Archive for July, 2011

Students Use Their Free Time to Volunteer

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Lazy, rude and immature are words describing a stereotype that has been placed upon today’s younger generation. Of course those words don’t apply to the entire population of young adults.



Many of the kids breaking that stereotype can be found at the Food Bank on various days throughout the week. While some stop in to volunteer every couple of months, some go in to help two or more days a week.

This past summer, in addition to writing articles for this blog, I have been one of those kids seen sorting and boxing food, putting bread on trays or even sweeping up the floor a few times a week. It’s been great to see other people around my age doing the same to give back to their community.

15 year-old Jacob Reynolds, a junior at Clayton Valley High and varsity swimmer, finds time during his school breaks and swim practices to volunteer. “I started volunteering over Thanksgiving break,” he said, “I’ve actually done everything, but stacking.” He finds working at the Food Bank fun and exciting. He said he likes to volunteer because of the people he comes across and the “fact that we’re helping.” Jacob would like to get more of his friends to volunteer at the Food Bank because he thinks they would enjoy it.

The positivity at the Food Bank is one of the attributes that grabs the attention of people. Jeff Schroeder, a 22 year-old



junior at San Francisco State, said “It’s a positive atmosphere.” Since he wasn’t able to find a job this summer, he decided it would be a great idea to volunteer to stay busy.

The Food Bank was his first choice when deciding where to volunteer. When he’s not sorting or boxing food a couple times a week, he’s skateboarding and drumming for his

band Gavilan, who have recently recorded new music.

While most volunteers can be found in the sorting room or on various sites for food distributions, some are found behind a desk in the office. Amelia Spencer has been volunteering since January 2008. “I usually work in the front office with Barbara, answering the phones and helping out in the office with anything,” the 23 year-old said. In the fall and winter, she goes into the Concord office on Mondays and Fridays. In the summer, she helps out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays, she goes with Julie Redmond to her food distribution.

She currently attends Loma Vista, an adult-ed program, but Amelia was unsure of what she wanted to do after high


school, so she thought going to the Food Bank would be a great experience that would give her a good sense of work ethic. She finds it rewarding to be involved with the Food Bank because she knows that she’s helping individuals or families. “You kind of think about that after awhile when you get to sit down and have dinner,” she said, “Not everybody gets to do that.”

The Food Bank has continued to be an inviting place for young adults to go and contribute their time. Whether they’re there on their own or for mandatory community service, the help is always appreciated.

Local Supporters Stepped Up to the Challenge!

As we work harder every day to assist individuals and families right here in Contra Costa and Solano counties during these tough economic times, we couldn’t do it alone. Hunger in our community is a daily challenge, and we are always looking for partners in our hunger relief efforts.

That’s why we were excited to participate in the Pound For Pound Challenge which brought together NBC’s “The Biggest Loser: Couples,” General Mills, Subway, and the Feeding America network of food banks. The Pound For Pound Challenge invited individuals to pledge their weight loss goals and or every pound pledged the Pound For Pound Challenge donated the monetary equivalent of a pound of groceries to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

The response we had from our community was inspiring! A grand total of 29,448 pounds were pledged which means our food bank will be receiving a donation of $3,239.28. On behalf of all of us at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and the 132,000 people in Contra Costa and Solano counties who we serve each day, thank you for taking the Pound For Pound Challenge.

A special thanks to the local businesses and volunteers who stepped up to the challenge and helped us spread the word about this campaign so we could earn more funds and feed more individuals and families in need. These include:

