Welcome to Divine Spark's website!

We provide support & guidance for people in-need without regard to gender, race, creed, age, or calling to activate the divine spark within each of them. We offer a Weekly Meal Program, allocation of donated Motor Vehicles & Bicycles, Pet Food & Veterinarian Care, Legal & Job Referral Help, and Meal/Food Vouchers are just a part of the assistance we provide. Here's the latest happenings...

Join Divine Spark at the Stonehouse in Nevada City for their annual Christmas Celebration on December 25th - Everyone Welcome!

Community Holiday Potluck Dinner - Divine Spark, Everyone is welcome, Lots entertainment. Holiday meals items are welcome, last year we had 300 guests, what a feast! So warming! We are taking donation for food, cars, shelter items, tarps, warm clothing, sleeping bag, blanket, socks, shoes, jackets, personal hygiene items for the less fortunate.

Divine Spark is hosting it's Annual Holiday & Christmas Dinner for our homeless & poverty-ravaged neighbors on Christmas Day, Thursday, 12/25/14 at the Old Stonehouse Bar & Grill (107 Sacramento Street, Nevada City). Although dinner will NOT be served at precisely 11am, the event will take place from 11am - 6pm. The vibe for this event will be casual, inclusive, and relaxed, to be sure! There are many volunteer opportunities available, starting as early as 8am to get all the food prep done, and going as late as 8pm, to assist with the clean up. Please consider joining us in this much-needed & worthwhile community endeavor!

Those interested in volunteer opportunities, may contact Shirley Kinghorn at (530) 913-2050 to arrange their participation.....or simply show up at the event, ready to lend a hand. Monetary and food donations are, of course, also welcome, needed, and greatly appreciated!

Sunday Morning Meal & Voucher Program

Once a week Divine Spark and volunteers offer a prepared meal from 10:00 am to 12:00 noon on Sunday mornings at the front steps of the Divine Spark office at 308 Main Street in Nevada City. Food Vouchers, which has been donated from local merchants & eateries for meals, are offered to the hungry as well. Gently-used clothing, and dog food for Pets, is also available.

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VISITORS: Please read Divine Spark's Sunday Morning Guidelines...>>

The Leftovers We Toss

1 December 2014
by Olga Khazan
The Atlantic

Wasted groceries are a big, expensive problem. Here are the items Americans are most likely to throw away.

No matter how fond we are of turkey Monte Cristo sandwiches or even turkey tamales, there comes a time when even the most beloved Thanksgiving leftovers—yes, even grandma's cornbread stuffing—must make their way into the garbage. For most Americans, that time will come sometime this week, if it hasn't already.

Thanksgiving remnants are just one drop in the American food-waste bucket, though. The amount of food we throw away year-round is adding up to be a bit of a problem. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food scraps make up 20 percent of our landfills, and each year Americans toss 35 million tons of uneaten groceries. That's nearly enough to feed the population of California.

Restaurants and businesses are responsible for about half of food waste, and consumers for the other half, according to the EPA. All that garbage costs American households $124 billion each year.

So what are we most likely to dispose of? Fresh fruits and vegetables, which tend to give up the ghost rather quickly, are one major culprit. Americans throw away 31 percent of all tomatoes they buy, for example, or 21 tomatoes per year per person.

Here's a more detailed breakdown, via the USDA's food-loss estimates among consumers for 2010:

Percent of Various Food Items Wasted by Households

Percent of various food items, in pounds, thrown out by consumers (Olga Khazan/Atlantic)

Fish is the most likely food item to end up in the trash, followed by added sugars and sweeteners—likely because they're in a lot of the treats that we're casting off.

Economically, it's meat, fish, and poultry that costs the most when you add up food waste from restaurants and households combined, as the USDA did in 2012:

The EPA recommends a number of strategies for reducing waste, like making shopping lists, eating older groceries first, and learning the proper way to store fruits and vegetables.

Value of Wasted Food, in Billions of Dollars

Value of food wasted by both consumers and businesses, in billions of dollars (USDA)

The agency recently designed a program called "Food: Too Good to Waste," that aims to get consumers to buy what they need and eat what they buy.

One reason that food-waste advocates' message of "Just eat it" hasn't quite taken off, though, might be that nutritionists are simultaneously putting out warning messages about the dangers of past-their-prime groceries.

Jill Roberts, a professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, recently told Tampa's Fox 13 that people should even be wary of milk and eggs left out sweating on the counter while the coffee brews. And don't even think about that Wednesday-after-Thanksgiving turkey tetrazzini:

"Five days after Thanksgiving," she said, "you should not be eating that turkey."

Nevada County seeks to create homeless village

12 November 2014
by Keri Brenner
The Union Newspaper

Nevada County residents, leaders, volunteers and other stakeholders in the issue of housing the homeless came out in force this week to hear a proposal for a microhousing village in Nevada City.

“Half the damn town is here,” said Nevada City Councilman Robert Bergman, surveying the crowd of almost 300 people that filled the Nevada City Elks Lodge Monday night. “The support is there, but the follow-up will be difficult.”

Bergman was referring to a plan to create an Opportunity Village of 30 to 40 microhousing units based on a successful model in Eugene, Oregon, Andrew Heben, an organizer of the Eugene project, showed a video and slide presentation on the Oregon homeless community, whose one-year lease on city-owned land was extended last month by the Eugene City Council to June 1 of next year.

“It’s going to take a few people who are willing to take leadership on this,” said Bergman, who said he was optimistic. “I have never had a conversation with anyone who does not want to find a solution (for homelessness).”

