Archive for April, 2011

Making a difference

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to work with Kim, a former police dispatcher for 13 years.  She volunteered at our Richmond Food For Children site helping to pack bags with food and carrying the food for our clients.  Afterward, Kim told me how much she enjoyed helping at our site.  She spent 13 years of her life listening to some of the worst situations and feeling relatively powerless when it came to helping.  Volunteering with the Food Bank gave her the chance to see that she could do something positive and directly make a difference in people’s lives.  “It truly has been a blessing to me; I get so much from being there,”  she told me.

Often when I work with a volunteer that I haven’t worked with before I worry if they will enjoy themselves because I need their help and I hope they come back.  I was so happy to know that the Food Bank was doing something for her while she did something priceless for the Food Bank.

Walking to take a stand against hunger

Saturday, April 9th was a beautiful day in Vallejo for a walk to raise money locally and worldwide along the picturesque Mare Island Way Shoreline. Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty (CROP) Hunger Walks help fight hunger and poverty around the world including the United States and Haiti. Neighbors from different faiths, cultures, and ages walked together to take a stand against hunger in our world.

Together we raised awareness and funds for international relief and development as well as local hunger-fighting agencies such as the Food Banks! Hungry people in developing countries typically walk as much as six miles a day to get food, water and fuel to take their goods to market. We walked to be in solidarity with their struggle for existence.

A perfect ending to this event was the concert on Sunday night, April 10th. A full house enjoyed all types of music and singing from Frances Fanilli (Harpist), Resonance with Elisabeth and James, Debbie, Ken and Brenda from First Church of the Nazarene and Singing by John Grose.

Enjoy a Tropical Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden!

Take an express trip to the tropics on Sunday, June 26th at the Food Bank’s 11th annual Admiral’s Garden fundraising event! Mark your calendar and don’t miss this fabulous event of the summer.

This year local master sugar artists/ cake decorators and pastry chefs have declared a Cupcake War in the Dessert Tasting Tents! Watch Jan Loomis, Tracy Wirta, Mitchell Hughes and Marla Erojo decorate cupcakes and compete. Celebrity judges will decide who will win the Cupcake War!

Mingle and chat with Survivor TV stars Yau-Man Chan, Sylvia Kwan, Chad Crittenden, Sonja Christopher, Cecilia Mansilla and other local media celebrities.

You’ll feel the sand between your toes as you enjoy the authentic Caribbean music of Shabang Steel Drum Band. And, back by popular demand are the Singing Blue Stars of the USS Hornet taking the party back to the swinging sounds of the 40’ and 50’s. Add to the musical line-up DJ’s Denon & Doyle.

The fun starts at 12 noon with the opening of the Wine and Appetizer Tasting Tents and live music by Shabang. At 1:30 a delicious gourmet lunch, prepared by Englund’s Catering, is served in the garden. Dessert Tasting Tents open at 2:30. Learn more about some of our Tasting Tents participants. Tour the mansions, St. Peter’s Chapel and the Naval Museum. Bid on Silent Auction prizes and play fundraising games. Have fun and help the Food Bank r

estock warehouse shelves for the summer. Be sure to wear your favorite tropical outfit!

The low event price of $75 per person or two for $140 includes all food, drink, entertainment and tours. Bring extra cash, check or credit card if you wish to participate in the auction or games.

For more information including online reservations, visit

Happy Birthday Mother Earth!

Every day at the Food Bank is Earth Day as we recycle aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, paper bags, plastic bags, shrink wrap and cardboard. But what we do best is help to reduce food waste. Here are some examples:

1. We work with several grocery stores and large food companies that give us their product as it approaches an expiration date. It can be bread, fresh produce, meat or nonperishable items. Why throw it away when they can give the food to us and we can get it out to people in need. The product is still good but the store wants to move their product along so we help them reduce their own food waste.

2. We welcome fresh produce from people’s yards as that helps us have more fresh produce for those in need. In the last month we have received thousands of pounds of grapefruit, oranges and lemons not to mention some home grown lettuce and other greens.

