Archive for August, 2011

Backyard Bounty

Pears, Pears, Pears and YES more Pears! When the rain fell in early June, we all worried about the pears in the Alhambra Valley in Martinez and in Moraga. Many people in these two communities have an abundance of pears and love to have volunteers such as the National Charity League pick the pears for us. While the pears may be smaller this year, it seems to be a bountiful year. Thank goodness someone created the pole with the wire cage on the end to help pick the pears. It always seems the best fruit is just out of reach at the top of the tree. My favorite way to eat a pear is sliced in a salad – the pear adds just a little something different to it.

So in the last 5 days, volunteers have picked over 15,000 pounds of pears. That provides a lot of fresh fruit as snacks! I know there are over 230 men, women, teens and children with sore muscles who helped picked all of these beautiful pears. Hours volunteered totaled over 600 hours. WOW! I am exhausted thinking about this all. I think I will have my lunch – hope there is not a pear in my bag…

The Food Bank Feeds Unemployed Neighbors in Need

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: One of the many food programs the Food Bank has to offer their clients is the Food Assistance Program, commonly called FAP. FAP distributions take place in Antioch, Rodeo, Vacaville and other various towns in Contra Costa and Solano counties.



Recipients who meet the income guidelines to receive food are able to pick up food once a month at the distribution closest to them. When they go to the distribution site, they must have identification with their current address or a picture identification and a document with their current address, such as a PG&E or telephone bill. If their household size is six or more people, I.D. for each person is needed. People also need to certify that their income falls under the guidelines for the program.

Once a month in Antioch, people line up outside of the Veterans Memorial Hall to be greeted by Food Bank employees and volunteers ready to hand over grocery bags and boxes with a variety of bread, fresh produce, canned goods and more.

A large amount of the clients that attend the distribution are unfortunately unemployed. Four ladies I talked to, Tori, Chris, Wanda and Leaann all fall under the unemployed category.

The only one receiving food stamps is Tori. She used to be a cashier and worked many other jobs, but has been unemployed for three and a half years. She is the only one in her household and thinks the distribution is great since she hasn’t gone to get food from anywhere else.

Chris recently moved into a new place with her husband and son, but no one is employed. Chris hasn’t been working since she had her son 16 years ago. When I spoke with her, it was her first time at a FAP distribution. A friend of hers has gone in the past and told her about it. Along with this new found food distribution opportunity, she’s gone to Grace’s Closet, a ministry in Antioch. “They gave me a bag of food and I found a pair of blue jeans,” she said. She also receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

With her husband retired and she being unemployed, Leaann said the Food Bank “makes it so we can eat.” She also is able to pick up food from a couple other programs which helps her and her husband get by.



Being retired, Wanda gets social security from the government, but the Food Bank’s help is great assistance for her and her 39 year-old son who does not have a job. A year ago, a friend told her about FAP and she’s been going ever since.

When she first went, she and her friend were given the wrong starting time. “We were way down the line,” she said. Now Wanda makes sure to get to the Hall about an hour or two early. Being a very friendly and talkative person, she passes the time by making new friends with the other people around her.

Lately, Wanda has noticed an increase of people who need assistance. “At the Salvation Army, there are so many people that they can’t give out as much,” she said. Fortunately, with their help, the Food Bank and a couple other places, she’s able to supplement what she can’t get from each program.

She likes going to the FAP distribution because of the friendly and helpful staff and volunteers. “I didn’t bring my brace today and got dropped off and have to be picked up,” she said, “But they help bring it out and put it where I need to go even when I’m only carrying a bag.”

Food Bank Educates Students

“The Hungry play is top notch in every way — good acting, nicely and cleverly staged, and the message, which all kids need to hear, was clearly and age-appropriately stated through the story of the play. I’m a fan!”

This is just one of the many positive comments we’ve received regarding the Food Bank’s FREE live performances of the play entitled, Hungry at middle schools throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties. Hungry, written by award-winning playwright, Patricia Loughrey debuted in 2004 and tours annually. In 2010, Hungry was performed in front of more than 6,000 students, teachers and parents and typically, schools follow up on the message of the play by organizing holiday food drives or including hunger as a topic in their social science studies. The Food Bank is currently scheduling morning performance dates for Fall 2011.

There is no cost to the school and the gymnasium or multipurpose room can serve as a venue for the play. The play runs about 40 minutes and should fit within a single class period. If you would like to preview that play, a DVD can be provided for you per your request.

Note to Businesses: Your sponsorship is a fantastic opportunity to promote your company, enhance your presence within the local community, and be recognized as a supporter of hunger education.

Please contact Patty McDowell ( or (925) 676-7543 extension 243) for any questions you have or if you would like to preview the play, schedule a performance, or find out about sponsorship opportunities.

Drawing Winner Surprises the Food Bank!