Anderson Bros. Movers in Martinez                                                                            pound for pound challenge
Aspire Pilates in Concord
Bally Total Fitness in Pleasant Hill
Benicia Fitness
California Fitness in Martinez
California Health Club in Pleasant Hill
Cambiati Wellness Programs in Walnut Creek
Clayton Fitness Center
Clayton Mind and Body Connections
Clayton Snap Fitness Center
Curves in Martinez
Diablo Rock Gym in Concord
Dr. Lujan Chiropractic Office in Concord
Fitness 19 in San Ramon
Forma Gym in Walnut Creek
In-Shape Sport in Concord
Kelly Ann’s Day Spa in Pleasant Hill
Lafayette Health Club
Lynch Fitness in Walnut Creek
Millennium Sportsclub Vacaville
PATH Performance Training Center in Pleasant Hill
Play It Again Sports® in Pleasant Hill
Spark Fitness in Pleasant Hill
Sports Basement in Walnut Creek
Step It Up Studios in Pleasant Hill
The Big C Athletic Club in Concord
The Dailey Method® in Lafayette
The Living Lean Program in Orinda
The Yoga Company in San Ramon
24 Hour Fitness in Moraga
24 Hour Fitness in Walnut Creek
UFC Gym in Concord
Walnut Creek Sports & Fitness Club
Willow Pass Recreation Center in Concord
YMCA in Pleasant Hill
YogaWorks in Walnut Creek
And our very own Pound For Pound Challenge Champion and Biggest Loser Season 9 Contestant, Patti Anderson. We appreciate your amazing contributions and support Patti!

Last but not least, we thank John Young and Don Potter of 95.3 KUIC Hometown Morning Show and the following Food Bank Ambassadors for their outstanding job in helping us get so many supporters on board: Linda Barron, Barbara Beckert, Pat Ellison, Marcia Fortney, Susan Stillings, Linda Waxman, and Aaron Yuen.

To learn more about our ambassador program, email

Independence From Hunger at the Concord Grocery Outlet Store!

What can 99 cents buy today? Not a candy bar or bottle of soda (of course they may taste good at the moment but they are definitely not nutritious) and definitely not a gallon of gas. At the Concord Grocery Outlet, I found that I could donate 99 cents and buy a can of peaches, a can of sloppy joe sauce or a bag of dry beans and place it in the Food Bank barrel.

99 cents at the Grocery Outlet store is the beginning to a nutritious and filling meal for someone in need. In less than 3 weeks, the Concord Grocery Outlet store has collected almost 2,000 pounds of food for those we help. Not only will my four 99 cent purchases (how could I buy just one) help someone have a meal, I found some wonderful fresh strawberries for me for $1.99. I figured my good deed deserved a treat.  I hope you will visit your local Grocery Outlet and donate some food to help someone in need – the drive goes through July 31st. In honor of our nation’s birthday, we can all help our community have Independence from Hunger.


Supporting the Food Bank Pays Off!

Meet the lucky winners of the 2011 Roger Weiss Memorial “Beat the Recession” Drawing held at the Food Bank’s Tropical Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden fundraising event on June 26th. Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who purchased drawing tickets! The drawing raised over $15,000 for the Food Bank. Special thanks to our major drawing donors: California Pacific Federal Credit Union, Target, Walmart, Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery, Aliene Adamson and Meyer Corporation.

Grand prize $2,500 cash  –  Darlene Bruno
$1,000 Target gift card  –  Karen & Jeff Vesely
$1,000 Walmart gift card  –  T. Lam
$750 American Express gift card  –  Lola Blomquist
500 $1 gold coins  –  Michael Bartlett
$300 American Express  gift card  –  William Hinson
Paula Deen Cookware  –  Don Nathlich
Baking Basket  –  Celinda Bustos
Ravenswood Wine  –  Ron Grant
$50 Visa gift card  –  Dan Rubio
$50 Safeway gift card  –  Robert Blain
Jump Sky High tickets  –  Elizabeth Karplus
Concord Chevrolet oil change  –  Rosalie Rowsey
$25 Safeway gift card  –  Letitia Robbins
$25 Safeway gift card  –  G. R. Smith

Those of you who completed our online survey by July 17 were entered into a drawing to win a $25 Safeway gift card and the winner is… (drum roll)… Brenda Mooney of Vallejo. Congratulations Brenda!

Again, thank you to everyone who helped make the 11th anniversary of An Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden such a huge success! With your support, we were able to raise over $100,000 to help fight hunger in our community!