3. We pay a reduced price for our purchased produce so that we can buy more and make our money go further. Our fresh produce is not as pretty as you would find in a store but we say it tastes just as good if not better! Because of the reduced price, we often find oranges that are split open or apples that are very badly bruised. We no longer have to throw the bad produce into our garbage as we have choices of what to do with it:

  • The Oakland Zoo purchases fresh produce for their animals. We contacted them over three years ago and found out they would be very pleased to have our discards. We say we give them the “best of the bad” as they need produce that is not moldy or not been broken open. The bison love our badly bruised apples and the elephants are happy to eat our overly soft oranges.
  • Loma Vista Farm in Vallejo (an educational farm definitely worth visiting) not only uses apples for Oreo and Keebler, the cows, they will compost any produce the farm animals won’t eat (oranges are not that popular with the animals).
  • A local pig farmer says his pigs love our bad apples (and they don’t mind if they are moldy, broken open or badly bruised). We even provide him grain through our “Piggy Potluck” project. Sometimes we receive food drive products that are far past expiration and we can’t give that to those in need. So we take the dry products such as pasta, rice, dry beans, jello, cake mixes, and moldy bread and open the packages and mix all of the dry products together. The pig farmer will add water to this dry product which will then serve as grain for the pigs. We recycle all of the plastic and cardboard packaging so we not only are feeding pigs, we are reducing our garbage.

One of our friends in all that we do is Jennifer from Allied Waste in Pacheco. Jennifer says “We should be recycling for the earth’s sake”. And at the end of the day it is the right thing to do and makes us all feel good. Just like reading our Food Bank news online, you too are making a change to reduce our footprint on earth.

Rita at Loma Vista Farm

Oreo and Keebler

Chris at Oakland Zoo

There is still time to take the Challenge!

Guest post by Challenge Champion Patti Anderson: The Pound For Pound Challenge is a partnership among The Biggest Loser, Feeding America, General Mills & Subway to help Feeding America secure millions of pounds of groceries on behalf of local food banks across the U.S.

The Biggest Loser motivates millions of viewers to lose weight and this made a great partner for The Pound For Pound Challenge, which seeks to inspire weight loss as well as provide hunger relief for America.

As a Season 9 contestant on The Biggest Loser, I am honored to be the Challenge Champion for the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano and our message has been heard by so many within our communities.  To date, our Food Bank is ranked number one in California with 960 team members who have pledged 26,727 pounds!

Although the Pound For Pound Challenge ends this year on May 31st, our journey to health & fitness continues as does the help needed at our Food Banks across the country to provide hunger-relief to low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive.

Sprint In Action

What better way to start the morning than picking up 731 pounds of food and $160 from a Sprint Marketing meeting! My contact, Laurie Capriotti, used this all day meeting as a kickoff for their big Sprint food drive in May. Every person arriving at the meeting had at least one bag of food and some had several bags. The warehouse certainly didn’t expect this much food (I must say I was hopeful for 400 pounds) but when I had to bring out a 4th and 5th barrel, I knew they had certainly gone above and beyond our expectations. And to also pass around an envelope and collect $160 is amazing. Our Wednesday regular sorting group took the food right out of the van and sorted it all today so the food is already being pulled for orders to go out to some of our  member agencies next week.  Way to go Sprint!

Weekly Challenge Recipe

Love chocolate chip cookies but tired of feeling guilty about eating them? Well here is a healthier guilt free option.

“Healthified” Chocolate Chip Cookies

From Eat Better America

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
1  Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl, beat sugars, butter, oil, vanilla and egg with electric mixer on low speed until blended. Beat in flour, baking soda and salt until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.
2  On ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
3  Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until very light golden brown (centers will be soft). Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.
•    If you are gluten sensitive try quinoa flour instead of whole wheat.
•    Increase fiber and decrease fat by substituting ¼ C canola oil and 4 TBS ground Flaxseed for the  ½ C oil.
•    Healthify this recipe even further by using dark chocolate chips or carob chips instead of the semisweet. If you use carob chips you can cut back on one of the sugars by ¼ C.
Nutritional Information
1 Serving: Calories 110 (Calories from Fat 50); Total Fat 6g (Saturated Fat 2g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 10mg; Sodium 65mg; Total Carbohydrate 13g (Dietary Fiber 1g, Sugars 9g); Protein 1g % Daily Value Vitamin A 0%; Vitamin C 0%; Calcium 0%; Iron 2% Exchanges 1/2 Starch, 1/2 Other Carbohydrate, 1 Fat.Carbohydrate Choices 1

Looking to reduce your carb intake? Try this new spin on spaghetti and meatballs.

Healthified Italian Bulgur Meatballs with Spaghetti Squash

From Eat Better America

73% less sat fat • 36% less cholesterol than the original recipe—see the comparison. After cooking the squash, use a fork to gently rake the stringy pulp from the shell, separating it into strands that resemble spaghetti.