Heben’s presentation was cosponsored by Sierra Roots, a Nevada City-based organization that serves the homeless and offers weekly meals at Pioneer Park, and Charles Durrett of Durrett & McCamant Architects in Nevada City.

Sierra Roots President Janice O’Brien said anyone interested in getting involved may attend one or all of three follow-up meetings, on Nov. 20th, 25th, and Dec. 10th at private homes. For more information, call 530-265-5403 or visit www.SierraRoots.org.

Durrett said he is continuing to explore various locations and to meet with groups interested in helping to build the units.

“I think this is a win-win,” said a teacher from YouthBuild, a Nevada County program that teaches construction to area youth. “What do you need?”

Durrett said he met Monday with YouthBuild students, who seemed eager to help with the project.

“As Andrew said, this has to start with a collaboration between the housed and the unhoused,” Durrett said. “This doesn’t work for everyone, but it does offer an opportunity to set up for success for some people.

“A sleeping bag in the woods is a setup for failure,” he added.

He added that it would be “so much easier to provide services at a central location in a village-like setting. It’s easier for all of us, instead of the incessant difficulty of searching for people in the woods.”

Cindy Maple, executive director of Utah’s Place, Hospitality House’s 54-bed homeless shelter in Grass Valley, said she would like to see a more collaborative and cohesive approach to the whole issue of affordable housing in Nevada County.

“In the absence of enough affordable housing units and emergency shelter beds to meet the need for the number of homeless people in our community, we need to be looking at creative solutions,” Maple said earlier on Monday.

“My hope is community leaders and agencies serving homeless people will also invest in developing more permanent solutions, such as forming an affordable housing coalition to address the affordable housing shortage and funding a Housing First model, both of which will help provide a more permanent solution to homelessness.”

She said the model of Housing First centers on providing homeless people with housing quickly and then providing services as needed.

“What differentiates a Housing First approach from other strategies is that there is an immediate and primary focus on helping individuals and families quickly access and sustain permanent housing,” she said. “This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve.”

Hospitality House, which offers programs such as cooking classes, self-esteem workshops and guitar lessons, has been highly successful in finding long-term housing placement for its guests, with almost 200 people housed in about the last 15 months.

“Utah’s Place is a blessing from God,” said Steve Pratt, 46, who was homeless for 20 years before coming to Nevada County two months ago and staying at Hospitality House. “They have the best food ever.”

His stay at Utah’s Place gave Pratt, who is on disability, and his sister Geneva Bigelow, time to find a permanent and affordable housing situation in the last week or so.

“With an application for Section 8, there’s a two-year waiting list,” said Bigelow. “Meanwhile, he’s outside.”

She said a place such as Opportunity Village would offer her brother “at least some shelter, a shower, and a place to store stuff so it doesn’t get stolen.”

Pratt said he appreciated the self-governing aspect of Opportunity Village. In order to be a resident, homeless people must sign a five-point contract agreeing to: 1. No violence to yourselves or others; 2. No theft. 3. No alcohol, illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia; 4. No persistent, disruptive behavior; 5. Everyone must contribute to the operation and maintenance of the Village.

“For Opportunity Village Eugene, our policy is no drugs or alcohol within 500 feet of the site — and this really hasn’t been an issue for us,” Heben said. “We do not regulate what residents do elsewhere. But if someone comes back intoxicated and creates a disturbance, any other villager can write an incident report, and then the council decides what the proper disciplinary action is.

“If there is an altercation, the general protocol is to ask that person to either go back to their house and stop creating a disturbance or leave the site,” Heben said. “If someone refuses to leave, the village will call the police, but that has happened less than a handful of times in the first year.”

Pratt said he likes the idea of the villagers acting as a self-regulating community — both to aid and to police each other.

“One person helping another person is insurmountable,” said Pratt, who said he has lived in tent cities and in sleeping bags in the woods. “This is remarkable.”

Heben, author of “Tent City Urbanism,” said he is now working to build Emerald Village, a slightly more upscale version of Opportunity Village that, unlike the homeless community, has bathrooms and kitchens in the units and utilities.

In Opportunity Village, utilities are only available at a central bathhouse and yurt. Emerald Village is seen as being for people who are downsizing from more expensive housing as well as people working their way up to more stability, Heben said.

Greg Zaller of Nevada County said he recently received approval from Nevada County officials for an Emerald-Village-like microhouse.

“We call this building the Foothold House because it gives a foothold to home ownership,” Zaller said. Nevada County Chief Executive Rick Haffey featured the new concept in his Friday Memo on Nov. 7.

Bergman, meanwhile, said he believed that residents with “persistence, patience and motivation” could succeed with Opportunity Village as they did in saving the Bridgeport Historic Covered Bridge.

“The hardest part is project management ­­— who’s going to organize it and get materials?” he said. “Who will take the lead? That’s my concern.”

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

23 Food Sharing Projects That Are Disrupting Hunger

by Cat Johnson
29 July 2014

Food is one of our most basic needs. And yet, for over 800 million people, food insecurity remains a daily issue. While top-down programs that address hunger certainly exist, more efficient, immediate solutions are sometimes found on the community level, where neighbors directly help neighbors.

We’ve rounded up 23 food projects that are transforming communities by feeding the hungry, educating people about healthy eating and food justice issues, and providing opportunities for people to grow their own food.

