Archive for October, 2011

Urge Your Senators to Vote YES on the FY2012 Minibus Appropriations Bill

On Tuesday, November 1, the Senate is scheduled to vote on passage of package of bills, which includes the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill. Among those programs funded by the Agriculture Appropriations portion of this bill are the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP),  and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). (See below for additional background information.)

Thanks to calls and emails last week to the Senate from anti-hunger advocates across the country, we were successful in stopping the consideration of several harmful SNAP-related amendments, and successfully defeated an amendment offered by Senator Sessions that would have eliminated categorical eligibility for SNAP. (SNAP is the federal name for the Food Stamp program. We call it “CalFresh” here in California.) But, the work is not done yet! Now, we need to show grassroots support for passage and urge every Senator to vote YES to pass this bill.

Call Today!
Use Feeding America’s toll free number to help us track our impact. Just dial 1-877-698-8228 to be connected directly to both of your Senators and deliver the following message: “I urge Senator [Boxer OR Feinstein] to vote YES on passage of H.R. 2112, the Minibus Appropriations bill which contains the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations legislation.”

Keep up the Pressure through Social Media!
After you call, you can further amplify your voice by posting your message on your Senators’ Facebook pages (Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein). Be sure to include your zip code in your message to let them know you are their constituent and simply urge them to vote YES on H.R. 2112, the FY2012 Minibus Appropriations Bill. We must use all of the channels available to let our elected officials know we are watching their votes closely!

Additional Background Information
While the Senate-passed bill didn’t contain every provision we were hoping for, on the whole, this bill is better funded and far superior to the FY2012 Agriculture Appropriations legislation passed by the full House back in June. As the House and Senate look to conference their two bills in order to develop a final FY2012 Agriculture Appropriation, nutrition programs will be in a far stronger position if the Senate can negotiate based off of a bill that passed after a vote by their full membership. Details of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations are below are below.
•         TEFAP Commodities:  Mandatory funding for TEFAP food commodities is provided at $260 million. This funding reflects the mandatory funding level of $250 million, as established by the 2008 Farm Bill, plus an adjustment for food price inflation. This amount is $13.5 million more than was provided in FY2011 and $60 million more than is provided in H.R. 2112.
•         TEFAP Storage and Distribution Funds: Funded at $48 million, this is $1.5 million less than was provided in FY2011, but $10.5 million more than is provided in H.R. 2112. As in past years, a provision is also included in the bill that allows states, at their discretion, to transfer up to 10% of the value of their commodity allocation — $26 million in total — into TEFAP Storage and Distribution funding.
•         WIC: WIC is funded at $6.582 billion. This is $152 million less than was provided in FY2011, but an increase of $581 million over the amount provided in H.R. 2112. According to the WIC Association, this level of funding should be sufficient to fund participation in the program in FY2012.

If you have any questions about these programs or this bill, please contact me at

Leave us a comment and let us know which action you took.

October Events Recap

IHOP Walnut Creek would like to thank everyone who came out to support the Food Bank on Tuesday October 18th. A total of $842 was generated that day. We look forward to next year’s event being even bigger and better. Your support is greatly appreciated.

ManorCare Walnut Creek celebrated its 20th year providing care for the community with two back-to-back events to benefit the Food Bank. The first, a Health Faire, contributed $840. The second event was their Annual Open House ~ a Casino Royale party this year. For the third year ManorCare hosted a Silent Auction at their Open House, with 100% of proceeds going to the Food Bank. The totals were unavailable, but with 65 generous donations from individuals and organizations we know it will be a significant contribution.

The Robert Jenson Salon was a sophisticated, elegant setting for the fundraiser they hosted in honor of their 27th anniversary. The event, co-hosted by internationally acclaimed photographic artist Bambi Cantrell of Cantrell Portrait Design, could only be described as “exquisite.” More opening night gala at an art gallery than a fundraiser at a hair salon, chicly dressed attendees enjoyed fine wines, artfully displayed delectable Asian-inspired hors d’oeuvres, and generously participated in raffles for equally elegant prizes, all while raising several thousand dollars to benefit the Food Bank.