Boy Scout Gets His Community to Give Back

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: An important value and tradition of the Boys Scouts of America is helping the community. Ethan Lipson, a senior at Alhambra High School in Martinez, found himself at the Food Bank when he was in search of places where he could do an Eagle Project, or service project.

His scout master suggested a food drive for Ethan’s project, so he went to the Food Bank where they told him they still needed food for the summer. He led and organized a food drive in his neighborhood, reaching out to 900 homes. With the help of other boy scouts, they dropped bags off at houses and posted the specific day they would pick up the donated food, if they wanted to participate.

A week after they dropped off bags, Ethan and his fellow boy scouts ended up collecting about 1,400 pounds of food. “Some houses left literally 50 pounds of food,” he said, “People who really wanted to give back to the community were the ones that helped out the most.”

With his senior year approaching, his attention is shifting towards getting into college. “I need to focus on colleges and where I want to go. That’s my main priority,” he said. He plans on applying to Saint Mary’s, San Jose State, Santa Barbara State, San Francisco State and more. He’s mainly looking for a school where he can play soccer. Not only has he been playing since the age of four, but he is also on the varsity team in high school for the fourth year.

Although he’ll be plenty busy between applying to colleges and then attending next fall, he still plans on helping those in need. “I probably will help out the community from where I’ll be at,” Ethan said.

Ethan at the Food Bank

Protect Our Safety Net, Protect Our Families

Close to $2 of every $10 of income Americans received last year were from federal benefits like unemployment, food stamps, and social security according to Moody’s Analytics. For every job opening in the US there are 4.6 unemployed workers according to the Labor Department. So what do families facing these challenges do? Read how Francisco is dealing with being unemployed and how he feeds his family (written by Food Bank Volunteer John VanLandingham).

Francisco fell off an 18-foot ladder at work 13 years ago, injuring his back and shoulder. Since then, the disabled 53-year-old Antioch resident has endured three surgeries on his right shoulder. A scar from his most recent operation travels over his shoulder connecting his collar bone with his shoulder blade. Efforts to return to work that only aggravated Francisco’s injuries. “I am disabled now two years,” he says as he waits with about 500 others for a monthly Food Bank food distribution at the American Legion building in Antioch. “I have six people to feed. I usually get two bags of food. It saves me a lot, maybe 25 percent of my monthly food budget,” says the father of four. His oldest child, 24, also is unemployed. Francisco adds that he has been coming to the monthly food distributions for three years after learning about it from a disability worker.

An article in the New York Times says, “Throughout the recession and its aftermath, government benefits have helped keep money in people’s wallets and, in turn circulating among businesses… Because benefit payments tend to be spent right away to cover basics like food and rent, they provide a direct boost to consumer spending.” One benefit not mentioned is the Emergency Food Assistance Program that provides food through food banks and other hunger relief organizations to families like Francisco’s.

You can help by letting your representatives know that you care about these programs and ask that while they work to reduce the nation’s deficit they protect our safety net. Dial (202) 224-3121 to reach the Capitol switchboard and ask for your Member of Congress.

AT&T Supports Holiday Food Drive

We barely turn around at the Food Bank before it is time to start planning for the next holiday season.  Thanks to the incredible support we receive from the people at AT&T, we got a jump start on the 2011 holiday need because of the support AT&T offered this month.

Ken Mintz brought a check for $15,000 that will help us obtain the bags, barrels, posters, flyers and other materials we need to motivate the community to give.  We depend on the food donations provided by the community to make our work possible.  The support AT&T offers helps us bring the community together so we can help our neighbors in need.

AT&T donation

AT&T supports the Food Bank in many ways. Here Ken Mintz presents Larry with a donation for Holiday Food Drive.

Celebrate Everyday Heroes Orinda Golf Tournament

Guest post by Orinda Community Foundation: Join us again this year for the second annual, Orinda Celebrate Everyday Heroes Golf Tournament for repeat of fabulous experience enjoyed by all last year. Last Week until Tournament! Take a shot at winning $1 million…purchase a raffle ticket and sign up for golf.