Reverse Food Truck1. Reverse Food Truck (finnegans.org/reverse-food-truck/)

Bringing an altruistic twist to the food truck trend, Finnegan’s Reverse Food Truck in Minnesota collects food and donations to give to the hungry. The team is currently working to collect $50,000 in non-perishable food by November. Read more.

2. Food is Free (foodisfreeproject.org)

Demonstrating the value of both growing food and building community, the Food is Free project in Austin, teaches people how to grow food in their front yards using raised garden beds made from salvaged materials and drought-tolerant, low-maintenance vegetable plants. The resulting harvests are free for anyone in the community. Read more.

Plant a Fruit3. Plant a Fruit plantafruit.org

Working to make Kenya a food secure, environmentally friendly country, Plant a Fruit, well, as the name suggests, plants fruit trees. In addition to providing food using smart, ecologically-sound techniques, the organization trains “agripreneurs,” serves as a network, and increases the amount of organic food consumed in Kenya.

4. Milk Not Jails (milknotjails.wordpress.com)

This cooperative, comprising formerly incarcerated people, dairy farmers, criminal justice advocates and more works to end upstate New York’s investment in mass incarceration. By selling the Milk Not Jails brand of dairy products, sourced from farmers who support the transition of the area’s prison industrial complex into a revitalized agricultural economy, the organization creates income for struggling dairy farmers, cooperative work for formerly incarcerated people, and food for New Yorkers.

5. Green Hands Project (greenhandsproject.com)

The Green Hands Project in Sacramento, California provides food solutions and gardening training to disadvantaged people by turning unused lots into organic gardens.

The Kitchen Library6. The Kitchen Library (thekitchenlibrary.ca)

The first of its kind in Canada, the Kitchen Library in Toronto is a library for kitchen appliances including mixers, juicers, dehydrators, pasta makers, ice cream makers and more. Photo: Colin McConnell/Toronto Star

7. Rust Belt Riders Composting (rustbeltriderscomposting.com)

Based in Cleveland, this bicycle-powered, worker owned cooperative picks up food scraps from your home, business or event and pedals them off to be composted. The project supports 300-plus community gardens, a tool lending library and 15 local farmers’ markets.

8. Ujamaa Freedom Market (ujamaafreedommarket.wordpress.com)

A worker-owned cooperative mobile market, the Ujamaa Freedom Market sells local produce and healthy prepared foods to under-served communities in Asheville, North Carolina. The vision for the project is to feed and nourish the whole community and to promote social, economic, environmental, and food justice.

Santa Barbara Food Independence Co-Operative9. Santa Barbara Food Independence Co-Operative (foodindycoop.com)

The Food Independence Co-Operative (Food Indy Co-Op) is a worker-owned cooperative that provides educational work and food sharing opportunities in local gardens, orchards and farms. Members are paid in Santa Barbara Missions, the local complementary currency, which can be used to buy produce as well as meals at local restaurants and cafeterias.

10. grOCAD (grocad.tumblr.com)

grOCAD is a group of Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) students, faculty and staff working to “increase healthy food accessibility, encourage discourse about how plants improve quality of life, and heighten awareness to urban agricultural practices.” They do this by cultivating areas in and around OCAD’s campus. Projects include an aquaponic window farm, a learning zone hydroponic farm, a vertical farm and various workshops.

Burrito Riders11. Burrito Riders (burritoriders.org)

The Burrito Riders have provided over 10,000 breakfast burritos to the homeless in Huntington, West Virginia. But the burrito is just a way to meet people--the real goal is to “connect with the people...and to show them, through a building of relationships, that they are valued and respected.”

12. Food 4 Social Change (www.food4socialchange.com)

With a vision to “create jobs by assisting food entrepreneurs to fulfill their dreams of a bold and vibrant business community,” Food 4 Social Change is a Bay Area kitchen incubator, described as a business incubator with a kitchen attached. Services offered include culinary skills training, life skills classes, entrepreneur workshops and more. There’s a particular focus on helping the homeless, ex-cons and at-risk youth.

Shore Soup13. Shore Soup (shoresoupproject.org)

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Shore Soup was created as a grassroots way to get food to those who needed it. A network of over 400 volunteers was created to serve meals to homebound seniors, families without access to healthy food, individuals living in public housing and those who were displaced by the storm. The project continues to thrive and has, since its inception, delivered over 50,000 free healthy meals throughout the Rockaway community.

14. People’s Kitchen Detroit (www.peopleskitchendetroit.org)

The People’s Kitchen has a mission to provide access to affordable, healthy, local and bulk foods, to share skills and knowledge about preparing healthy meals, to demonstrate the health benefits of healthy eating, and to support local growers. By doing so, they increase food security, encourage community involvement, and deepen people’s connection to the earth. Projects include skillshares and cookshares, a member-owned cooperative food buying club, and a healing garden. Read more.

Urban Fruit Trail15. Los Angeles Urban Fruit Trail (fallenfruit.org/news/fallen-fruit-and-hola-grow-las-first-urban-fruit-trail)

In an effort to transform the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Los Angeles, organizers are creating the Urban Fruit Trail, a walkable network-in-progress of fruit trees. The trees, along with accompanying art created by local youth, will be geotagged and available in a free app. Read more.

16. Boulder Food Rescue (www.boulderfoodrescue.org)

With a vision to create a more just and less wasteful food system, Boulder Food Rescue recovers perfectly good food that would otherwise go to the landfill and distributes it to local agencies that feed the homeless and low-income communities. The cherry on top is that 80 percent of the project's pickup and delivery is done by bicycle. Read more.