Bay Area Refinery Motorcycle Run/Food Drive

A beautiful sunny day on September 17th began with the roar of engines when over 100 motorcycle riders and custom car enthusiasts from the Bay Area refineries gathered at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, to celebrate the success of the 10th Annual Bay Area Refinery Motorcycle Run/Food Drive. They continued their ride through the colorful back roads of Martinez, stopping at each Poker Run Stop before heading to the Shell Clubhouse for an afternoon of food, friends and music. Each refinery began with a food drive, which kicked off August 1st, collecting over 2,185 pounds of food and $22,696 by the time of the celebration. All donations and food collected during the drive from the Refinery Run will benefit the Food Bank.
The motorcyclists and custom car owners were employees and contractors of Bay Area refineries, which included Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery, ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil Products US, and Valero Benicia Refinery as well as their families and friends.
The celebration’s final destination was a barbecue held at the Shell Martinez Refinery Clubhouse where the riders, drivers and passengers were treated to musical entertainment provided by Joe Rose and the Howlers, food by Englund’s Café and Catering, vendors such as Joyce Cid Massage Therapy, Bead For Life and Interstate All Battery Center, raffle prizes, and a special guest appearance by members of the Oakland Raiderettes who helped sell raffle tickets and take photos. Events like this would not be possible without the generous support of the sponsors. Presenting Sponsors included all of the participating refineries; Poker Route Sponsors included RSC, Killer Eye Kandy, and S and S Supplies and Solutions; Contractor Sponsors included Timec, RJ Roberts, Carone & Company Inc., Harder Mechanical, KM Industrial, Starcon, Tanco Engineering, ERM, Certified Coatings Company, Benicia Fabrication and Machine, and Environmental Packaging.
The great thing about the Refinery Run is that companies that are competitors in the market place cooperate with each other in order to feed hungry people.

SCARE AWAY HUNGER – Trick or Treat for Food

Guest blog post by Ken Dami – Public and Government Affairs Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company Golden Eagle Refinery – The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has partnered with Concord High School and the Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery to “Scare Away Hunger”. Over 80 Concord High School students and teachers, supported by a team of Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery employees, will be out on Halloween night trick or treating for food on behalf of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. The students have formed seven teams that will trick or treat for food and/or donations in selected neighborhoods in the greater Concord area. The purpose is to raise much needed funds and food for the Food Bank which currently serves over 132,000 people every month. Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery is supporting the event with volunteers, vehicles, and matching dollar for dollar funds collected or pounds of food donated up to $5,000 to both the Food Bank and Concord High School ($10,000 total investment).

The event starts at Concord High School on October 31, 2011 at 5pm when the teams meet. Dinner will be hosted by Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery. Food Bank staff will be on hand with scales to weigh the food that is brought in by the teams or any that is dropped off by the public. All teams must return for final weigh in by 8:30pm. Concord High School teams are competing against each other to see who can raise the most funds or pounds of food. “The real winners are the students of Concord High School who have an opportunity to give back to their community and raise awareness for the Food Bank”, states Concord High School Student Government Representative, Zeenat Yahya. “We believe that no one should go hungry especially our neighbors. Our employees believe in serving their community and we are proud to partner with local students to support the Food Bank,” says Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery Manager, Steve Hansen.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director, Larry Sly states, “People shouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. We’ve seen a large increase in the diversity of people seeking food. What’s making a difference for us in meeting the demand is how the community comes together with innovative ways to collect food and get the message out”.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has been serving the community for 36 years. They provide food to more than 132,000 hungry people in need every month directly at community sites and through a network of 180 charitable agencies, and distributed nearly 14 million pounds last year. The Food Bank works to reduce food waste, feed hungry people, and raise public awareness of issues related to food and hunger.

Donor Spotlight – Bill and Terri Wygal

Bill's Ace HardwareBill and Terri Wygal are the owners of Bill’s Chairs for Affairs and Bill’s Ace Hardware stores. Bill’s Ace Hardware has been in business since 1964 serving the community and ensuring Grandpa Bill’s vision of providing superior customer service remains a priority.

For more than ten years their businesses have been Certified Green, with Bill’s being one of the first local businesses to attain that distinction. Bill’s Chairs for Affairs was purchased in November of 2008 from a good friend of theirs, and is operated with the same commitment to service as the hardware stores. Bill and Terri are both extremely active in their community, partnering with many non-profits such as the Food Bank, American Cancer Society, Civic Art, and Veterans causes. They generously sent their employees to help rebuild Monument Crisis Center when called upon.

