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A Simple Mission

By Matt Katz

 

ne of my clearest childhood memories is a feeling: I was always supremely confident that whatever went down, no matter how drastic the situation, I could easily live off the land.

Call it childhood naivety, but considering the surroundings it made some sense. To me, everything west of Camarillo State Hospital (now CSUCI) looked like a salad bar. This was the Land of Plenty, with mountains plunging into the sea and a free buffet of agricultural flatlands. Running away would be a piece of cake. Not to hop trains or join the circus, mind you. No, I’d stay right here in Ventura County and eat.

That was back in the seventies. I’ve matured very little since then, just enough to realize our local bounty is not up for grabs. Still, it shocks me to think that one in six people around here—one of the most food-abundant regions in the world—go hungry. What I find even more shocking is that the number exceeds our national average. Consider the irony: We’re the sixth wealthiest county in the famous “Golden State,” a county blessed with a temperate climate, miles of coast, a couple of islands, and perfect growing soil. Yet more people go hungry here than in backwaters where kids run away to join the circus.

To be sure, the numbers are disheartening. But our aim in presenting an interview with Bonnie Weigel, the new CEO of FOOD Share (cover and p. 31), isn’t to point out a dark cloud hovering over Ventura County. Rather, it’s to put a face on the solution—and if solution is too strong a word, call it good intent.

Of course good intent doesn’t feed the hungry. My wife founded a successful nonprofit foundation and I’ve seen firsthand that philanthropy is a demanding line of work. An unfortunate reality of the business is that many well-meaning charities devolve into thorny tangles of donated money and clashing ideas about how to use that money.

There’s no avoiding the perpetual hunt for funds. But as a nonprofit, FOOD Share has something extremely vital going for it: the purity of its mission. It exists to feed people. Simple as that. The way neighbors have helped neighbors since the dawn of humankind.

No, philanthropy is not an easy business, particularly in bleak economic times. But I get the sense that Bonnie Weigel has the right combination of communication skills and good intentions to make a real difference with FOOD Share. And though I haven’t seen it, I’d be willing to bet she has a Rolodex the size of a phonebook.

We live in an imperfect world, but in a helluva good place, with a lot of great people. Thanks again for your support.

03-01-2009

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