On June 26th, at the Tropical Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden fundraising event, seven lucky supporters won great prizes in our Roger Weiss Memorial Beat the Recession Drawing.  One of those lucky winners won $1,001 in Target gift cards.

The winner, who wishes to remain anonymous, picked up her gift cards at the Food Bank after the event.  To our surprise and delight, as she walked out the door, she handed me a check made out to the Food Bank for………$1,001!  What a wonderful surprise!  Food Bank supporters are amazing people.

Thank you anonymous donor!

How To Stuff A Van With Food By Wells Fargo Wholesale Employees

What is better than a day at the park? A van stuffed with nonperishable food from Wells Fargo Wholesale employees!

The employees had a picnic on Thursday at Kennedy Grove in El Sobrante. For each can the employee donated, they received a raffle ticket towards some great prizes. And many of the employees brought more than 10 items. I saw jars of peanut butter, cans of tuna, pastas, vegetables, cereal – everything on our most wanted list.

At the end of the day I was exhausted from loading everything into the van – but it was well worth it. Their 1,541 pounds of food was sorted the same day and is already in boxes ready to go out to the agencies we work with.

Thank you Wells Fargo Wholesale employees. Next year I am bringing a bigger van!

Budget Control Act of 2011

Congress came to a verbal agreement on the debt ceiling Sunday evening. The House voted in favor of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (bill text) yesterday evening, and the Senate passed it earlier today.  All house representatives in California voted in favor of the bill except for a handful of representatives who did not vote. Senators Boxer and Feinstein voted in favor as well.  The bill awaits final approval from the president.

Members of Congress and political pundits are still unclear about all the details of the agreement. However, the Congressional Budget Office reports that the deal trims at least $2.1 trillion in spending over the next 10 years, and raises the debt limit in a two-step process. How the spending cuts will actually play out is uncertain. This is what we do know:

  1. The cap is on federal nutrition programs and it is about to get screwed even tighter. Government-wide budget caps are set for the next ten fiscal years; which means that federal nutrition programs like WIC, TEFAP and CSFP will face even stiffer competition for federal dollars against other federal programs like military and education spending. Entitlement programs such as SNAP, Medicaid and Social Security are exempt from these caps.
  2. A “Super-Committee” is tasked with finding an additional $1.5 trillion in cuts to the deficit, just in time for Thanksgiving. In less than four months hunger activists will need to influence this plan to ensure hungry children, seniors and families are not bearing the brunt of these cuts. The plan needs to be unveiled by November 23 and approved by December 23.
  3. A failed Super-Committee plan guarantees an unfair burden placed on middle and low-income families. If Congress fails to pass the super committee plan or enacts less than $1.2 million in cuts, across-the-board cuts will occur. There is one small victory: Social safety-net programs including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SNAP, Child Care and Development Block Grant program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are not subject to these cuts. It is unclear whether TEFAP – which provides food banks with a significant percentage of food – will be on the chopping block. However, all other programs helping middle and low-income families are fair game.

Thank you to our friends at the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas for providing this update.

Health Conscious Volunteer Hopes to See People Eat Better

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County aims to conquer hunger in our area. While it is important to provide as much food as possible for the hungry, the Food Bank wants to make sure it’s at least nutritional and healthy. Volunteer Ellen Potthoff, a Naturopathic Doctor, has a passion for making sure people are eating the right things.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, she said, “Food and digestion is the core of that.” Thinking back to when she began volunteering with the Food Bank in 2001, she said, “I really had a strong feeling people need to know how to eat. So I was hoping to contribute to that.” Now she’s a Food Bank Ambassador, which is a volunteer who represents the Food Bank at different events and outreach activities by handing out information and  speaking publicly on their behalf.

Ellen worked for the Health Physicians Medical Group and is very knowledgeable about the human body. When Kaiser gave the Food Bank a grant for stress management for employees, she taught classes for them since she teaches these at Kaiser. Being a chiropractor as well, she also gave staff upper body massages.

“What people eat and their level of activity has everything to do with how healthy they are and it’s much easier to keep them healthy than it is treating them when they’re not healthy,” said Ellen. She believes medicines are great if a person needs them, but she rather have people maintain a healthy lifestyle without them, since medicine can have some serious side effects and problems.

Fitness expert and body builder Jack LaLanne and Alice Waters, a chef and author, have inspired her and her passion for food. Being at the Food Bank blends in well with her love for food and cooking. She volunteers every Wednesday for three hours and then another three hours on certain Fridays for the boxing project.

The Youth Homes Auxiliary Store is lucky enough to receive help from Ellen as well. The store supports foster kids who are no longer in the system. She also builds trails for Volunteers of California and ushers at the opera in the city.

She really enjoys volunteering for various organizations, especially the Food Bank. “I really like the idea that I’m helping to feed people. That’s important,” she said.

To learn more about the Food Bank Ambassador program, email