Bill’s Ace Hardware is a strong supporter of the Food Bank, donating auction prizes and cases of water for the annual Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden fundraiser in June. On a more personal note, when a local Concord boy was murdered in February 2010 and a Food Bank employee helping his single mother put together a memorial service contacted Bill, he did not hesitate when asked to donate cases of water for the lunch.

Bill and Terri have been extremely involved in Martinez schools for years. Their support of Martinez schools ranges from the elementary schools to the Junior High School, and all the way to Alhambra High School. Bill and Terri both have a strong commitment to the communities that we live in and try to give back as much as possible. They are amazing people who are always wonderful to talk to and always willing to help with anything you need. We salute Bill and Terri Wygal for their outstanding efforts in helping to end hunger.


Pleasant Hill 50th Anniversary

Pleasant Hill 50th

The City of Pleasant Hill is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. We have the opportunity to help the city celebrate by collecting 50 barrels of food in its honor by November 14.

We have already collected 9 barrels of food at the Pleasant Hill Community Service Day last month. Navlet’s Garden Center (2895 Contra Costa Blvd) has a barrel year round, so does Citibank (2255 Contra Costa Blvd) and so does the YMCA (350 Civic Drive). Navlet’s just swapped out a full barrel and Girl Scout Troop 31125 filled up 3 barrels at Strandwood Elementary on October 7th. We are well on our way to 50 full barrels and just have 37 left to fill.

UPDATE: We will be delivering 25 barrels to Pleasant Hill Middle School for pick up on October 24. Teacher Jan Quimet is great at inspiring the students to fill the barrels. That means 12 barrels to go.

Would you like to help commemorate Pleasant Hill’s 50 years by hosting a barrel? We have one ready with your name on it. Not only are you celebrating the city’s 50th anniversary, you are helping our community in need.


Community Service Days

Pleasant Hill has done this for seven years, Walnut Creek has done this for one year and hundreds show up at 7am for pancakes. What is this? Community Service Days!

Both the City of Pleasant Hill and the City of Walnut Creek host an annual Community Service Day where hundreds of residents get to choose a half-day community project including school cleanups, painting projects for nonprofits, environmental projects and most important to us is a food drive. The wonderful part of volunteering is that you can select what interests you and your family. We were very fortunate to have many families and small groups conduct neighborhood food drives on each of these days. It was very simple: we provided bags/flyers and the family/group placed the bags on the doorsteps of their neighbors at least 3 to 7 days before the food pickup day. Then on the Community Service Day, they came back and looked for the full bags of food waiting for them.

On September 24th, we picked up 1,031 pounds of food from the Pleasant Hill Community Service Day and on October 1st, we picked up 4,327 pounds of food from the Walnut Creek Community Service Day. This food comes at a time when we are low on food to sort and distribute so it is very important. But more than the food is the opportunity to help our city, schools and neighbors in need by volunteering in our own community. We thank the volunteers that made both Community Service Days so successful and we thank all of those that left out a bag of food.

If you would like to conduct your own neighborhood food drive – just give us a call! We will happily provide bags, flyers and all of the support you need. A neighborhood food drive is an easy way to get the whole family involved!  

Cub Scout and Boy Scout Day

On Sunday October 2, over 120 cub scouts, boy scouts and leaders attended our 1st Cub Scout and Boy Scout Day at the Food Bank. We created this special day to educate the scouts on why their November food drive, Scouting for Food, is so important and what happens to the food after the scouts pick it up from the doorsteps of houses all over our community.

The scouts had a tour of the warehouse including walking into our cooler (drive in refrigerator), the freezer and seeing all of the pallets of food ready for distribution, not to mention the empty barrels waiting to go out for the holidays. Next they played the “Wheel of Life” where they learned about why people need help with food due to various circumstances in their life (loss of job, car breaks down, animal is sick and many other reasons why money is diverted away from purchasing food for the family). They also had the opportunity to make banners for their Scouting for Food food drive sites on November 19. The most popular part of the day (other than the freezer) was boxing all of the plums which were bound for many, many people in need in our community.

Thank you cub scouts and boy scouts for making this day very special for us at the Food Bank. We look forward to Scouting for Food on Saturday November 19 when you will bring thousands of pounds of food back to the Food Bank. To our community, there will be hundreds of scouts picking up food from doorsteps. If you see a supercharged scout, you can bet he was at the Food Bank and learned more about hunger and how he can make a difference!

CalFresh and Health Disparities: Is There a Relationship?

