Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Volunteering and Giving Back with Roger Castle from The Los Angeles Food Bank

Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back


Hello!  I have a very special guest on the blog today and his name is Roger Castle.  He is the Chief Development Officer for the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.  I met him at a donor lunch and tour for the Food Bank recently and had a chance to see and hear first-hand about the inner workings of the facility that helps feed so many impoverished in Los Angeles.  It feels good to help people and it’s always the right time to start making a difference in our communities.

Recently, I volunteered there and spent my time bagging some up some fresh produce. Waking up early on a Saturday morning was totally worth it.  I had a wonderful time serving with other volunteers from the LA community and getting to meet new people I never would have met otherwise.  

"Volunteering in our communities brings all of us a little closer."  

Have you ever volunteered at the Los Angeles Food Bank?

Let's find out more...


Hi Roger!  Thank you for sharing your time with us today.  It was really interesting to see how this massive operation works at the Los Angeles Food Bank facility. 


Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back


How long has the Food Bank been around and how many organizations do you partner with?

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank was founded in 1973 by Tony Collier. He noticed the co-occurring issues of hunger and food waste in his community, so he started rescuing donated food with his truck and distributed that product to agencies that were helping people in need. Now, 45 years later, we have distributed enough food for more than one billion meals. We distribute food directly to kids and seniors and we partner with more than 650 organizations across Los Angeles County to feed more than 300,000 people each month.


Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back


What types of organizations do you partner with and where is the food distributed?

These 650 agencies are made up of other charitable, non-profit organizations such as soup kitchens, food pantries, senior centers and children’s programs. They are located all throughout Los Angeles County, which is the largest county in population in the country. It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in our community struggles with food insecurity, meaning at some point in the month they struggle with finding enough food, especially nutritious food, for themselves and their loved ones.


Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back

What are the most common contributing factors to food insecurity in Los Angeles?

The common contributing factor is the high cost of living in Los Angeles, especially the high cost of housing. Most of the people we distribute food to have housing and are employed, they just don’t make enough to cover their basic needs and can't afford a basic monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation and a cell phone.

What companies or grocery stores donate to the LA Food Bank?

Most of the major retailers donate food to the Food Bank. We also acquire food directly from farmers and markets. This is perfectly good food that would go to waste and potentially end up in a landfill. In 2017, more than ($70?) million dollars of food was received by the Food Bank.

Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back


If a company wants to donate food or other supplies, who would they contact?

They could contact our Chief Product Acquisition Officer, Jeanna Kindle. For individuals who want to help, start a virtual food drive and help raise funds for the acquisition of food at lafoodbank.org/virtualfooddrive. For every dollar you raise, we can provide 4 meals to those in need in our neighborhoods.

You mentioned that there is a growing need for food amongst college students and that there are literally “starving college students” who need this help right now. Can you tell me more about this situation, the contributing causes, and what the LA Food Bank is doing to help solve this problem?

A recent survey of University of California students revealed that 48 percent of underclassmen are food insecure and have to skip meals. That number is even higher on community college campuses. When students are hungry, they are more likely to have low grades and poor health and they are less likely to graduate.
To combat this problem, we expanded our Mobile Food Pantry program to distribute food on college campuses. Our Mobile Food Pantry goes directly to the campus and sets up in a parking lot or common area where students are able to access nutritious food in a farmer’s market style distribution. This way we are able to ensure that students have the nutrition to do better in class, which leads to better opportunities and more productive, happier futures.


Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back


What is the biggest obstacle for individuals to overcome when seeking help from food banks?

The biggest obstacle is a stigma, followed by a general lack of knowledge about what resources are available. There is no income requirement or registration to get food from one of our agencies. If you know someone who needs help, they can find food by using our agency locater on our website at: lafoodbank.org/findfood or by dialing 211. 211 LA provides information and referrals for all health and human services in LA County.

The statistics on your website say that 1 in 4 children in LA struggle with experiencing hunger.  What types of programs do you provide to help children?

