Archive for November, 2011

November Events Recap

When Wood Group Field Services employees decided to help out the Food Bank there was something a little fishy about it. They chartered two fishing boats from Berkeley Marina and motored out on Saturday, November 19th with high hopes of bringing back some Dungeness crab and rockfish, as well as some cash for the Food Bank.  They succeeded on all fronts, and Dave Pritting stopped by our Fairfield office to drop off a $588 donation and tell some mighty tall fish tales to boot. Thank you to all who contributed to make the lives of our neighbors a little less difficult at this special time of year.

What better way to start off Thanksgiving Day than feeling the burn at Blackhawk Crunch Gym before indulging in a feast? That was the idea when the Gym alerted members about an early morning spin class, “Ride with Purpose”, with donations benefiting the Food Bank to help feed the hungry in their community. $510 was raised by participating members that morning!

The Walnut Creek Sports and Fitness Club 19th annual Turkey Trot was held on Thanksgiving morning. Participants were asked to bring food for the Food Bank and staff were on hand with their truck and barrels to collect the food starting at 6:30am. Food was deposited by people dressed as turkeys, pilgrims, and even a can of cranberry sauce dropped by our truck to pose with a Food Bank barrel. A total of 465 pounds of food were

collected and many people of all ages dropped by to talk about the Food Bank and where they could donated food or money.

Brazen Racing held their Nitro Turkey Thanksgiving Run at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in Richmond with over 800 dedicated racers joining in the morning fun. These are dedicated runners who love the challenge of hills and rugged trails. The racers were very happy to donate $45 and 821 pounds of food to fill the van. While it was raining in Walnut Creek we had some sunshine and a beautiful rainbow over the bay. What a great day to collect food for our community. We can hardly wait for both runs next Thanksgiving Day!

Taking Care of Seniors

Guest post from Charlene Burns, Senior Food Program Coordinator: The Senior Food Program is very dependent upon a large group of dedicated, hard working volunteers.  They are vital to the program’s success.

Since the beginning of the fiscal year, 7-1-11, we have had 348 individuals volunteer with this program.  The majority of these volunteers help at almost every distribution, doing everything from paperwork to filling the bags of food with the products.  Without their efforts the program could not exist.  Thank you Senior Food Program Volunteers, you are the greatest!

A Thoughtful Gift

Kudos to Emily Bach and staff at The Bach Group at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Orinda for choosing to say thank you to their clients via the Food Bank.  Instead of sending clients the usual holiday gift of candy or other personal item, Emily decided to make a $5,000 donation to the Food Bank in honor of her clients.  She paid for custom printed Thanksgiving cards, included a letter from herself explaining the donation, and a letter from Food Bank Executive Director Larry Sly explaining Food Bank needs and how many people this generous donation will feed.

If you would like to do a similar good deed through your business for the holiday season, Christmas or the New Year, please contact Kathy Gleason at 925 771 1313 or

Congressman Garamendi Visits the Food Bank

At a time of record need and our Food Bank and partner agencies are stretched thin, cuts to nutrition assistance would be devastating for struggling families and our community. Charity simply cannot make up the difference if programs like SNAP, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or WIC is cut.

We appreciate the support for these programs from Congressman John Garamendi and for the time he took to visit our warehouse in Fairfield this week. After spending just  an hour with him, it is obvious that fighting for the nutritional needs of all Americans is important to him.

You can also help ensure vital nutrition programs are not cut by contacting your congressman and letting him/her know that local charities and government programs must work together to meet the need in our communities.

Find your Federal representative by visiting

County Food Fight 2011

Let the annual Counties Care Food Fight begin!  2011 marks the eighth year that employees of Solano and Contra Costa counties will help raise funds for their respective neighbors in need, and vie for bragging rights to the Big Apple trophy.  The winning county is determined by the amounts raised per employee.

What began in 2003 as a friendly competition focusing on helping the community, has grown into an annual fundraiser the Food Bank depends on.  Last year county employees raised over $143,000 for the Food Bank!   In the seven year history of the Food Fight, county employees have helped raise over $811,000!