Cropmobster17. Cropmobster (sfbay.cropmobster.com)

Food waste is not just a problem with grocers and food stores; it can be an issue on farms as well. Nick Papadopolous, general manager of Bloomfield Farms in Sonoma County, Ca. decided to do something about that. He founded Cropmobster, a platform designed to connect farmers with extra food to organizations that can use it. A double-win, Cropmobster addresses hunger and food waste and strengthens the connection between farmers and the local community. Read more.

18. Open Food Foundation (openfoodfoundation.org)

The Open Food Foundation, based in Australia, aims to "develop and protect a commons of open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms for fair and sustainable food systems." What this means is that they're working to build and strengthen networks and organizations dedicated to food justice and sustainability issues using the open source ethos. Read more.

Green Carts19. New York Green Carts (www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/living/greencarts.shtml)

Mobile carts that sell affordable fruits and vegetables in areas of New York City considered food deserts, Green Carts were introduced in 2008 to help fight high childhood obesity rates. The carts bring culturally-appropriate fresh foods to people who otherwise have limited access to them. Read more. Photo: Illumination Fund

20. Gardening for Good (ggardeningforgood.com)

Based in Greenville, South Carolina, Gardening for Good is a network of community gardens whose members work together to further the community garden movement, create better neighborhoods and improve community health through gardening. By doing so, the network builds stronger communities, encourages civic engagement and provides access to healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate foods.

Food Recovery Network21. Food Recovery Network (www.foodrecoverynetwork.org)

A quickly-expanding, multi-university project, the Food Recovery Network redirects campus food headed for the landfill and distributes it to local organization working to address hunger. Originally formed at the University of Maryland, College Park, the network now includes nearly 100 colleges in 26 states. Read more.

22. Agrihoods (www.shareable.net/blog/12-agrihoods-taking-farm-to-table-living-mainstream)

Neighborhoods intentionally created around community farms, agrihoods build community, promote healthy and sustainable food production, encourage the sharing of resources and more.

Yard Sharing Network23. Yard Sharing Network (letsgochicago.org/projects/yard-sharing-network)

A project of Let’s Go Chicago, an organization that brings gardening and community-based programs together, the Yard Sharing Network connects people with under-used land with community members looking for a place to grow food. Growers and homeowners divide the produce with local food distribution organizations.

Homeless Bill of Rights aims to protect life-sustaining activities

Rights to move freely, sit, sleep and have access to hygiene facilities cited in surveys of 1,300 homeless people
October 6, 2014
by Renee Lewis
Al Jazeera America

A police officer talks to a homeless man at his encampment on a downtown Los Angeles sidewalk in 2006. Advocates in Colorado, California and Oregon argue that local laws that criminalize sleeping in public places unfairly target those perceived as undesirable in an attempt to push them out of public spaces.

A coalition of over 125 social justice groups is working on a Homeless Bill of Rights to be introduced to state legislatures in an effort to end the criminalization of people who live on the streets.

Advocates working in Colorado, California and Oregon have argued that local laws have criminalized life-sustaining actions like sitting or sleeping in public places. They argue that these laws unfairly target those perceived as undesirable, including the homeless, in an attempt to push them out of public spaces.

“Imagine if every shopper in Times Square that sat down got a ticket. It would never happen. It’s so blatantly racist and classist,” Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), told Al Jazeera, noting that those earmarked for police attention tended to be nonwhite and dressed in such a way to suggest poverty. “We’re talking about laws that every single person is going to break, but only certain people have the police enforcing the laws against them."

The coalition has compiled over 1,300 interviews with the homeless and said it has identified six priority areas to be included in the Homeless Bill of Rights.

Those six are the right to move freely and sleep in public spaces without discrimination, to sleep in a parked vehicle, to eat and exchange food in public, to obtain legal counsel, to access hygiene facilities 24/7 and to use the necessity defense in any criminal prosecution.

In the coming months, the coalition will work with lawyers to develop the bill, based on the most common complaints in each of the three states and then find state representatives to sponsor the bills for legislative sessions beginning in January 2015.

Criminalization of the homeless is nothing new and is part of the national status quo, Boden said. It's based on the broken-windows theory that addressing anti-social behavior will drive down more serious crimes. But the policing tactic unfairly singles out some groups — especially black and Hispanic people and the poor — and results in the removing of panhandlers and the mentally disabled from public spaces.

“They’re the broken window, and if you don’t remove them, all the other windows are going to get broken. If you’re black, mentally ill and homeless, you’re going to see the inside of a jail cell in no time,” he said.

According to interviews with the homeless, the top three activities that they were being criminalized for are sleeping, sitting and standing still in public areas.

“We want to get rid of the legal authority for local governments to use racist and classist police enforcement to get rid of people they don’t want in their town,” Boden said.

In Colorado, Denver Homeless Out Loud, a homeless rights group working with WRAP on the bill of rights, has taken over 400 surveys of homeless people in cities across the state to record their experiences and find out if their rights have been violated.

“In the survey responses, we are seeing that there is an excessive amount of police harassment happening around basic acts of survival, like sleeping,” said Terese Howard, a member of Denver Homeless Out Loud.

“Another complaint we see a lot is that their belongings were taken, which is something that happens in association with being bothered by police at their sleeping spot … and sometimes the police will confiscate belongings at that time — backpacks, sleeping bags, IDs, birth certificates and even medication.”

Opinion: The growing criminalization of homelessness: How developers & politicians create urban ‘social hygiene’ campaigns >>

Similar legislation has already been passed in Rhode Island, Illinois and Connecticut meant to protect the rights of the homeless. But the section of the legislation meant to stop the criminalization of these life-sustaining behaviors was amended out of the bills — essentially leaving it toothless, say activists.

