Sunday, July 14, 2024

UV MEND gleans healthy food, and helps with medical bills


As the days lengthen and winter begins to loosen its grip, we celebrate the compassion you have shown for your neighbors in need who have faced long, dark days or cold winter nights alone. We are also celebrating the generosity of farmers, growers and volunteers who made the 2022 gleaning season a success despite several obstacles. Rachel Bishop, Upper Valley MEND's Food Programs Manager, has put together a report on the 2022 season, which you can read online.  A total of 26,773 lbs. of produce were gleaned, with 523 volunteer hours. The value was a total of $52,000 in produce for the community.

 The true impact of this program begins once we leave the fields, and the van is full of produce. The fresh food goes much farther than just to Upper Valley MEND's Community Cupboard. We partner with Chelan Douglas Community Action Council (CDCAC) who distributes our gleaned produce to 13 other food pantries in Chelan and Douglas Counties and travels in mobile farmers markets up to Brewster and down to Rock Island. When they are unable to take more produce, our staff drive around the valley delivering to other locations you can see in the graph above Fresh produce is often an item that many food pantries lack because of price and access. Our gleaned produce is fresh, locally grown, and nutritious. Every person deserves access to this food. Deliver locations included CDCAC 13,484 lbs.; Community Cupboard 7,487 lbs.; Cashmere School District 1200 lbs.; Cascade School District 400 lbs.; Cashmere Food Bank 200 lbs.; Chelan County Regional Justice Center 1755 lbs.; Garden Terrace Senior Living 315 lbs.; Haven of Hope 90 lbs.; Lighthouse Christian Ministries 1165 lbs.; Mountain Meadows 500 lbs.; Mountain Sprouts 165 lbs.; Plain Pantry 53 lbs.; SAGE 90 lbs.; Serve Wenatchee 438 lbs.; Women's Resource Center 135 lbs. Thank you to the gleaning donors and volunteers that make this program happen.

In January, Upper Valley MEND paid $32,146 of community members' bills, including rent, utility payments, medical bills and debt, and tanks of gas. Some of these payments were for families and seniors in Cashmere. Historically, Cashmere did not have access to the same resources as Wenatchee and the Upper Valley. Upper Valley MEND expanded our service area to include Cashmere in 2022. We began partnering with more Cashmere donors and volunteers than ever before and advertising our services more widely in Cashmere. In the last 13 months, Upper Valley MEND has been able to help 43 Cashmere households get the help they needed. We are looking for folks interested in volunteering at the Community Cupboard. Volunteers work alongside staff in 2-hour shifts checking shoppers in and out, stocking shelves, packaging goods, and providing friendly customer service. Our volunteers help on Saturdays, but we have shifts available Monday - Thursday as well. The exact timing of the shift is flexible, and we can work with you to find a time that works for you. Come help provide food to your neighbors. Contact Rachel 509-699-7395, Food Programs Manager, if interested.

Alleviating medical debt

Medical debt can be crushing for anyone. Last year Upper Valley MEND received a grant to help patients pay off past medical debt they cannot get out from under. Upper Valley MEND's social worker, Liz, is spearheading the effort to share this good news and get help to those who need it. "The two main requirements are that a person be uninsured and meet government income requirements," Liz said. "It can be quite complicated who qualifies, so it's best that people call me to find out if we can help them."

Vision and dental care    

Upper Valley MEND can help people without insurance or who are under-insured get the vision and dental care they need. 

MEND's Free Clinic can refer patients to Cascade Medical’s Optometry Clinic for a complete vision exam, covered by the grant. Leavenworth's Lions Club will assist with providing glasses. Our Free Dental Program assists clients with accessing urgent and preventative dental care. Depending on the scope of the services needed, we either pay the entire cost or develop a cost share with the client based on what the client can afford.  If you, or anyone you know, could use help clearing past medical bills, or needs vision or dental care, contact Liz at or phone at 509-293 8062 to see if you qualify.



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