By Denise Ortuno Neil
Lisa Houston is putting her efforts into fighting hunger with FIND Food Bank, bringing this important issue to the forefront of community interests.
Lisa Houston came to the desert from Vancouver, Canada back in 2001. Her husband Jim Houston is the son of the famous philanthropist Jackie Lee Houston. The two moved out to the desert after they got married to be close to his family.
Houston had a background as a financial advisor when she lived in Canada, working with companies helping them make decisions to expand, downsize or maintain their business. Upon coming to the desert, she re-entered her previous trade of real estate, mostly in land development.
She started working with FIND Food Bank in 2009 on a volunteer basis, when she was asked to take a look at the business to see how they could turn it around as it was financially upside down. The organization was just moving into a new facility and needed to obtain a better approach to making it work. She volunteered with them for 6 months. “I fell in love with what the whole entity was in the first 30 days. It’s a fabulous environment to be in a situation where you are reminded on a daily basis of how fortunate you really are,” said Houston.
What made the difference for Houston in working with the organization was that unlike her for profit companies that she used to financially advise, FIND was something that had to succeed because so many people depended on it. At the time Houston started with them they were helping 63,000 people a month, now that number has grown to 84,000. “This has to work, it has to happen,” exclaimed Houston. And work it did.
FIND (Food In Need of Distribution) Food Bank was established in 1983 and services Eastern Riverside and Southern San Bernardino Counties. It is the desert’s only food bank. Houston now serves as CEO and President of FIND.
For Houston balancing work and family can be a challenge at times. She has an 11 year old son that she is extremely proud of, “He has been a superstar in so many ways,” she said. She explains that her son sometimes doesn’t get as much “Mom Time” as she would like for him to, due to her hectic schedule. But the family works together with the understanding of the importance of the work that she is doing and they see the big picture. Houston states that when they are out, her son is the first one to notice someone in need and is quick to assist them. “This has really been a team effort,” she said.
When Houston has some time to herself, she enjoys the art of riding horses Dressage. It is basically the upper echelon of horseback riding, horse ballet. She had put it to the side for several years, but last year made a commitment to herself to put riding back on her radar and has just recently entered competitions again.
Houston is quick to point out that FIND is not a food pantry. It is a hub for the food that goes out to all of the agencies that then distribute it to those in need. They have over 100 partners and they insure that they have enough food to give to the organizations. Places that benefit from FIND include, The Well in the Desert, Martha’s Village and Kitchen, Mizell Senior Center, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and many more. “We are their shopping center, like their Costco,” explains Houston. They work with major food companies such as Kraft, grocery stores and agricultural growers to obtain their food.
Houston clearly says that they are always in need of public support. Not only financially but through volunteering and community dialog. FIND currently has a program with Ralph’s grocery store that will donate a small cash amount every time you use your Ralphs Rewards Card, to implement this with your card you just need to register at www.ralphs.com . FIND emphasizes that every dollar donated equals 7 meals…each dollar certainly goes a long way. They also appreciate volunteers who are willing to donate their time. The food bank receives an outstanding amount of food (about 10 million pounds per year) that needs to be inspected by human hands to insure the safety and wellbeing of the people that they serve. So they are always looking for volunteers to assist them in this task.
Lastly, Houston highlights the importance of the community to start talking about food insecurities. The fact that people don’t realize that there are so many hungry people out there, many of them children and seniors, lends to the problem. She states that if people become more open about the fact that they are in need and are no longer embarrassed to talk about it with their neighbors and community, eventually that will win some of the battles in the war against hunger.
For more information on how to donate go to www.findfoodbank.org.