Archive for June, 2011

Having Fun While Raising Funds for the Food Bank

Another successful Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden has come and gone and the Food Bank wishes to thank everyone involved in helping us stock our warehouse shelves as we head into summer.

Over 500 guests mingled with media and Survivor celebrities as they sampled appetizers and wines from local vineyards, while listening to the cool sounds of Shabang!, northern California’s premiere steel drum band. Guests played games of chance, purchased raffle tickets in hopes of winning one of the many fabulous prizes, bid on beautiful and indulgent silent auction items and enjoyed perfect weather for an outdoor event. One guest happily reported that he found the perfect gift for his wife’s upcoming 60th birthday.

“Looks like Cabo”, a guest mentioned as he made his way into the lunch buffet area, commenting on the tropical color scheme and decorations that adorned the lunch tables. As guests enjoyed another outstanding meal prepared and served by Englund’s Café and Catering, Executive Director Larry Sly welcomed everyone and thanked our sponsors for their support, beginning with Presenting Sponsor Pacific Service Credit Union. The crowd participated in two rousing games of Heads ‘N Tails, with each winner receiving a $500 gas card! The Swinging Blue Stars entertained the lunch crowd with their nostalgic sounds. Food Bank clients spoke movingly about their experiences with food insecurity and how their lives have been transformed. Next up was the live auction, where unique, one of a kind fantasy packages were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

With the opening of the dessert tasting tents, guests had trouble deciding on which decadent confection to try first. The inaugural Cupcake Wars drew many observers, as guests cheered while judges sampled the various entries and awarded Best of Show to Mitchell Hughes.

Photo by Mike Dunn

Close to 100 volunteers and Food Bank staff had one goal in mind at the event – to make our guests feel welcome and enjoy a wonderful afternoon of food, wine, music and fun. If you missed out, there is always next year! Please save Sunday, June 24, 2012 and plan to attend the event of the summer!

Striving for a Better Future

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Sometimes when a person is going through a rough time, they need a little mentoring to inspire them to achieve a better life. Two agencies, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the North Bay and Archway Recovery Services both of Fairfield, do exactly that.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a youth mentoring service that serves disadvantaged children, particularly those who have parents incarcerated or deployed in the military. Cecilia Ramirez Ruiz said their mission is to “provide children with a positive role model.”

They serve about 1,000 kids in the North Bay and obtain food from Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano regularly to provide snacks for the kids. Bread products, individually packed Little Debbie treats and other snacks are what the workers hope to find at distributions when they go a couple times a month.

With the Food Bank’s help, Archway is able to save money by picking up bread, milk, produce, eggs, frozen foods and other assorted non-perishable items at the weekly distributions. Archway is a drug and rehabilitation program that mostly caters to ex-convicts.

According to Billy Moore of Archway, when the convicts are released from prison, the program tries to “re-socialize them into the community.” Most people learn about Archway through the Board of Prison Terms or SASCA, the Substance Abuse Services Coordinating Agency.

Each person who signs up with Archway must complete a 12 step program, which includes going to outside AA meetings and getting a sponsor. While they work their way through each step, Archway provides its clients with food.

Except for when the agencies have to buy something they can’t find at distribution, the Food Bank has been able to supply good resources and nutritious food for each agency.

Billy Moore from Archway

Efrain Sanchez of Archway shops for assorted non-food items

Agriculture Appropriations Bill Hurts Food Assistance Programs

The 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Bill the House narrowly approved threatens our ability to help hungry people in our community by cutting food assistance for children, seniors and food banks.

The House passed these cuts as one in five Californians report being unable to afford enough food. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is now serving over 132,000 people every month, an increase of 46% (between 2006 and 2010). Serving Contra Costa and Solano counties in the San Francisco Bay Area with 175 partner agencies, the Food Bank will have distributed more than 14 million pounds of food over the last fiscal year by July 1 of this year. U.S. Department of Agriculture commodities provided through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) are one of the most nutritious sources of shelf-stable food available for distribution and constitute about 16% of the Food Bank’s food resources.

Food banks across the country are experiencing similar trends. Existing cuts to social services at the state and county levels have already stretched resources beyond capacity. If enacted, these federal cuts will make meeting the increased need in our community impossible.

Hunger is a non-partisan issue. Hopefully, the Senate will not uphold these draconian cuts to our country’s nutrition safety-net. We urge you to contact Senators Boxer and Feinstein and insist that they fight to prevent food assistance funding from being decimated.