“We were offered the same thing here last year when we were running our bill in California, and if we wanted, we could have ended up with the same thing as Rhode Island ended up with,” Boden said. “The end result with the Rhode Island bill is that the rich as well as the poor are forbidden from certain behaviors.”

Last year’s attempt to pass a bill that would put an end to the criminalization of those behaviors was unsuccessful, but Boden said they expected this process to be a long struggle and were not dismayed.

The Rhode Island, Illinois and Connecticut legislation aimed to end the discriminatory use of such laws so that all would be subject to the rules. But Boden argued that they are still enforced mainly against the poor and those deemed unseemly. As a result, he and others say, the homeless charter must take away local authorities’ ability to criminalize certain behavior.

In a signal that this movement may spread to additional states, social justice groups in Seattle invited WRAP members to a conference last week where they discussed Washington’s potential plans for its own homeless charter.

Boden said the bill of rights is about not just the homeless but also all “undesirables” in society. Reinforcing that idea is the fact that at least 125 social justice groups in five states form the coalition.

Laws targeting the homeless are a continuation of similar legislation that targeted marginalized and minority groups in the past, according to Boden.

“We see historically — whether it is Japanese-Americans or African-Americans — we see a long, entrenched history of the flavor of the month being targeted by local governments using the same enforcement procedure,” he said. “Create local laws under local government enforced by local police and private security … in order to remove people from whatever part of town or town they don’t want them in.”

Howard echoed Boden’s statements, saying these laws are fundamentally discriminatory.

“It’s important to note how this sort of criminalization follows in the footsteps of laws that have been on the books in past, with the primary goal of pushing ‘undesirables’ out of the public space,” Howard said. “Whether that’s Jim Crow, sundown laws, anti-Okie laws — these laws discriminate against only a certain type of people.”

Editor’s note: Al Jazeera America will be publishing a series of articles in the coming weeks focused on different aspects of the Homeless Bill of Rights and the plight of those living on the streets in the U.S.

American Hunger, by the Numbers

By Tracie McMillan
17 July 2014
Civil Eats

As I report in next month’s National Geographic feature, “The New Face of Hunger,” millions of American families are struggling with a new kind of hunger. Some of the increase can be traced to a change in definition; in the 1960s, America equated hunger with physical starvation. By the 2000s, though, researchers started asking whether people were skipping meals because they couldn’t afford to eat, coining the term “food insecurity” to replace hunger. And with wages stagnating and public support of commodity crops far exceeding that for produce, the number of food insecure Americans now far outstrips the number of those who were ever counted as “hungry.” But don’t take my word for it: The numbers speak for themselves.


• Millions of people hungry in the U.S. in 1968   10

• Millions of people food insecure in the U.S. in 2012   49

• Ratio of hungry Americans to fed in 1968   1:20

• Ratio of food insecure Americans to fed in 2012    1:6


• Share of American children who receive food assistance by age 20   1:2 

• Percent of food insecure households who were white in 2012   53

• Percent of food insecure households who were black in 2012   21

• Percent increase in suburban food stamp use from 2007 to 2012   200


• Percent decrease in inflation-adjusted federal minimum wage since 1968    34 

• Percent of food-insecure households with at least one full- or part-time worker    75

• Share of food-insecure households that did not receive public food assistance in 2012    2:5


• Percent of USDA budget spent on food and nutrition programs    72

• Maximum per-meal food stamp benefit, in dollars, for a single person   2.38

• Per-meal increase, in dollars per addition person, for food stamp benefits    1.79


• Percent of USDA budget spent on agricultural subsidies   16 

• Billions of dollars in federal funding spent to subsidize commodity crops in 2012    10.8 

• Billions of dollars in federal funding spent to subsidize fruits and vegetables in 2011   1.6

• Ratio of federal funding for commodity crops to fruits and vegetables   7:1

• Approximate ratio of recommended consumption of grains to that for fruits and vegetables   1:2

• Percentage increase in price of fruits and vegetables since 1980s 24

• Percentage decrease in price of sweetened beverages since 1980s  27

• Percentage drop in time spent cooking by working and non-working low-income women 35

• Percent of monthly food budget spent to cook at home by poorest American households: 70

• Percent of monthly food budget spent to cook at home by richest American households: 50

Tracie McMillan is the author of The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table, a Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, and a Koeppel Journalism Fellow at Wesleyan University. You can follow her on Twitter at @TMMcMillan

Bus becomes mobile shower for San Francisco’s homeless

The money to refurbish the bus came from private donations, including Google, whose employee buses in San Francisco have attracted protesters who view them as a symbol of economic inequality and gentrification.
by Haven Daley
The Associated Press
Originally published Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 5:49 PM
from The Seattle Times

SAN FRANCISCO — A nonprofit group is taking a novel approach to helping the homeless in San Francisco with a new bus that allows them to take a shower.

The former public-transit bus has been outfitted with two full private bathrooms and offers hot showers, clean toilets, shampoo, soap and towels free of charge.

The founder of the nonprofit Lava Mae mobile shower bus said she wanted to return dignity to those living on the streets.

“If you’re homeless, you’re living on the streets and you’re filthy, you’re trying to improve your circumstances, but you can’t interview for a job, you can’t apply for housing and you get disconnected from your sense of humanity,” Doniece Sandoval said. “So a shower just in of itself is amazing for people.”

