LEMOORE — According to the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce, the importance of God’s Bread Box to the community is, well, bigger than a breadbox.
The Chamber has named the community outreach program its 2018 Organization of the Year and will be honoring it at the 60th annual Installation and Awards Banquet Friday, Jan. 19.
“We were very surprised to be named. Especially since we’re such a young organization,” said CEO Nancy Stebbins.
The organization, which was founded in 2011, seeks to alleviate hunger in Lemoore by holding monthly food distribution events.
The organization relies on community donations and occasional grants to feed families that show up regularly – around 200 each month.
Most of those food-insecure families, who receive one box of canned goods, bread, meat and non-perishables per household, are regulars. Though, Stebbins says she usually sees at least a few new faces at each event.
In the last six years, over 1,300 families have registered for the free boxes of food, which only requires an ID and a utility bill that proves residence in Lemoore or Statford.
God’s Bread Box operates on a monthly budget of $3,000 and most of its food comes from the Fresno Community Food Bank.
A group of around 20 volunteers, including the nine individuals on the board of directors, hand out the food from 8:30-11 a.m. every fourth Saturday of the month. They also meet to organize that food the Friday afternoon beforehand.
“Sometimes we have more volunteers than we need and sometimes we’re shorthanded,” Stebbins said. “It just depends.”
Stebbins says that the families who receive help via God's Bread Box leave as full of gratitude as their stomachs will be with dinner.
Stebbins expressed gratitude of her own to the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce for recognizing the work of the organization and said that only more good will come from it.
“This award will bring more awareness to the organization, which hopefully means more people and more funds,” Stebbins said. “I think this is a great thing for us.”
The God’s Bread Box events are held in the parking lot of the Christ Church Anglican Mission, 740 N. 19th Ave. in Lemoore.
For more information, call 997-6360 or visit www.godsbreadbox.org.
Fumigant supplier Trical Inc. is in the process of replacing its main shop building on Hanford Armona Road on its 13-acre parcel in order to make room for high speed rail.
Trical’s move, replacing a 9,000-square-foot building, will lead to the construction of a new building on the other side of its parcel. That is less complicated than its neighbor, Baker Commodities, which is relocating to a new parcel because the planned rail alignment will go right through its current rendering facility.
The cost for the new Trical building is around $900,000 according to county permits. The project was approved late last year.
Telstar Instruments was the successful bidder for a surplus city-owned lot, on the east side of Irwin Street between Fourth and Fifth streets in Hanford, on Nov. 28. The land may be more familiar as the home of the two large rusting water tanks that are landmarks in the community.
Company owner John Gardiner is listed as the buyer paying $6,000 for the lot with the provision he would have to pay for the demolition of the old structures on the land, expected to cost about $262,000.
The company has corporate offices in Concord and a Hanford office at 202 S. Douty St. Gardiner declined to comment but sources say Telstar plans to build offices on the lot. The company provides instrumentation for all types of industry including waste-water treatment plants, food producers and pharmaceutical companies.
A few years ago Central Valley pomegranate growers appeared to be riding a rising tide of popularity for pomegranates spurring optimism about the crop's future. Growers, including those in Kings County, enjoyed prices of over $1,700 a ton as recently as 2011.
After a significant planting of new trees, by 2015 pomegranate tonnage was fetching just $450 a ton in Fresno County and falling to $362 a ton in Tulare County according to its 2016 crop report.
That is better than a five-fold decrease in per-ton income.
There was a dramatic decline in gross sales of pomegranates in Kern County, the largest player, declining from $191 million in 2015 to $102 million in 2016 according to its annual crop report.
So what's going on?
UC Farm Adviser Kevin Day says it’s simple economics. “We are seeing both overproduction and lack of demand for pomegranates despite expectations to the contrary."
The trees were first cultivated in Tulare County with statewide plantings climbing from 1,875 acres in 1975 to 3,475 in 1985 to over 12,000 acres by 2006, says Day.
But then California acreage just kept expanding to over 30,000 acres by 2012 according to Day. Over the past few years, thousands of acres have been pulled - replaced with nut trees typically.
”I would not be surprised if statewide acreage is down to 10 to 15,000 acres now," Day stated.
Kern is arguably the home of the largest block of pomegranates, owned by the Wonderful Company, based in LA, that accounts for as high as 79 percent of all pomegranate production.
Growers in recent years have also faced higher water costs and lack of water supply cutting into profitability and translating into fewer trees.
“With all the trees that have been removed - it may stabilize the industry,” predicts UC adviser Day.
Pom Wonderful may be doubling down, in any case, with the recent announcement of the acquisition of Firebaugh-based Ruby Fresh. The company says it has nearly 2 million pomegranate trees.
Despite lower crop prices, Pom Wonderful appears more than upbeat about its business prospects saying last year sales of airls (seed pods inside pomegranates) were "on fire.”
“The company’s juice business is also undergoing significant growth with sales of leading product POM Wonderful 100 percent Pomegranate Juice up 25 percent year-on-year.”
This year’s crop supply may be limited by the weather according to a company statement to the press this week that also gives a clue on acreage.
"Due to unseasonably hot weather and short spouts of rainfall in California’s San Joaquin Valley, this year’s fresh pomegranate harvest was unfortunately cut short,” says Adam Cooper of The Wonderful Company. “Due to rain, we had similar pomegranate supply in 2016 and 2017.”
If they are around 80 percent of statewide acreage - that would put California acreage at about 11,000 acres, down two-thirds from its high.