Take Action!
Tell your Member of Congress “I oppose the recently-passed House cuts to emergency food programs because the federal budget should not be balanced on the backs of those struggling with hunger”. Not sure who your representative is? Find them by visiting

The New Glenbrook Middle “Farmer’s Market”

At Glenbrook Middle School in Concord they have gotten creative in distributing the produce they receive through the Food Bank’s Farm 2 Kids program. They noticed that some of the kids were not taking it because, especially with middle school-aged kids, taking home produce is not “cool.” Mr. Woods, their teacher leader, purchased some wire baskets and arranged the produce on tables like a farmer’s market would do. Now, the kids and parents “shop” for their produce with bags that are provided and get to choose exactly what they want. A few student volunteers monitor the market each week letting the “customers” know if there is a limit on any item. Before, they used to pre-make bags and it was difficult for them to get the students to take them home. Sometimes a change in presentation is all it takes to change the way people think about fruits and vegetables.

Sadly, because of budget cuts the Mt. Diablo Unified School District will be closing Glenbrook Middle next year. Not only does this change mean that students will no longer be able to walk to their neighborhood school, but it also means the students will not be able to receive their fresh fruits and vegetables each week. As we can see, the budget cuts affecting our schools affect more than their education.

Families Strengthening Communities

Join us for Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, August 20 at 2339 Courage Drive, Suite F in our Fairfield facility and Sunday, August 21 at 4010 Nelson Avenue in our Concord facility. It is a great opportunity to see how the Food Bank works while having fun and contributing to your community!

Family Volunteer Day showcases the benefits of families working together, introduces young children who cannot normally volunteer for community service, and encourages those who haven’t yet made a commitment to volunteer as a family. There will be two shifts available to volunteer by reservation only. If your family has not participated in Family Volunteer Day before be sure to reserve for the 11:30am – 1:30pm shift. If your family has participated before and would like to help out again be sure to reserve for the 2:00pm – 4:00pm shift.

To participate, children must be ages 5 and older and must be accompanied by an adult; provide one chaperone per child for children ages 5 – 10 and at least one chaperone for every 2 to 3 children ages 11 and up.

Please email or call (925) 676-7543 for Concord or (707) 421-9778 for Fairfield to reserve your spot. We will do our best to accommodate you, but unfortunately there is limited space available so we register families on a first come, first served basis.

We’d like to invite you to stay in touch with us by simply joining our online community of caring citizens who receive occasional e-news related to their area(s) of interest.  Additionally, we hope you will read about the many community events ( taking place which offer a variety of ways to get involved and help support the Food Bank.

It’s the Final Countdown!

Six days and counting until the event of the summer! New vendors Whole Foods, Quady Winery and Fresh & Easy will join many other vendors to delight your taste buds in our Appetizer and Dessert Tasting Tents. Watch four local master cake decorator/pastry chefs compete in our first ever Cupcake War! We have nine fabulous Live Auction prizes and over 110 Silent Auction prizes including baskets, garden items, get-a-ways, fine wine and more. You will love the island music provided by northern California’s premier steel drum band Shabang!, and the Swinging Blue Stars of the USS Hornet will take you back to the good old days.

Enjoy A Tropical Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden and help feed your neighbors in need. Don’t miss this spectacular once a year event! For complete event details and to make reservations, visit

2010 - Afternoon in the Admiral's Garden

30 Years and Counting of Commitment

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Around 1975, Duncan Miller pledged himself to the fight against hunger with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. 30 years later, he is still a fighter.

Miller got involved with the Food Bank through the Fairfield Presbyterian Church and now uses the Rockville Presbyterian Fellowship to reach those in need. Rockville distributes food at their church, as well as Mission Solano. At the end of each month, they have usually catered to 1400 families and at one time had over 2,000 clients.

Duncan Miller

Duncan Miller: Fighting hunger for more than 30 years.

“The Food Bank has cooperated beautifully with us,” Miller said, “and has run the show marvelously to take care of the less fortunate.” He believes the Food Bank ensures the food is distributed where it belongs.

While the Food Bank gives Rockville plenty of resources to reach out to their clients, Sunnyside Dairy also contributes a significant amount of products to them. Over the years, Sunnyside has donated about a million dollars worth of milk. “They put up with us two or three times a week going into their facility,” said Miller, “They have treated us just like one of them for 30 years or so.” Rockville’s volunteers meet at Sunnyside with a truck driver from the Food Bank to help load dairy. They usually come out with an average of 4,000 gallons a week!

Miller was inspired to help those in need through his own experience with hardship. During the depression, his family was helped by people more fortunate then they were. “That’s how I learned how important caring for others who are less fortunate is,” he said.

