The Food Bank of Northern Nevada has a variety of programs under their initiative called Bridges to a Thriving Nevada with the goal of improving lives and building sustainable communities.
Bridges Out of Poverty: Strategies for Professionals and Communities is a workshop where organizations come together to develop better outcomes in moving people from poverty to stability through guided exercise.
Getting Ahead in a Just-Getting-By-World is their multi-week program for people living in chronic instability or poverty to build resources, improve life skills and tailor an individual plan of getting ahead.
The mission of The Food Bank of Northern Nevada’s is “to end hunger in our region through direct services, advocacy, outreach and education.” As a part of that, the Food Bank has developed programs that complement their food distribution. They started the Getting Ahead and Bridges program almost 10 years ago.
“The way it all started, Cherie Jamason, our president and CEO, is a very visionary leader and has been doing this work for over 25 years,” Jocelyn Lantrip, director of marketing and communications explained.
“We serve about 95,000 people a month and eventually the question, ‘how can we stop hunger or solve it?’, comes up.” Lantrip said. “We want to solve hunger, but hunger is a symptom of poverty.”
“Cherie has gotten to the place where she wants to solve the root causes of hunger,” Lantrip said. “She was in a conference and saw one of the authors of Bridges speak and it just clicked.”
Although it could take an entire generation to see progress and plenty of people have questioned her, “she just came back and said we have to take on poverty,” Lantrip said.
Currently, they have conducted 33 Getting Ahead classes with over 250 individuals from generational to situational poverty and all levels of economic stability, which has led the Food Bank to a new collaboration to work with the business community.
“The Workplace Stability program is what we are most interest in using,” Stacey Wittek, Getting Ahead program coordinator, said.
“Workplace Stability would probably be a four- to six-hour program,” Wittek estimated.
In 2017 they hope to provide a workplace training similar to their Bridges out of Poverty training, but geared towards employers and employees with the goal of improving job retention rates and building resources.
“We have the opportunity to work with businesses,” Wittek said.
The goal is to consider workplace stability and how the Food Bank can help employees and employers improve their outcome.
The business collaboration was a direct result of what was needed after the Getting Ahead program.
“In Getting Ahead, the module after ‘self-assessment’ is the community assessment where we do a deep dive into economic conditions, financial banking conditions, jobs, wages and wealth-creating conditions,” Wittek explained in an email with NNBW.
“They know to ‘Get Ahead’ they will need a job that offers a livable wage, what their ideal debt-to-income ratio is, whether they will be able to access affordable childcare etc. by the time Getting Ahead investigators finish, the first question Getting Ahead grads ask is often, ‘where’s the job?’” She added. “They know the barriers to success and we believe if employers recognize some of these barriers that lead to absenteeism, high turn over etc., that collectively we might figure out ways to address these barriers.”
“The engagement of the business community is crucial,” Wittek said.
Currently in the early planning stages is a pilot project with the Area 8 Rotary Clubs in northern Nevada.
If the pilot business project goes well they will, ”continue to work on future Working Bridges pilot programs with participating employer collectives that will build income equality, economic stability for northern Nevada workforce and return on investment for our business partners based on what we learn from our Rotary partnership,” Wittek said.
They also plan to continue to extend their on-going Getting Ahead programs and strive to develop more wrap-around services.
Moving forward, “The benefits to the business community can be huge and includes employee retentions rates, some as high as 85-98 percent, increases employee engagement and high rates of ROI (return on investment). The benefits to employees are huge as well: decreased employee reliance on public assistance and increases in family financial stability,” Wittek said.
To learn more about the Getting Ahead program, contact Stacey Wittek at 775-331-3663.