Guest post by Corinne L. Quinn, MSPH, CHES, Community Health Leader, The Network for a Healthy California–Gold Country Region, African-American Campaign. For approximately one year, I have served as a volunteer Ambassador of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, educating people on CalFresh eligibility and providing them with information about food resources.  Professionally, I work in Solano County with The Network for a Healthy California-Gold Country Region African-American Campaign as a Community Health Leader/Educator, promoting the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity to low-income, CalFresh eligible African-Americans.

Due to my experiences, I am able to view the complex food policy issue from two vantage points.  At one end of the spectrum, I help people figure out if they are eligible for CalFresh benefits and guide them to food pantries and soup kitchens where they can receive nutritious food if they are in need; at the other end of the spectrum, I teach people which foods are healthy, how to prepare these foods, and the benefits of eating healthy foods. I am not an expert on CalFresh or health disparities, but I am certain that the basis for what I do on every front is to reduce health disparities.

Simply stated, health disparities are the differences in health outcomes between various racial and cultural groups.  I am most familiar with health disparities as they relate to African-Americans because that is the population I work with most often.  However, health disparities exist in Latino, Asian, and other communities.  According to the California Department of Public Health Center for Health Statistics,

over 76 percent of African-American adults in California are overweight or obese.

Mirroring that statistic is that over 12 percent of African-Americans in California suffer from diabetes; heart disease and cancer are the first and second leading causes of death for African-Americans in California.

In my professional and volunteer service to the community, one thing is clear to me:  the adage

“you are what you eat from your head down to your feet”

is true.  The food that people purchase with CalFresh benefits directly impacts their health.  Research has shown that

eating more fruits and vegetables  decreases the risk of chronic illnesses. As a result, dietary guidelines for Americans now recommend that at least 50% of your plate be filled with fruits and vegetables at every meal for improved health.

Yet, problems persist as corner stores in low income neighborhoods do not provide access to fresh produce to shoppers. Equally disturbing is the abundance of fast food restaurants and convenience stores combined with the lack of grocery stores in neighborhoods which create and perpetuate food deserts.  The struggle still continues to completely and forever change the food policies and food landscape of communities across America in order to give people access to the healthy foods they need and deserve.

The affected communities have responded that they want change AND want to make a change.  This change has begun through attempts to engage and empower the affected communities through education.

The Network for a Healthy California-Gold Country Region African-American Campaign has taught nutrition education and cooking classes in partnership with an innovative program called Farm to Families (a Kaiser Permanente initiative which empowers residents of low income apartment communities in Fairfield toward a healthy life by increasing access to produce).

  Community gardens are springing up throughout Vallejo.  Through the Farm 2 Kids program, the Food Bank provides fresh fruits and vegetables to children in schools where over 50% of the students in these schools receive free or reduced cost school lunches, meaning at least half of the households in the school are considered low-income by the federal government.  Recently, bills to increase access to healthy foods in affected communities throughout the state of California have been signed into law.

These community and societal actions are signs of hope.  I am optimistic that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Slowly, but surely, this complex relationship between CalFresh and health disparities will be completely untangled, fully explored, and understood.  Understanding this relationship fully will ultimately lead to a reduction in health disparities.

Stories from the Creek, Part 2

Guest post by John VanLandingham, Food Bank volunteer: Every month, approximately 100 people appear at St.Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek to receive free food distributions from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties. Many of those are collecting for more than one person. Here are some of their stories

 “I’m collecting for my son. I saw the truck go by and I inquired.”
George, Walnut Creek

George stood with one booted leg firmly planted on the parking lot asphalt, the other, bent back under his thigh, carefully planted on an orthopedic scooter. The burly, white-bearded Walnut Creek resident said he was collecting food for his disabled son who lives at home with him.

“It’s my second time for him,” he said as he brought up the end of the line of about 110 persons waiting to receive food donations from the Contra Costa-Solano Food Bank volunteers. He said his son is unemployed and unable to meet his living needs without the Food Bank’s assistance.

George said he learned about the food distribution program by inquiring after he saw one of the Food Bank’s trucks go by one day. “I inquired and filled out the paper work,” he said.

After handing George a bag of staples, a volunteer asked George if he could use some extra apples. “Give me all you can, I’m collecting for my son,” he responded. Moments later, George, accompanied by a pair of volunteers, took the bag and a box of apples to his car parked nearby.

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