Lava Mae says the bus can go to homeless people scattered throughout the city. And having a facility on wheels eliminates the potential for rent hikes and evictions in a city with high real-estate prices.

A homeless survey in 2013 counted more than 6,400 homeless people in the city.

San Francisco officials are testing a similar mobile toilet program in the struggling Tenderloin district, where complaints about human waste are common. The toilets will be available at three locations from 2 p.m. through 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, then removed and taken off site to be cleaned, the city’s public-works department said.

The $75,000 cost to refurbish the Lava Mae bus was provided by private donations, including from technology giant Google, whose employee buses in San Francisco have attracted protesters who view them as a symbol of economic inequality and gentrification. The city allows Lava Mae to use fire hydrants for water.

Ralph Brown, 55, a military veteran who has been homeless for about a year, took a shower on Lava Mae’s bus on its first day of service last month. It was his first shower in several days.

“When people move away from you on the bus, it’s time to take a shower,” he said.

Some homeless shelters in the city have showers, but they can have long waits. The Lava Mae bus also provides relaxing music.

“Being inside there is kind of a trip because it’s pretty high-tech and kind of ingenious,” Brown said. “Basically, I just feel a lot better.”

Sandoval said that’s the reaction she sees from many people who use the bus.

“Their faces are just beaming,” she said. “They’re so incredibly grateful. It’s a great feeling to just be able to offer people something so simple and yet so vital,” she said.

The Gold Country Gleaners are Collecting and Donating Produce

by Hilary Hodge, Gold Country Gleaners
Published on 14 July 2014

The Gold Country Gleaners, an all-volunteer organization that pairs resources of excess food with people in need, had to hit the ground running this year. With the warmer-than-usual spring, many farmers and gardeners have seen a bumper crop early in the season. The Gold Country Gleaners are already picking up food from farms and delivering it to local food pantries and non-profit organizations that help those in need in Nevada County.

The Gold Country Gleaners in Nevada County is dedicated to feeding the hungry with local food resources. "The Gleaners", as they are often called, coordinate people who are willing to pick food with people who have fruits and vegetables to donate. Farmers, ranchers, and even individuals with a single tree or just a few extra zucchini plants are welcome to participate. The Gleaners will pick extra produce and donate the food to local organizations that support the hungry. Those organizations include The Food Bank, Women of Worth, The Salvation Army, Interfaith Food Ministry, the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center, and more.

"We are used to working seasonally and donating whatever is in season," says Hilary Hodge, one of the core volunteers and pick leaders for the Gold Country Gleaners. "But this year is going to be interesting. We are already seeing donations of squash, something that usually comes later in the summer. I'm worried that this remarkably hot and dry year will be hard on food resources in Nevada County, especially toward the end of summer and into fall." Hodge has been a Gleaners volunteer and core member since she moved to Nevada County three years ago.

The Gleaners have donated nearly a ton of fruits and vegetables already this year but the need for donations is always present and growing. Most of the recipient organizations that the Gleaners donate to have been working to expand their scope. Women of Worth, which receives boxes of vegetables every week in the summer from the Gleaners, courtesy of Mountain Bounty Farm, is now serving more women and children than ever. The Interfaith Food Ministry, another donation drop-off for the Gleaners, moved to a new location this year, has more clients now than last year. The Gold Country Gleaners have relied on local farmers and gardeners, whose generosity has exceeded expectations in past years.

"We are very grateful to Hilary and the Gleaners for taking our extra produce and making sure it goes to people who need it," says Mountain Bounty Farm's John Tecklin. "As the largest vegetable farm in Nevada County, we generate a lot of extra produce. The Gleaners have arrived at our farm every week for the past 3-4 years, taking on the huge task of distributing all that food."

The Gleaners have a strong volunteer base and can serve almost every corner of Nevada County. To arrange a pick or to get more information, please call the Gold Country Gleaners at (530) 264-8680 or email goldcountrygleaners@gmail.com.

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal

Cost Of Military Jet Could House Every Homeless Person In U.S. With $600,000 Home

By Robbie Couch
11 July 2014, 8:40 am EDT
The Huffington Post

A cleaner (R) sweeps the floor next to a replica of Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet at the exhibition centre ahead of the Singapore's Airshow on February 9, 2014. Asia's top aerospace and defence show opens on February 11 in Singapore with major global arms makers seeking to cash in on rising military spending as territorial disputes escalate in the region. AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN via Getty Images

It's no news that a large portion of our federal tax dollars goes towards defense spending. But your jaw might drop at the cost of the newest jet manufactured by the U.S. military, and just how much good could have been achieved domestically with the same price tag.

The $400 billion program to create a fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets, which, as The Hill points out, is seven years behind schedule and chronically plagued with misfortunes and incompetencies, could have housed every homeless person in the U.S. with a $600,000 home.

The staggering fact, configured by Think Progress, is just one of several figures the news source put into perspective for taxpayers. For example, the amount spent per year to build the F-35 jets could easily fulfill a $16.7 billion request by the United Nations Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs to save countless lives from preventable causes around the world — and then have enough left over to fund UNICEF's budget request, too. The full cost of the jets program could also fund the National School Lunch Program, which feeds about 31 million students annually, for the next 24 years.

The mind-boggling cost for a fleet of F-35 jets exemplifies what Steven Conn would consider a military budget that doesn't have much of a positive impact on everyday Americans.

"Spending our taxes on the military doesn't yield much to make our lives or our communities better," Conn, a professor and Director of the Public History Program at Ohio State University, wrote on a HuffPost blog in April. "Big weapons systems and overseas military installations, to say nothing of feckless military adventures in Vietnam or Iraq, have done very little to fix our roads, improve our kids' education, or push the boundaries of medical research."

