Fishing 101


hat’s worse, starvation or obesity?

Morbid question, I know. But that’s the sort of paradox I found ricocheting around my head this morning after spending time on the Ventura County Together website (

A cup of coffee later, I went through back issues to see when we’d featured Bonnie Weigel, the president and CEO of FOOD Share, Ventura County’s regional food bank. It was March 2009. Since then, the local demand for food—sustenance, basic nourishment, not haute cuisine—has only risen. In fact, there’s been a 63 percent increase locally over the past two years alone.

While we strive to avoid editorial repetition, Bonnie’s the sort of community backer we don’t mind featuring now and again. But this isn’t about her, per se. Or about hunger or obesity.

It’s about hunger and obesity—and poverty, homelessness, mental illness, health care, education… the list goes on. It’s about 40 or so local organizations working together to take care of people in need. Because chances are, the same people queued up for a meal at FOODShare will eventually be standing in line for healthcare at Westminster Free Clinic. There’ll be kids who could benefit from First 5 Ventura County. Parents, too. And the mentally ill among them really should be linked up with an organization like Turning Point rather than sent back to the riverbeds with a sandwich.

Bonnie Weigel and Hugh Ralston, the president and CEO of the Ventura County Community Foundation, are the faces we’ve attached to this particular article (page 51). The coalition they’re a part of, however, is comprised of countless volunteers, employees, donors, executive directors, and board members.

Determining who and what makes the editorial cut each month is an ongoing dilemma. So from a purely selfish standpoint, I appreciate VC Together. I value its mission even more so. And what I like best about it is the overarching goal: to lead people toward self-sufficiency—the proverbial “teaching a man to fish.”

Mental illness and drug addiction throw a flaming curveball at that intent, but many people simply need a nudge in the right direction. At a certain point, confidence builds. Pride kicks in. Next thing you know they’re ladling out soup on their day off from work rather than waiting in line.

And if you’re wondering just how VC Together divides up the funds, the formula is simple: 30% to health care, 30% to shelter, 30% to food, and 10% to the 2-1-1 information and helpline to connect people to services and resources.

The coalition may not be a silver bullet. I don’t believe there is one. But I do believe solutions start with awareness. It’s all too easy to look past societal hurdles when you’ve got your own race to run, your own ever-growing pile of problems to attend to. It takes a certain type of person to go beyond sympathy and actually strive to make a difference.

Thankfully, there are a lot of those people around here.

– Matt


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