Besides feeding families through our agency network, we have a few direct distribution programs designed specifically for children.  Before the weekend, our BackPack Program distributes backpacks containing enough food for six nutritious meals to ensure that kids who rely on school meals do not go hungry over the weekend when school meals are not available. We run this program at 10 elementary schools in Los Angeles and Compton Unified School Districts. The After School Meal Program provides meals for children at their afterschool programs across LA County each day during the school year. When school is out of session, the Summer Meal Program, which has nearly doubled in size over the past three years due to increasing need, serves more than 4,000 meals a day at more than 70 distribution sites, including Boys and Girls Clubs, summer schools, community centers, the Salvation Army and some libraries. Finally, the Mobile School Pantry provides a monthly food distribution for low-income elementary schools in Los Angeles and Long Beach. Through the Children’s Breakfast Program we provide breakfast items, such as oatmeal, pancake mix, granola bars and dried fruit to children who are also enrolled in our After School Meal Program and Summer Lunch Program.


Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back


We know that the senior population is one of the most vulnerable to experiencing hunger.  How is the LA Food Bank helping seniors?

Nearly 20 percent of the individuals served by the Food Bank are seniors. We also run the largest Commodity Supplemental Food Program in the country, providing monthly food kits to seniors. The Food Bank serves more than 28,000 seniors every month through this program.


Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back


How can we get involved and help make a difference in our communities? 

Each year, the Food Bank depends on the generosity of our community to raise funds and provide volunteer support to make sure we have the recourses to help the 1 in 7 people in LA County who is hungry. Donate, volunteer, and fundraise for the Food Bank.
                    Donate – www.lafoodbank.org/donate
                    Volunteer – www.lafoodbank.org/volunteer
                    Fundraise – www.lafoodbank.org/virtualfooddrive


Los Angeles Food Bank interview volunteering giving back Roger Castle


Thank you for educating us about the LA Food bank Roger!  




Thursday, October 11, 2018

Interview with Veronica Padilla of Gentle Mentals - Shining A Playful Light On Mental Illness to Soften the Stigma


Interview with Veronica Padilla for A Stylish Love Story Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education

Hello! Today I have creative genius Veronica Padilla on the blog to talk about how she helps soften the stigma through her whimsical characters which she lovingly calls her Animals With Issues.  Did you know that according to the World Health Organization that mental illness affects 1 in 5 people.  However, talking about mental health issues can be challenging, so when I saw these cute little characters, I immediately thought, what a great way to help teach children about mental health or about how to educate others on their family’s mental health diagnosis in a more lighthearted manner.  Although mental health is a serious topic and should be taken seriously, there are other creative ways to introduce and educate others about it to help break down the stigma around it.

So, here we go…

Hi Veronica!  Thank you for your time. 

Tell me about yourself.

Interview with Veronica Padilla for A Stylish Love Story Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education


What is Gentle Mentals?

Gentle Mentals is a Chicago-based grassroots initiative aimed at shining a playful light on mental illness to soften its stigma and get people talking. We mix hyper-friendly, minimalist design and a little dark truthful humor to address this heavy topic. Laughter is healing and a powerful ice-breaker into a conversation. If we can speak more openly about something that touches so many, we'd all be better for it.

Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education


How did you come up with the idea of animals with mental health issues?

The idea came came by accident. I misheard my step-daughter say something that I swear sounded like “bipolar bear.” We thought the absurdity of this was hilarious and quickly came up with a few more characters. That day I decided to make a book. They always say write about what you know and I knew all these characters very well. Between my father, myself, my husband, step-kids, and co-workers we can check off almost every major mental illness. As I got deeper into the project, it became more and more apparent that this was bigger than a book and had much deeper meaning to me as well. A perfect example of turning pain into purpose.   

Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education


I like your hashtag #TakesOneToLoveOne can you explain what that means?

There was a saying that we used as kids, a come-back when someone would tease you. And it was “takes one to know one.” Knowing that there is a stigma with mental illness, I wanted to riff off of that but to put a positive spin on it. And now it has a double meaning for me. It only takes one person to love another, to change perspective and to be the light for someone else when things are dark. But also, “takes one to know one” as in I’ve been there on both sides of the coin – as someone who’s suffered through it and as the loved one for the person who is suffering. Both sides are difficult. Both sides need love and support.

Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education


On your website you say that labels are used to ignite a dialogue about real stuff and you explain this in a very positive way, can you tell me more about why you feel this way?