According to data provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the federal government spent roughly 19 times more on defense and international security assistance than it did on education in 2013. A graph created by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation illustrates that the U.S. spends more on defense than China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, the U.K., Germany, Japan and India combined.

Divine Spark Wishes to Thank the Community for All of the Wonderful Support it has Received to Make this Past Year Shine

A Letter of Thanks from Our Executive Director

...AS I REFLECT on this past year and on the passing of Thomas Streicher, the founder of Divine Spark, I feel a sense of deep loss and grief. Not only did he leave us with the blessing of his creation, Divine Spark – a non-profit serving the disenfranchised, he also left us the blueprint of service with love, compassion, and non-judgment. This journey has served to deepen mine, and others connections to that very Divine Spark that can be found within ourselves and in each other. It has been a healing journey to continue his life's work and to stay connected to Thomas's presence which lives on in the work of coming together in community to help those in need. The Board of Divine Spark would like to give thanks to all the volunteers and community members that enabled Divine Spark to continue in helping those in need in our community. Since the tragic death of Thomas Streicher many people have come forward to keep his work alive. So many volunteers are helping to sustain this environment of sharing, thus forming community. Special thanks go out to Law Offices of Haley & Bilheimer, B&C Home Center, SPD Markets, Save Mart Supermarkets, BriarPatch Co-op. We thank Jim Bell, Stephanie and Quique Barletta for their on-going support along with the many people who have handed me an envelope of cash donations --wishing to remain anonymous. We are grateful for the participation of local restaurants involving themselves in our voucher program -- Subway, SPD Markets, Save Mart Supermarkets, Fudenjüce, California Organics, and The Fix.


Sunday Morning Meal at Divine SparkA BIG THANKS to volunteers who came with food on Sundays,bringing clothing, and who continue to lend support for those in need. BRAVO to Gregory and Dave for consistently being there; helping with donations, and in all facets of setup and take down. THANK YOU to Shiloh for your contribution of organizing clothing and helping in so many ways and Lenora for her many contributions, Pete for helping to pick up donations from SPD and Save Mart, Lee Pope for jumping in and organizing the donated hot meals each week, Roger for his ongoing support and donations, and all the volunteers who show up with food, sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, and a helping hand. MANY THANKS to Paul Emery for producing our very successful fundraiser and Concert in October, all the musicians who donated their time and energy, and to Dale Smith for his photographs of Dylan that were raffled off and for his creative efforts in Dylan Concert posters, and invitations to the Christmas Dinner.


THE DIVINE SPARK CHRISTMAS DINNER at the Stone House in Nevada City was indeed special with the help of so many; THANK YOU to Nikko who entrusted us with her beautiful building; Maria who organized the Kitchen, prepared the menu and cooked all of the donated food, and her family who donated their time to help create a very special event; those who cooked turkeys; Steve and Debra, Marge, Roger, Alice, Cathy, and to Bob for cooking his special prime rib; the many people who brought their special side dishes; Carol for the donated Christmas Trees, and use of decorations; Magickal Florist for the festive flower donation, and Grass Valley Florist; Prospector's Nursery for the lovely Poinsettias; Flour Garden Bakery for yummy pies and treats; California Organics for the donated food and organic Turkeys; Natural Selection for the donated produce; BriarPatch Co-op for the Turkeys cash coupon; and to SPD Markets for the generous donation of food. A SPECIAL THANKS to Jessee for staying late and mopping the kitchen and dining room floors, and Grogory who was there from beginning to end helping to leave the building sparkling clean. Shirley Kinghorn, Executive DirectorMUSICAL THANKS to Annie McCann, Jeffrey, Lawrence, Mario, Bob and all the musicians that gifted us with their music.


OF GREATEST IMPORTANCE was the experience of warm feelings, love, and camaraderie being shared by and through the people. The Spirit of Christmas remains alive, and well at this annual community event ...A legacy and inspiration for all; with continuing gratitude going out to Divine Spark's founder, Tomas Streicher, whose presence was very much felt. And, finally, thank you to everyone who through their encouragement and support this past year gave me the courage to continue the vital and rewarding work of Divine Spark.

Shirley Kinghorn, Executive Director

'Stunning' Data Proves, Yet Again, Housing The Homeless Would Actually Save Taxpayers Big Time

by Robbie Couch
22 May 2014
Updated: 23 May 2014
The Huffington Post

Letting homeless people sleep on the streets has never made sense morally. Now, more evidence has surfaced showing it doesn't make much sense financially either.

"The numbers are stunning," Andrae Bailey, the CEO of the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness, told the Orlando Sentinel. "Our community will spend nearly half a billion dollars [on the chronically homeless], and at the end of the decade, these people will still be homeless."

Bailey is referring to numbers recently found by Creative Housing Solutions, which tracked public expenditures on local homeless people in the Central Florida region. Because of costs like frequent emergency room visits, hospital admissions and repeated arrests for homeless-related crimes, the analysis estimated each homeless person costs taxpayers $31,065 each year. To put that into perspective, providing the chronically homeless with permanent housing and case managers to supervise them would be about $10,000 per person each year.

As astounding as those numbers may seem, the data isn't as groundbreaking as you might think.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte released a study in March that found housing chronically homeless adults produced a 78 percent reduction in emergency room costs -- a price tag that would have eventually been passed on to the taxpayer -- the Charlotte Observer reported. The numbers also showed the previously homeless tenants in the study spent 84 percent fewer days in jail, largely due to a decrease in crimes like loitering and begging.