When looking back on his involvement with the Food Bank, Miller said, “We’re all pushing for the same thing. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

With his 90th birthday quickly approaching, the Food Bank would like to wish Duncan a happy birthday!

Budget Cuts in Agriculture Appropriations Bill Unacceptable

I had the honor of listening in on a call this morning with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) and George Miller (CA-7) and the press where they discussed the cuts included in the Agriculture and FDA Appropriations bill, which will be debated on the floor of the House of Representatives this week.

baby eatingThe Agriculture and FDA Appropriations bill has been slashed by 13.4%, or $2.6 billion below FY2011. Included are cuts to critical nutrition and anti-hunger programs, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which could be cut by more than $650 million, meaning that up to 350,000 women and children could go hungry and will not have access to the nutrition they need. The Commodity Supplement Food Program, which mainly assists low-income seniors, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program, which helps assist states with food banks, could also see their funding cut by up to 20%.

On the call Congressman Miller stated that: “Nutrition is essential to thrive and grow” and that “cuts to WIC will increase health costs.”

Congresswoman DeLauro pointed out that “WIC is not an admin expense. It is about nutrition education, breast feeding support, screening for harmful substance abuse and ensuring people are on a healthy lifestyle path that will only save money in the future.”

Call Today!
Call your representative by using a toll-free number, 877-698-8228 provided by Feeding America. After a brief message you’ll be asked to enter your zip code to connect directly to your House member’s office.  Once you are connected:
•    Tell them that you are a constituent and state the name of the town you are calling from.
•    Let them know you are calling about the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations legislation
•    Deliver this message:
I am a supporter of my local food bank and I urge you to vote AGAINST the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations legislation, which cuts funding for TEFAP commodities, CSFP, WIC and SNAP reserve funds. Cutting safety net programs is the wrong way to balance the budget.  Food banks across the country will not be able to meet the increased demand for food assistance if nutrition programs like TEFAP, CSFP, WIC and SNAP are cut.

For more information about how you can help take action against hunger, please contact Lisa Sherrill at (925) 676-7543 extension 206 or

Coupon Time

Guest post by Charlene Burns, Senior Food Program Coordinator: At the Senior Food Program sites in Contra Costa and Solano counties there’s Pacific Standard Time, Pacific Daylight Saving Time and Coupon Time.

Coupon Time is that time of year, typically late Spring and Summer, when many Senior Food Program participants receive $20.00 worth of coupons (free to them) to be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at the Certified Farmers Markets located throughout both counties. People look forward to them and it fits right in with our efforts to encourage program participants to eat more fresh vegetables and fruits.

Farmer's Market

Week Long Hunger Challenge Continues

Guest post by Assemblymember Yamada: Planned ahead to brew coffee last night, setting the pot up so I could just hit the “on” button this morning.  What’s important to note is that the cost of coffee filters, and even the electricity and water necessary to brew my most important beverage isn’t calculated into the weekly challenge.

For lunch today, I made a tuna sandwich from leftover salad from Wednesday night’s dinner, and decided to stretch my remaining cup of yogurt and one banana into two portions to last for two days, so  I will have a blueberry-banana yogurt for today and Friday.

We have received interesting news coverage over the course of the week. A popular Davis Enterprise columnist has written about the challenge for the past two years; he believes that by shopping at Costco, with the average monthly maximum benefit for a family of six ($952) in Yolo County, his food dollars could be stretched.  The good news is that Costco now does accept EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer); the not-as-good-news for low-income families is that a Costco annual membership is $45.  Further, the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities face barriers to transportation, and are less likely to be able to negotiate the bulk-size commodities that Costco sells.  However, if a “food shopping club” could be organized, something that I helped put together years ago for a group of seniors living in one apartment complex, the benefits of cooperative purchasing could actually help.

Our local columnist also suggests that he would spend his $4.44 on dollar cheeseburgers.  If he accepted my challenge, how he chooses to spend his benefit would be entirely up to him.  But choosing the fast food option highlights one of the main issues with food assistance—that fresh and healthy food choices are largely out-of-reach for low-income individuals and they often have poorer health outcomes as a result.

Haven’t thought ahead to dinner tonight, as I will be spending time at a Sacramento phone bank in support of a 2011 state budget that includes a revenue extension.

Friday, I will be visiting an elementary school in Fairfield, responding to several 5th and 6th graders who wrote to our office about the cuts to education.  These students will soon be on summer vacation; those who rely upon free- or reduced-price breakfast and lunch during the school year may also have access to a summer nutrition program:

Final thoughts coming tomorrow.