A Simple Gesture

Sharing Food In Our Community. Serving Paradise and Magalia, California

Paradise Post Article February 15, 2011

A Simple Gesture

By Paul Wellersdick Staff Writer
Posted: 02/15/2011 01:00:00 AM PST

Sorting food

Megan Hollingworth, a 16-year-old senior at CORE Butte Charter School, helps sort food donations...

A new private non-profit venture collected 6,400 pounds of non-perishable food Saturday, stocking two local church food banks with more than three tons of food to give to hungry Ridge families.

By 11 a.m., 15 volunteers at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church received 100 bags of food from the program called "A Simple Gesture." At Ridge Presbyterian Church’s Pearson Road office, church representatives collected even more, stocking the church’s new pantry full of goods to give out.

A Simple Gesture borrowed a successful idea from an Ashland, Ore. program and brought it to Paradise through an 11-year-old foundation by the same name, founders Karen and Jonathan Trivers said.

With about 470 "green baggers" now participating, up from 224 in December, the foundation hopes to grow to 1,000 participants by late summer to provide a constant flow of 90,000 pounds of food a year, more than a semi-truck load, Jonathan said. Participants sign up and receive a green reusable bag to bring shopping with them. Each time they shop they throw a non-perishable item in the bag, and every two months someone from A Simple Gesture shows up to retrieve the bag and bring it to a local food bank, Jonathan said.

For every 300 participants, the program will be able to add a new church or service organization to its list of benefactors, he said. Saturday was its inaugural run in Paradise and volunteers were happy to help feed the needy in town, they said. But in Ashland, where the Trivers’ oldest son lives, the Ashland Food Project has been running strong for years.

This month the Ashland project collected more than 15 tons of food and in nearby Medford volunteers saw more than 8,000 pounds on its first run. Also, the program has spread to Talent where more than a ton was collected.

Karen said with about 20 percent of the county at or below the poverty level, something needed to be done to help feed families. According to factfinder.census.gov, Butte County’s poverty level was 18 percent between 2005 and 2009, more than the U.S. average of 13 percent. For families, that number was 11 percent in Butte and just under 10 for the U.S. For comparison, recent reports show Ziebach County in central South Dakota as the most impoverished U.S. county, with 60 percent of the population below federal poverty levels.

Just as the demand for help has increased, government sources of help have decreased, Jonathan said, adding that the gesture program uses no government grants.

"No government subsidy," a statement read. "We are the first in California to demonstrate that a community can take care of its neighbors and feed them when they are hungry."

Patty Nonneman at St. Nicholas said the church pantry usually draws from a government supported Oroville pantry, but supplies there have been short, as have the funding sources to buy from it. Having A Simple Gesture help also allows their grant dollars to go further, she said. The church feeds 65 families or more than 250 people biweekly, Nonneman said.

Volunteers, especially youth, said they were surprised by Paradise families’ need for food. Megan Hollingworth, 16, said volunteering Saturday opened her eyes to a new side of Paradise. "I’ve been to this church before and didn’t know it was here," she said of the Episcopal church pantry.

Her peer, Chrissi Overlock, 16, said much the same, adding that it was great to be a part of such a program, helping fill shelves and feed mouths.

"To see the shelves almost empty and now they’re almost full – it makes me feel proud," she said.

Monday through Saturday there are free meals at local churches. A Simple Gesture is available at (530) 876-8448 and at www.asimplegesture.org.