Prep Time:15 min
Start to Finish:25 min
makes:4 servings
1    medium spaghetti squash (2 1/4 pounds)
2/3    cup water
1/4    cup bulgur
1/4    cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed
1    teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1/4    teaspoon salt
1/8    teaspoon black pepper
1    pound ground turkey breast or extra-lean ground beef (93% lean or higher)
1    can (14.5 oz) Muir Glen® diced tomatoes with Italian herbs, undrained
2    tablespoons small fresh basil or cilantro leaves or thinly sliced green onion
1.    Halve squash crosswise; remove seeds. Place squash, cut sides down, in a microwave-safe 2-quart rectangular baking dish. Add 1/3 cup of the water. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on 100% power (high) for 13 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with a fork. (If your microwave does not have a turntable, turn squash once for even cooking.) Drain squash. Set aside until cool enough to handle.
2.    Meanwhile, in a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup water and the bulgur. Microwave on 100% power (high) for 1 minute; do not drain. Cool slightly.
3.    Stir egg product, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper into bulgur mixture. Add ground turkey or beef; mix well. Shape mixture into 24 meatballs. Place in a microwave-safe 2-quart square baking dish. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on 100% power (high) for 4 minutes, rearranging once; drain off liquid.
4.    Pour tomatoes over meatballs. Cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on 100% power (high) for 1 to 3 minutes more or until meatballs are no longer pink in centers (165°F).*
5.    Rake the squash pulp out of the shell and separate the squash pulp into strands. Serve meatballs over spaghetti squash. Sprinkle with basil, cilantro, or green onion.
*Low-wattage microwave ovens may require more cooking time, while high-wattage microwave ovens may require less time.

If you try these, or any of the challenge recipes, let us know!

CA Egg Farmers Donate 25,290 Eggs to Food Bank

Northern California’s own NuCal Foods donated more than 25,000 eggs to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano last week to help families in need – just in time for the Easter holiday.

Larry Sly our Executive Director says: “We are trying our best to give the people we serve the best nutrition possible. Because of the generosity of the egg farmers we can provide high protein food to the people in our community who need help.”

United Egg Producers and Feeding America food banks (like ours) are teaming up in the fight against hunger for the fourth year in a row. Egg farmers nationwide donated nearly 12 million eggs. NuCal Foods — an agricultural cooperative of multi-generation family-owned farms — has donated more than 1.3 million eggs to help feed people in California in the last four years. That’s a lot of eggs!


According to the USDA eggs have much less cholesterol than previously thought and have more vitamin D.  Fun egg fact: every egg has 13 essential nutrients including the highest quality protein – choline, folate, iron and zinc – with only 75 calories.

Every type of agency from soup kitchens to shelters and pantries to day cares look forward to getting eggs from the Food Bank. This donation will mean our Food Purchaser, Veronica Wimer, will not have to buy eggs for our member agencies for a month or two! Did you even know the Food Bank distributed eggs? Isn’t that egg-citing! (Sorry but I had to.) What is your favorite egg recipe? Post below or to our facebook page.

Wells Fargo Volunteers

On April 7th a group of Wells Fargo volunteers from various areas across the country were in Pleasant Hill for a team meeting. They wanted to help the community and spend some time “team building” and scheduled some time to help at our Concord warehouse sorting room. Coordinated by Wells Fargo’s Lynn Camorongan from their Pleasant Hill Wealth Management Department Wells Volunteers arrived at the food bank ready to work. These enthusiastic team member-volunteers represented Wells Fargo well in this community by giving back to non-profits that address vital community needs and issues.

Wells Fargo Volunteers

Wells Fargo Volunteers

More than just produce

While the kids get produce every week through Farm 2 Kids, we include flyers so their parents to know that we have programs that can provide them with non-perishable items as well.  One student brought the flyer home to her grandmother and a short time later she called me.  Although I thought that she probably had a question about the program it turned out she was interested in volunteering.  The very next week she was out with me in Richmond helping at our Food For Children distribution and even though it was blustery, cold day, she really enjoyed it.  Her Spanish skills really helped as well as having an extra set of hands.

If you are interested in learning more about our programs please visit the “Get Help” section of our website.  We are currently looking for Spanish speaking volunteers to help at some of our distribution sites throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties.  If you are interested, please email with your name, phone number, city of residence, Monday – Friday availability, and an explanation of your relevant experience using your Spanish language skills.