan your moves ahead of time.
Like Candy Crush Saga, you have to try some levels several times. Unlike the game, once you run out of moves, dollars, meals, or food – you can’t just wait and have more tries gifted to you.

You have to beg for extra lives – which is far more annoying than going to Face Book and hitting up your friends for extra lives or tickets to the next level. This means going to Food Banks for boxes of food pre-chosen by someone else – and sometimes the food is weird or all starches, MEND Poverty makes boxes that are 60% fresh produce, but not all food banks have such good connections to grocery stores or donors whose money can be used to purchase these fruits and vegetables. That means that if your food stamp budget gets blown, your family could be living on Cheerios for over a week.

♥ my insulated shopping bag that kept the frozen items frozen and cold stuff cold as I got lost in the store came from . Tell her Sonya says Hello!

To help fund MEND (meet each need with dignity)’s food bank… go to and look up ” stop summer hunger ” or click: 

How to Ruin Your FoodStamp Budget

costcoMore on my MEND Poverty #Foodstampchallenge to #stopSummerHunger

Well, to begin with, it turns out that since 2009 Costco has accepted the EBT cards as payment in their stores. so YAY. ”

  • Payment
  • • We welcome cash,* checks,* debit/ATM cards,** Costco
  • Cash Cards, Costco Credit Cards**, EBT Cards and
  • American Express Cards.** Checks may require picture
  • identification and approval by a supervisor or manager.
  • * Not accepted at Costco Gas Stations.
  • ** Not accepted at Costco Food Courts.”

On the down side; all the best planning in the world does nothing if you leave a 2 year old home in the care of a 43 year old who lets the 2 year old feed herself out of the refrigerator.

Darla made her way through 2 bananas and 3 baggies of fruit and 3 tubs of precooked meals – thus throwing off my weekly plan. But, we will regroup and stay the course.

I imagine this happens to many households with kids. They grow – they get hungry – they EAT and eat and EAT.

It is officially a challenge – are you joining us?

It is posted on the @MENDpoverty web site so there is no backing out.

I am defiant by nature so I keep complaining and whining to myself : “Why me? Who thinks these things up? But there is MATH – like REAL MATH, involved”

Well, other than my moment of being incredibly shallow and stupid – the whole point of this is because other people don’t have a choice. There are moms and dads near us  (no matter where you are in California)  who don’t have this as a “One Month Challenge” – this is life It has to be a life style. They have to master this or starve.

This has been giving me flashbacks of 19 years ago. I knew less about math and nutrition and budgeting.  I also was one of those “welfare Moms” who packed on the pounds because I chose starchy food options rather than the healthy one. Potato chips have more calories and cost less than something healthier so it kept me running around after a little l=kid for longer and the extra energy hung out on me as fat.

This time it will be different. It will be better. But it will still be really difficult.  And that is also my point.

In the state that produces enough food to feed our nation, and in a nation that grows enough food to feel the entire world : we have starving kids and rich politicians and people who begrudge even giving a little assistance to the poorest among us – and then they march off to church to pray and incorrectly call us a “Christian Nation”. Dude, Jesus gave out free fish. At $1.91 per person for each meal, some Jesus Fishes would be super welcome right now.

Cal Fresh Awareness Month

Cal Fresh Awareness
Cal Fresh Awareness

Food Stamps, SNAP, Cal-Fresh . . .
All different names for the same thing : letting low-income people purchase food, fresh food, frozen food, fruits and vegetables, milk and juices and meats to stay alive, alert and to keep on going while they experience the type of poverty that would keep them choosing:
Food or electricity.
Food or medication.
Food or new shoes.

Cal Fresh Awareness

Who needs Cal-Fresh?
Fixed income Grandmas and Grandpas
Single parents
The underpaid employees
The Under-employed
Families who are fostering children to save them from the streets
Families living in the streets

Nearly 72 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children; more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities.

—– is it a good program or just tossing money in the trash? —- SNAP and other nutrition programs have helped make severe hunger in America rare.  Before the late 1960s, when the federal government began providing nutrition assistance, hunger and severe malnutrition could be found in many low-income communities in the United States. Today, in large part because of these programs, such severe conditions are no longer found in large numbers.

To promote efficiency, SNAP has one of the most rigorous quality control systems of any public benefit program.  Its error rates stand at record lows; fewer than 2 percent of SNAP benefits are issued to households that do not meet all of the program’s eligibility requirements.

Giving low income people the purchasing power to buy food keeps them from depending so much on School Lunches and Food Banks.


MEND Poverty (Meet Each Need with Dignity)  in Pacoima is doing an outreach attempt to enroll participants in the program.

@MENDPoverty and The Oscar Experience

Oscar Experience with MEND Poverty at Universal Studios from the 

Home : Awards : Academy Awards : Oscar® Experience: Benefits
Oscar® Experience: Benefits

1234Oscar® Experience: Benefits, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ grassroots program that enables charities to host glamorous fund-raising parties on Oscar Sunday, will kick off its 20th year in 2013.

On Sunday, February 24, 46 charities in as many locations will host official viewing parties during the 85th Academy Awards® ceremony. The events will feature the live broadcast of the Awards presentation, which will be televised by the ABC Television Network.

“Oscar Sunday is an event meant to be a shared with others. This network of fundraising parties across the nation is just that: a shared experience. These gatherings also represent the year-round philanthropic work the Academy does,” said Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “This February we are thrilled to be able to celebrate the movies with fans nationwide while supporting charities around the country.”

Most parties are black-tie affairs, though some are less formal. Some partygoers dress up as famous couples, and some events feature limousine arrivals and red carpets complete with local celebrities, paparazzi and press interviews for arriving guests.

To set these parties apart from the thousands of other events taking place on Oscar Night®, each Oscar Experience: Benefits party receives from the Academy copies of the official commemorative poster and the official Oscar show program among other items.

Only one charity party in a given media market may participate in Oscar Experience: Benefits. Events are entirely produced by local nonprofit organizations, with the active participation of the local ABC-TV affiliate station.

Last year, 49 charities hosted viewing parties for the 84th Academy Awards, raising over $3.15 million, all of it remaining in local communities.