F.U.N. Group food box program accepts EBT payments

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Friends Uniting Neighbors Group volunteers prepare and distribute food boxes. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Bill Donahue with the Friends Uniting Neighbors Group announced Thursday, Aug. 20, that the organization has received notification that their food box program is now EBT certified.

Those who wish to obtain the paid boxes of food can use their Electronic Benefits Transfer cards to pay. Boxes are available in $15 and $30 sizes.

The group has also been working on a program with the Riverside County Office on Aging, where that office will pay for food boxes for people over 60 in need. A $20,000 grant has been approved.

“We are just waiting for the paperwork to be completed and to see what conditions the government will attach. This will help us serve the elderly who can’t sit in line waiting for a free box,” Donahue said.

The F.U.N. Group used a third party, Velocity Merchant Services, to help make the argument to the county government that people get more bang for their buck through the food boxes than by shopping at the store.

“The biggest hurdle was that our transaction for a paid box is actually a donation rather than a sale. We argued that since the donor is receiving back more value in food than the amount of the donation that it should be allowed. Our comparison was organizations that give things back in exchange for donations of various sizes, for example, a preacher who offers a Bible in exchange for a donation of $25. If the Bible costs $19.95, then the tax-deductible part of the donation is only $5.05. Since the food we give out in a $30 box has a value far exceeding that $30, there is no deductible amount remaining in the donation. It is essentially a sale that is only called a donation because we are a nonprofit corporation,” Donahue said.

The legal department at the California Department of Social Services had to approve the use of the funds as a donation. This action delayed the approval for months.

“We were starting to think that we couldn’t get over that hurdle when we opened the email announcing our approval. Velocity also set us up to take credit cards at the same time,” Donahue said.

In addition, Riverside County has a program that will pay restaurants $65 a day to deliver three prepared, hot meals to older adults in the community. The F.U.N. Group also pursued those funds to provide food boxes but that wasn’t possible. The organization pitched the idea that the county program would save money by letting the F.U.N. Group provide the food boxes at a lower cost than the cooked meals. The food box cost is less than what is being spent currently on one day of cooked meals.

“Hopefully we can keep it going and have the funding renewed after the $20,000 Riverside County Office on Aging grant is spent but that is up in the air,” Donahue said.

To obtain a weekly paid food box, contact Noel Donahue via Facebook by Wednesday each week. Delivery takes place at the single door at the Anza Community Hall between 11-11:30 a.m. Thursday. Payment can be made at pickup by EBT, cash or credit/debit card.

Free food boxes are still available. Interested parties need to arrive at the Community Hall at 10:30 a.m. Thursdays. In exchange for volunteering to assemble and distribute food boxes, people can earn a free box.

The F.U.N. Group was established as a collection of like-minded people who joined together to benefit the community. Members from multiple area churches, civic organizations and other groups come together as friends and neighbors united for the good of the community.

To learn more about the F.U.N. Group, visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/128592854205460/.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.