Las Vegas Sun

May 22, 2019

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Where I Stand:

CEO of Three Square Food Bank: Nourish your spirit, Las Vegas

In this economy, feeding the hungry is more challenging, rewarding than ever

Where I Stand

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Three Square Food Bank CEO Julie Murray, right, hugs Lindy Schumacher of The Lincy Foundation at Roundy Elementary School during the September launch of a school-based child hunger initiative that provides needy kids food for the weekend.

In August, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers. Today’s columnist is Julie A. Murray, CEO of Three Square.

As a lifelong Nevadan, I thought I knew everything about Las Vegas.

We live in a city synonymous with excitement, fantastic amenities and service, world-class entertainment and fabulous food — on par with other great cities such as New York and San Francisco. Yet, when I came to Three Square, I quickly realized I did not know everything about our city.

More than 210,000 people in our community don’t have regular access to food. The situation is far worse for children, with one in five struggling with hunger. How could hunger be an issue in Las Vegas, a place of such vibrance and wealth?

Webster defines hunger as a craving or urgent need for food or a specific nutrient, an uneasy sensation occasioned by the lack of food and a weakened condition brought about by prolonged lack of food.

Those who are hungry may find it difficult to hold a job or care for their families. And hungry children are unable to focus and concentrate at school. The domino effect of hunger is significant and all-consuming for its victims.

A thoughtful and compassionate Las Vegas resident, Eric Hilton, has changed how Las Vegas thinks about and approaches the issue of hunger. The son of Conrad N. Hilton of the Hilton hotel dynasty, Eric was moved one pivotal night a few years ago by a news report on the closing of a local nonprofit organization that fed the hungry.

Shortly thereafter, Eric Hilton and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation joined with Punam Mathur of NV Energy, Carolynn Towbin of the auto group, other community leaders, The Lincy Foundation, The Greenspun Family Foundation and the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to form a community-wide hunger solution — the Three Square Food Bank.

Just a few years after Hilton’s epiphany, Three Square opened its first facility, a 50,000-square-foot building donated by Clark County, in December 2007. Since then Three Square has worked at a feverish pace to collect and distribute food throughout Southern Nevada, making it one of the fastest-growing food banks in the country.

As a full-fledged member of the Feeding America network of food banks, Three Square delivered 10 million pounds of food (the equivalent of approximately 8 million meals) to our agency partners in 2008.

In 2009 our partners, who work tirelessly to feed our vulnerable neighbors, include more than 265 nonprofit and faith-based organizations, 144 schools and 11 children’s summer feeding sites. Near the end of July, as this was written, we had distributed 10 million pounds of food.

While I am proud of Three Square’s growth, the growing issue of hunger reminds us all that there is still much to do. Current economic conditions have created new faces of hunger in our community — people who never imagined they would need help putting food on the table. Today, the need is greater than ever.

In addition to my own realization about the pressing issue of hunger in our valley, my confirmation of the size of our community’s heart is equally profound. The outpouring of support, financial and otherwise, has been astounding and stands as a testament to the spirit of our community.

Many have joined our fight to end hunger, including thousands of individual volunteers and donors, our local business community and gaming industry, nonprofit agencies, food distributors, UNLV, the Clark County School District, governmental entities, the media and countless others.

Today we have a 120,000-square-foot campus from which we orchestrate our massive effort. Here we collect millions of pounds of fresh and packaged food for distribution to needy organizations; we pack thousands of bags of food for schoolchildren who would otherwise not eat over the weekend; we prepare nutritious meals for at-risk children in summer enrichment programs; and we host special events to raise both awareness and money for our fight against hunger.

Though we are proud of Three Square and our community’s collaborative progress, the battle against hunger is still being waged every day. Now, more than ever, Three Square needs the continued support of the entire Las Vegas community to keep our shelves stocked with food. Without adequate supplies on hand, thousands will continue to go hungry each day.

September is Hunger Action Month — a nationwide initiative to raise awareness about hunger and the collective efforts of our country to address it. Here at Three Square, we think it’s the perfect time to determine how you can get involved.

Three Square is your food bank, Southern Nevada. If you find yourself needing help, we are here to support the agencies and schools that will feed you and your family. If you are fortunate enough not to need our services, please consider doing your part. Visit our Web site to learn what you can do to help (threesquare.org). We need you now more than ever.

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