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Enjoy Magazine

Shasta - Trinity - Tehama HIV Food Bank

12/05/2013 12:39PM ● By Claudia Mosby
Story: Claudia Mosby
Photo: Betsy Erickson

After being diagnosed with AIDS in the early 1990s, Earl Bernard “Bud” Hinkle II returned home and started the Shasta-Trinity-Tehama HIV Food Bank. His goal:  to help others like himself in an era when HIV and AIDS were even more stigmatized than they are today. The Redding organization celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

“My son was very bright,” says Myrtle Hinkle. “I was proud of him, and I’m still proud of him, for what he started. I don’t think people appreciated him enough for what he did. He was a lifesaver for Shasta County.”

Run entirely by volunteers, the Food Bank opens its doors twice a month to serve people with HIV and AIDS. “We have a menu that contains canned foods, boxed foods, grains and pasta and we also have a fresh menu of fruits and vegetables, dairy and meats,” says David Wharton, board president and a volunteer for the past seven years. “Clients check in, receive a menu and then have lunch while they’re waiting for their order.”

Each client receives two bags of food per visit, which Wharton says averages about 29 pounds. The organization has also made 322 deliveries to homebound clients this year.

“When they learn about us, a lot of people still remark, ‘We have an HIV food bank in town?’” says volunteer George Buen, who manages food bank operations . 

“HIV affects a lot of people. We like to educate about how it’s transmitted,” says Buen. “A lot of the stigma from the ‘80s—that you can get the disease by touching someone or by drinking from the same glass—still persists.”

The Food Bank spends about $25,000 a year to stock its cupboards, but costs are expected to increase in 2014. While the lion’s share is purchased, the organization receives some donations and works with local farmers to secure produce.  

Funded through monetary gifts and grants, Wharton says FEMA and other sources also assist. “The past couple of years we’ve been working with NorCal AIDS Cycle (NCAC). We have riders and crew that go to Sacramento for the Sacramento-Chico round trip fundraising (bike) ride.”

Most new clients come via referral through other HIV services in town, and this year, about 18 of them have found their way to the Food Bank, which received more than 1,000 client visits in the first three quarters of this year.

For an organization that ran entirely on donations for its first 10 years (by taking up collections of food in front of grocery stores) and almost closed its doors two years ago, Wharton is decidedly optimistic.

“Our goal is to return to weekly hours,” he says. “Although it’s been 20 years since the height of the epidemic, when you get a diagnosis like this there’s still fear. It can be paralyzing.The Food Bank is the only place some of our clients have contact with other people.”

The Shasta-Trinity-Tehama HIV Food Bank co-sponsors a support group with NorCal OUTreach on Monday afternoons and takes an active role in the annual World AIDS Day event, at which it presents the Bud Hinkle Award to a volunteer for outstanding service.  

Hinkle’s father and mother Myrtle, who volunteered at the Food Bank until she could no longer walk, received the first award. Their son Bud passed in 1995.

“I’d like to see us get to a point where no one feels like they have to hide,” says Wharton. For confidentiality reasons, the Food Bank location remains unpublished. “Some clients are very concerned about privacy.”

Of her son, Myrtle says, “He had the ability to organize and to get things done. The Food Bank has been a great thing for Shasta County. I’m very sorry my son is gone because he would have been a light in the world.“

World AIDS Day takes place December 1 at 5 pm at the Center for Spiritual Living, 1905 Hartnell Avenue in Redding. •

Food Bank information: (530) 223-2118