When the Central Texas Food Bank received a letter in response to a recent direct-mail campaign this week, the staff was stunned.
“The lack of empathy was disturbing,” says Paul Gaither, marketing and communications director for the Food Bank. “Most of the letters we receive say things like ‘we don’t have anything to contribute’ or ‘please take me off your list,’ but this one was a little different.”
The food bank received the letter on Nov. 21, and how it was sent was also remarkable, says Gaither. The sender used the Food Bank’s remit envelope, but used his or her own stamp, did not include a return address and used a fake name: “Citizen Robespierre”. Here are the contents of the letter:
I don’t understand who these poor folks are that need food. I assume they consist primarily of illegals, who came to Texas for “free stuff.” And of course, our Africans, who find work too much trouble, especially when they can collect the equivalent of $40,000 a year on welfare, and other “benefits” offered to the unfit, the lazy, and the under-educated… and, of course, the drug addicts.
I suspect that most who need food are marching around whining that the congenital liar, Hillary Rodham Clinton, lost the election. Too bad; how sad.
I also wonder if your organization is one of those Phoney-Baloney, so-called “charities,” designed primarily to provide a good living to its organizers.
In short, no way.
Gaither said that while the Food Bank has received letters like this in the past, “it seems to be a more widespread attitude,” recently.
Central Texas Food Bank says the letter-writer expressed several misconceptions about who receives help from the Food Bank and its partner agencies, and that receiving a letter like this, “can take the wind out of our sails.”
“It’s important that we don’t categorize the people we serve as ‘takers'” Gaither said. “Most of the people we serve have fallen on hard times or are the working poor who just can’t make ends meet, and that can happen to anyone.”
In fact, Central Texas Food Bank serves about 46,000 people a week in 21 counties, via 250 partner agencies (like food pantries, soup kitchens), as well as through its own mobile pantries that distribute to areas where fresh food is less available for sale. About one-third of the people it serves are children, about two-thirds of the households they serve have at least one working adult; and 93 percent of the people they serve are not homeless. With the exception of about 5 percent of the people who identify as “other”one-third of the Food Bank’s clients identify themselves as white, one-third as African-American and one-third as Latino, according to Feeding America, the national, umbrella organization of food banks.
Neither the Food Bank nor its agencies inquires about citizenship, says Gaither. “We serve people in need and we’re not going to turn away anybody.”
As far as its credibility, Central Texas Food Bank has received Charity Navigator’s highest score of four out of four, receiving a score of 100 out of 100 for accountability and transparency.
Gaither says campaigns like this address the increased need at the end of the year and in the summer, when utility bills increase for cooling and heating. Many of the people it serves are on fixed incomes, and food costs compete with other household costs like utility bills, rent, and transportation. “Food comes out last sometimes,” says Gaither.
“All we can try to do is chip away at these misconceptions,” says Gaither. “It’s important that people know we serve anyone in need of help.”
Learn more about Central Texas Food Bank