We like to say that labels are the P.I.T.S. (Provocative Invitations to Talk Sincerely.) Gentle Mentals are fictional animals with very real issues. And each character is named according to the illness they deal with – Bipolar Bear, Borderline Collie, ADHD’eer, etc. These labels are shorthand for understanding a bit of their story and are the gateway into a larger discussion. We aren’t using the labels to name-call or offend, but instead as a tool to inspire dialogue. I designed the characters in an innocent, child-like fashion to diffuse the taboo topic of mental illness. It’s a bit of a Jedi mind trick. Rather than talking about the stigma and how we need to stop it, we have characters embody a specific illness trait. The characters themselves do the heavy lifting for us. And people relate to the characters instantly—I often get responses like, “I love OCD Otter!” or “Hypochondriac Hippo is my favorite!” or “I can so relate to PTSDingo and Anxiety Allie!” Suddenly people find themselves talking about it without even realizing it and not making it into a big deal. It normalizes and neutralizes something that is typically very touchy – which is really cool and exactly the point.

Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education


There is some depersonalization of labels and stigma through the use of animals instead of people.  Personally, I think this is a genius idea however, have you ever faced any controversy over your approach?

I think that the depersonalization of the animals with labels is what makes the idea work. Many people have embraced it, love it and get what we’re doing. We’ve had a lot of initial conversations with big mental health organizations that love our idea and want to partner with us, but who got cold feet. My assumption is that most of these organizations have spent a lot of time, money and effort to train people to approach the topic in a very specific, careful way. And our approach might appear to go against the grain of what they’ve been preaching. So I understand why they’re hesitant to take a risk with us. We aren’t taking a traditional route and it might make some people nervous. But it’s also why I think that it has the potential to change the current norm and really make a difference.    

Can you tell me about how you helped change someone’s life through Gentle Mentals?

My dream is to make some impact and change people’s lives – to get people talking so that they can get the help and support they need before things get too dark. I know that I’ve achieved that based on the feedback and the small successes we’ve had. People telling me how refreshing this is and that they feel a weight has been lifted because it’s ok to laugh a little. Not to make fun, but to take some of the pressure off. People that are strangers as well as people I’ve known for years, unloading a life-time of mental weight that they have been carrying.

Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education


How are you giving back to the community through your organization?
Beyond enabling conversation, we also carry a small line of products which we call Mental Goods. We sell the book, a journal (Mental Notes), prints and t-shirts. And we donate a portion of the proceeds to mental health and suicide prevention organizations.  

Veronica Padilla Gentle Mentals softening stigma around mental health whimsical cartoon characters animals with issues mental health awareness mental illness mental health education


What do you see for the future of Gentle Mentals?

More Mental Goods – Plushies!! How cool would it be to have fuzzy tangible softies that we can hug when times get tough or punch instead of beating ourselves up? I’m planning on starting a Kickstarter campaign to help make this happen. But first I’m focusing on building our community to make sure the campaign won’t die before it’s been given a chance. So if you want to see plushies too, please follow us on social and share our project!  
I’m also planning to have a pop-up shop/art installation in May 2019 to honor mental health month. And hoping to create a non-profit organization that promotes mental health awareness through the lens of entertainment, educating without being preachy.
And a bit farther down the line I dream of having a theater production of the book produced. With comedians giving monologues about each character. So to anyone interested in helping to make this happen, please reach out! I’d love to hear from you.J



Where can we find you?


Thank you for sharing your time with us today Veronica!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Work Party Event By Create and Cultivate at We Work


A few weeks ago, I attended the Work Party Event by Create and Cultivate at We Work to hear a panel of women entrepreneurs give advice and talk about their lessons learned through entrepreneurship.  When I walked in I was immediately greeted and given a fabulous gift bag!


Everything is themed "so pretty in pink".


They even had a pretty pink bar.


One of the most helpful things I learned from this event was that feedback is a gift...so listen.


They gave us this cute little notebook and I'm definitely going to be using this to jot down all of my creative ideas.


Since I was driving, I had water and a slice of lime:)  Never drink and drive.


This is a quote from Jaclyn Johnson and she has a new book out called Work Party for women who want to create and cultivate the career of their dreams.


Networking of course!

They have conferences coming up and you can get tix here