Silver Springs, Nevada – There was a lot of laughter and many hugs at a luncheon in Silver Springs as Bruce Barlow of Walmart presented a check for $70,000 to benefit the Dayton and Silver Stage Food Pantries. Each summer, pantry volunteers, staff and participants host a lunchtime tour with key Walmart representatives to show their appreciation. Walmart’s donations over the last 5 years have helped sustain Healthy Communities Coalition’s food pantries and its unique food, health and community development “hubs” – interconnected regional efforts designed to support residents in revitalizing their own communities.
Donation Supports Food Pantries and Employment Program: This year as in past years, Walmart donated a total of $70,000 to the “volunteer powered” food pantries in Dayton and Silver Springs, and to Community Chest in Virginia City. Each year, Community Chest’s Erik Schoen has written a proposal for the donation, and Walmart has responded with an annual donation of $35,000 to sustain Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey’s pantries in Silver Springs and Dayton, plus $35,000 to support Community Chest’s employment program, which places employment experts at both of the food pantries and at Community Chest in Virginia City.
The employment specialists help Pantry visitors locate job openings, develop resumes, and connect with job training opportunities, in addition to assisting with Medicaid, Disability and SNAP (food stamps) questions.
Erik Schoen of Community Chest welcomed the team from Walmart to the tour and luncheon, noting that “this is the 5th year in a row that Walmart has helped fund some of the wonderful work being done at Healthy Communities Coalition’s food pantries in Silver Springs and Dayton. I think Walmart’s sustained commitment is evidence of two things — one, their commitment to the well being and livelihood of the program participants; and two, their understanding of the need to provide support over not just the short term but the long term.” Schoen went on to say, “On the face of it, Walmart’s donation helps bring food to people, but it is really so much more. The food is also an invitation to be in connection with a great community of others who care about where they live, an opportunity to be of service to each other.”
Silver Stage Food Pantry Director Kathy McIntosh, along with Jackrabbit Junction Director Troyanne Cada and many enthusiastic volunteers, were obviously delighted with the chance to show the Walmart team the busy food pantry, the adjacent thriving community garden and hoop house, and the indoor farmers market called Jackrabbit Junction. Bruce Barlow, Market Manager for Northern Nevada Walmart stores, commented that the welcoming, family atmosphere that the volunteers and staff have created at the Silver Stage Pantry is deeply touching. Silver Stage manager Kathy McIntosh said that the food pantries set a high bar for treating each visitor with dignity and compassion, explaining that “the volunteers do so much. It’s not just about standing at a table handing out food. It’s about so much more. The volunteers are the most wonderful, caring people I’ve ever met.” Other Walmart team members in attendance included Amber Vaught, Fernley Walmart Store Manager; Rebecca Johnson, Fallon Walmart Store Manager; and Jason Schmidt, Market Asset Protection Manager.
Christy McGill, director of Healthy Communities, said the pantries do everything possible to leverage and match Walmart’s donation. During the last year, with the Walmart donation, plus USDA Commodities, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, local fundraisers and donations, and more than 25,000 hours of work by hundreds of community volunteers, the pantries in Dayton and Silver Springs have reached 8,685 individuals with more than 578,977 pounds of food. Walmart also helps sustain the food backpack program for children attending schools in Dayton and Silver Springs, a program that supplies 4,068 weekend meals every month.
Getting to the Roots of Hunger: McGill explained, “Walmart’s generous funding is crucial in meeting the “short term” needs for food so that we can work with the communities on long-term structural reforms that can stop food insecurity. These include re-empowering local citizens to grow their own food at home and in community gardens, further connecting people to opportunities for job training and continuing education, and continuing to increase access to affordable dental, vision, mental health and medical care so that people can get and stay healthy. It also includes removing barriers standing in the way of entrepreneurial dreams. For instance, Silver Springs residents came to Coalition meetings saying they wanted legislation that would allow them to create micro-businesses to sell their home-produced foods like breads, jams, pickles and salsa at area farmer’s markets, and so the Cottage Food Industries law and the “Pickles and Salsa” bills were introduced. With advocacy by everyday folks and many groups, both bills passed. The result is that hundreds of new micro-businesses have popped up, and many existing businesses throughout Nevada were able to expand.”
Regional Food Hub: The food pantries in Silver Springs and Dayton are part of a regional “Healthy Food Hub” with Healthy Communities that addresses the roots of hunger and increases access to nutritious and affordable foods through food pantries, weekend food backpack programs for children, school salad bars with local produce, farmers markets that accept WIC and SNAP as payment, gardening and cooking education, community and school gardens and hoop houses throughout Lyon County, teen garden internships, a nonprofit garden center (Community Roots) that also serves as a vocational rehabilitation site for both adults and youths, etc. These strategies boost the local economy by increasing local farmers’ access to new consumers and expanding opportunities for youth and adults to teach and learn new skills that increase food security.
Jackrabbit Junction Director Troyanne Cada, Silver Stage Food Pantry Director Kathy McIntosh, and many enthusiastic volunteers, were obviously delighted with the chance to show the Walmart team the busy food pantry, the adjacent thriving community garden and hoop house, and the indoor farmers market called Jackrabbit Junction.