Caroline Chambre, director of HousingWorks for Urban Ministry, which runs permanent housing programs for the homeless, said the study was proof that perceptions of the homeless are not always accurate.

"You can’t argue with the statistics," Chambre had told the Charlotte Observer. "This approach was controversial at one time because of the stereotype of who the homeless are, and we had to change that stereotype."

Volunteers & Donations Needed

Help Divine Spark assist People in need by making a donation of the following:

Motorhome Donations, Too!

The gift of a running vehicle can touch the life of a homeless/houseless person in many positive ways, such as providing basic security and shelter. Your donation of a car, van, or motorhome can also create a greater potential for job opportunities, and the possibility for relocation and/or reunion with friends and family members.

Trish & Skip in front of their donated Home,
December 2011. (click on the image to see a larger view)

A van donation will change someone's Life.
Smaller vehicles ok. Bicycles, too!

A Visual Depiction Of Exactly How Much Food You Waste (VIDEO)

by Sarah Barness
22 April 2014
Updated: 23 April 2014 11:59 am EDT
The Huffington Post

It's easy to love most everything about food -- its nutritional value and the tasty experiences it give us, and the way it bring us all together. But we must take this opportunity to apologize to our food.


For wasting it, squandering it in super markets, offering too much of it and throwing away leftovers and rejecting it for small imperfections.

Every year, Americans throw away nearly half their food, costing the country about $165 billion annually. According to an Natural Resources Defense Council report, an American family of four will end up throwing away an equivalent of up to $2,275 annually in food.

"Part of the problem is that on average, I spend a smaller fraction of my household budget on you [food] than in any other country or any other time in history," says a food lover in the video above. "…my spending is spread out over days or weeks so I don't notice the cost of wasting you. But my lack of noticing adds up."

Starting now, we must all take personal responsibility to be more mindful of our consumption and waste. If we all did this, perhaps food can eventually accept our collective apology.

Gratitude Bowls Feed Body & Soul

by Diana Pasquini
San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center
April 2014 Newsletter

Stormy May

Made from excess food and simple ingredients, Gratitude Bowls are meals that are prepared at local restaurants and made available for free to people in need. Participating restaurants are reimbursed by fundraising efforts so that they can continue to buy, prepare, and serve nourishing food in our community. Gratitude Bowls founder Stormy May (pictured right) explained that the inspiration for this project evolved from her love of horses. “I work with horses. I spent many years training horses for sport and pleasure and eventually realized that the horses were being harmed by riding and training. I spent a few years promoting the idea of a sanctuary for horses so that they could live more natural lives, not controlled by humans, except for what's absolutely necessary for their safety and health. I tried to promote this way of being with horses. Then I realized that human consciousness would need to change. In a more peaceful world we would not be forcing horses to do what we want. The breakthrough came when I realized that I needed to help humans. If people feel cared for, they care for others and realize the kinship between all living things.”

Matteos Public with Gratitude Bowls

Believing that the elimination of the fear of hunger by “providing a bowl of good food when needed” would help achieve her vision of a kinder world, Stormy “searched my mind to find a niche that hadn't been explored.” She realized that restaurants were “the perfect places to do this because they already have the ovens, the chefs, and the food.” As a result of her efforts, two Nevada County eateries now provide Gratitude Bowls to those who are in need of a meal. Participating restaurants are the Ridge Café in North San Juan, and Matteo's Public in Nevada City with other restaurants planning to start serving Gratitude Bowls in the coming months.

Those who wish to help support Gratitude Bowls will find prominently displayed donation boxes in each of the participating restaurants. Diners are encouraged to contribute any amount to help cover the additional costs of feeding the hungry. Stormy May is firm in her resolve. “We live in an abundant world and are channeling this into feeding people. We value kindness over money.”

If you are hungry and can not afford to eat, you can receive a free Gratitude Bowls meal at the following locations and times:

Gratitude Bowls
  1. The Ridge Cafe - 29318 Hwy 49, North San Juan
    • Monday - Friday, 7:00 am - 5:00 pm
    • Saturday - Sunday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm.
  2. Matteo's Public - 300 Commercial Street, Nevada City
    • Monday - Thursday, 4:00 pm - 9:30 pm
    • Friday - Saturday, 11:30 am - 5:00 pm, 10:00 pm - 11:00 pm
    • Sunday 11:30 am - 9:30 pm (not available on parade days & summer nights).
  3. Java John's - 306 Broad Street, Nevada City
    • Daily 10:30 am - 4:30 pm.
  4. Crazy Horse Saloon & Grill - 230 Commercial Street, Nevada City
    • Monday - Thursday, 11:30 am - 11:00 pm
    • Friday 11:30 am - 12:00 midnite
    • Saturday 9:30 am - 12:00 midnite
    • Sunday 9:30 am - 11:00 pm.

Help us feed our family by donating to Gratitude Bowls at any of the above eateries. Find us on the web at www.gratitudebowls.org

Ask a lawyer from the
Nevada CountyPublic Defender's Office
about a criminal or civil issue
in a private meeting room,
with no legal ramifications.

Lawyer In The Library

Private meetings are held in the
CTC Prospector or Gold Mine rooms
at the Madelyn Helling Library:
980 Helling Way, Nevada City, California.

Call 265-7050 to reserve your 10-minute meeting time.

Nevada County Public Defender's Office
224 Main Street, Nevada City CA 95959