Celebrate Everyday Heroes Golf Tournament sponsored by Orinda Community Foundation (a 501c3 nonprofit charity) benefiting Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, as well as, community events and youth programs will take place Monday, July 25, 2011. Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

We look forward to you joining us at this memorable event. Pass along to golfing friends and potential sponsors. For more details and to register, visit Sign up foursome with golf friends today!


When watermelon shows up in the markets around June, I eat as much as I can get my hands on because it just isn’t worth it any other time of year. Last week, the few melons that didn’t make it into my cart ended up in the warehouse at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

Summer means an abundance of fruits and veggies like tomatoes, zucchini and my favorite fruit, watermelon. Sometimes for Food Bank clients, picking up fresh summer produce at the store just isn’t an option with limited food dollars. The Food Bank was thrilled to receive about 2,000 fresh watermelons (11,000 pounds!) that were distributed through our agencies and programs like the Food Assistance Program and Farm 2 Kids.

It was fun for us to see that many watermelons in our warehouse and even better for the families who got to enjoy one of summer’s biggest rewards.

Rachel’s tips for fool-proof watermelon selection:

  • Look for a melon with a deep yellow ground spot (pale or white will only disappoint).
  • Pick it up. The melon should be heavy for its size (of course it’s a heavy watermelon, but some are heavier than others which means juicier).
  • Now with one hand under the melon, give the top a little smack. If it vibrates through to your bottom hand you have picked a winner. Too much jiggle and it’s overripe, too little and it’s just not delicious.

It takes some practice, but after eating a few for comparison you’ll never end up with a bland or mealy melon again.

One Volunteer’s Persistence Pays Off

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Julie Ruttenberg has been volunteering at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for about a year and a half now, but it took an entire decade for her to be able to.

When Julie and her husband first had their son, who is autistic and now 21 years old, they were going through some hard times as a young couple. Fortunately, they had enough money to get by. Knowing that her family didn’t have it as bad as others, she frequently thought about other mothers and babies. “Babies should never go hungry,” she said.

Starting off her relationship with the Food Bank in small proportions, every payday she bought an extra box of cereal to donate. “I remember one year just going through the grocery store with a hundred dollars for the Food Bank. I would fill a grocery cart,” Julie said, and when the bagger went to take it to the cart I said, “No, just put it in that barrel.”

When she was ready to become more involved with the Food Bank, she asked if there were any volunteer opportunities in the office. Unfortunately, office help was not needed and she was unable to sort food due to the arthritis in her ankles prohibiting her from standing on cement for a long period of time.

Ten years later, Julie finally became an office volunteer when help was needed at the new Fairfield warehouse. She has become involved with the food stamp outreach efforts at the Food Bank. When people lose their jobs and find it difficult to make ends meet they usually go to the Food Bank. “They figured out that the food banks tend to find people,” she said. The Food Bank has been working with the state to make sure everyone gets access to food stamps. Instead of calling it food stamps, they now use the name CalFresh.

The CalFresh requirements are based on how many people there are in a household and how much money is coming in from everybody. Working every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Julie does the majority of the documentation for the program including making copies of the paperwork and sorting all of it. She also helps out with different training meetings throughout the year with the Food Bank’s partners.

Julie Ruttenberg

Julie at her workspace in the Fairfield office/warehouse.

With her son becoming a little more independent, she can leave him home alone to wander to and from the nearby library during the day. “It frees me up, so it worked out timing wise. He’s old enough to be left alone and I have somewhere to go,” said Julie.

Julie has completely been enjoying her time at the Food Bank. “They make me feel like one of the group,” she said. She was even invited to a staff potluck. The staff told her she was one of them even though she does everything unpaid.  “I get paid in wonderful good feelings,” she said.

She is a prime example of it never being too late to volunteer. Her persistence to be involved led her to her goal of helping those in need.