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Walmart representatives deliver $100,000 award to Fresno

Fighting Hunger Together Facebook campaign culminates with reception at Community Food Bank Mayor Ashley Swearingen, representatives from Walmart and local hunger relief organizations convened with about 100 community members at the food bank’s distribution center Wednesday, March 9, for a reception honoring those who participated in the Walmart Fighting Hunger Together Facebook campaign. The six-week campaign took place in late 2010 and the Fresno region finished in second place among the 100 metropolitan areas in the nation with the highest food hardship rates. Fresno’s second-place finish resulted in a $100,000 award for charitable organizations working to end local hunger issues.

Community Food Bank is sharing the award with Catholic Charities, Poverello House and Salvation Army, and the March 9 event included remarks by representatives from each organization, in addition to remarks from Mayor Ashley Swearingen who thanked Walmart for its commitment to Fresno. Amelia Neufeld, Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations for Walmart, also addressed the crowd, expressing her gratitude to the partnering organizations for continued efforts toward ending the cycles of poverty and hunger.

Community Food Bank will use its portion of the award to develop 15 new partner pantries so that high-need neighborhoods will have increased access to valuable food. In addition to providing food, the funds will be used to provide shelving, refrigeration and other equipment necessary to effectively operate the pantries, such as grocery bags, food boxes and office supplies. These new agencies will become members of Community Food Bank’s network of more than 160 agencies throughout Fresno, Madera and Kings Counties, by which Community Food Bank distributes 30 million pounds of food each year.

Community steps up to the plate with Walmart’s Facebook campaign, which kicked off in mid-November, gradually caught the attention of Fresnans, and by late-December, tens of thousands of Central Valley residents were rallied behind the cause. Groups like Educational Employees Credit Union, Fresno Regional Foundation and Gar Tootelian Inc., among others stepped in to make considerable contributions toward eliminating Valley hunger. Also, a group of friends who were brought together by Facebook, were inspired to organize one of Community Food Bank’s most successful food and fund drives to date as a result of the campaign. The daylong food and fund drive at CBS 47 studios raised 8,000 pounds of food and more than $11,000 for the fight against Central Valley hunger.

Unprecedented media support, local television and radio stations also became involved, encouraging anyone and everyone to log on to vote. Community Food Bank was featured nearly 100 times in television news during the month of the December, and local media personalities Ray Appleton and Angelo Stalis created public service announcements that ran on ABC 30 toward the end of the campaign. Community Food Bank’s Andy Souza and Dayatra Latin even made front page news on The Fresno Bee as they kept up on the tally of Facebook “LIKES.” By the time the campaign closed on Dec. 31, Fresno had more than 4.1 million votes.

“The response from the Community continues to be overwhelming,” said Andy Souza, Community Food Bank CEO. “We can’t thank Walmart enough for hosting the campaign and for bringing so much attention to hunger issues in the Central Valley. This $100,000 award is going to go very far.”


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