Although Contra Costa County employees took home the Big Apple in 2010, Solano County employees are determined to bring it back home in 2011.  Funds are raised in a variety of ways including collecting donations for Food Bank Buy A Bags, holding bake sales, selling hot dogs, and any creative way county employees can think of to wrestle donations out of their fellow employees!

Local radio stations including KUIC, KKDV and Gene Burns at KGO pitch in to help promote the drive, encouraging listeners to donate as a “friend of the Food Bank”.  This brings in additional donations although these funds are not included in the employee to employee competition.

You can help by donating online through the Food Bank site. Be sure to select your county!

The Food Bank gratefully acknowledges Contra Costa and Solano County employees for taking on this huge holiday fundraiser.  This is proof that county employees really do care about the residents in their county.  Please support their efforts.

Boy Scouts Go Door-to-Door to Collect Food for Food Banks

One of the nation’s largest single-day food drives takes place this Saturday, Nov. 19, when Boy Scouts will go door-to-door collecting non-perishable food for local food banks.

In the Bay Area, more than 40,000 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Venturers, Explorers and their supporters will be “Scouting For Food” by picking up boxed or bagged non-perishable food placed on doorsteps by 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19.

Residences on the Scouts’ collection routes have received a door-hanger promoting the drive on Nov. 12. Residents who did not receive a door-hanger are not on a collection route, but they can still contribute by dropping off donations on November 19 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at either Food Bank warehouse or at any of the locations listed at

“Through the Scouting for Food food drive, Bay Area Boy Scouts are helping food banks feed our neighbors in need,” said Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank. “By reaching out to their neighbors, Boy Scouts continue to make a difference in their community. ”

Last year the drive brought in more than 143,000 pounds of food in Contra Costa and Solano counties. In the Bay Area, the Scouts’ goal is to collect 500,000 pounds of food this year.

“We can take substantial steps toward ending hunger by working together,” said Tim Buchen of the San Francisco Bay Area Council of Boy Scouts of America. “But even with 40,000 Scouts on collection routes, we can’t hit every doorstep. So it’s critical that people help us out by dropping off food at their local site.”

Whole Foods Market, Safeway, Lucky, FoodMaxx, Mi Pueblo Food Center and Berkeley Bowl locations throughout the Bay Area have in-store barrels to accept donations for Bay Area food banks throughout the holiday season.

NBC Bay Area Teams Up With Safeway to Stock Bay Area Food Bank Shelves One-Day Food Drive

NBC Bay Area, in partnership with Safeway, is hosting a one-day food drive on Saturday, November 19, to benefit hungry people throughout the Bay Area. More than 600,000 Bay Area residents require the assistance of their local Bay Area food bank every month. The food drive takes place at 165 Safeway locations throughout the Bay Area, so it is easy for community members to participate and help feed their neighbors in need.

NBC Bay Area and the Bay Area food banks will mobilize for one day of food collections at Safeway stores to collect thousands of pounds of much-needed food.

“In addition to providing on-air promotion, we are organizing hundreds of volunteers throughout the Bay Area to encourage shoppers to donate,” said Lance Lew, NBC Bay Area Community Marketing Director. “It is easy to pick up a pre-packed $10 grocery bag that is filled with the foods local families need most. Our goal is to increase awareness about local hunger while also giving community members a convenient way to help out at a critical time.”

Displays at all Safeway stores will be filled with $10 bags that shoppers can purchase and donate to their local food bank. These bags include items such as rice, stuffing, canned vegetables and cranberry sauce. Once collected, the bags will be delivered to food banks before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I really appreciate all that NBC Bay Area and Safeway have done to give people the ability to help their neighbors in need,” said Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank. “ The Bay Area is a caring community and food banks are helping hundreds of thousands of people every month.  Thanks to NBC Bay Area and Safeway, we are making a difference.”

Additionally, Food Banks across the nation have the chance to earn a financial donation from Kraft Foods. The food banks with the most donated bags per 100 shopper transactions will receive a donation, which can be used to purchase additional food.

If you cannot participate on November 19, bags will be available for purchase from November 15 through the end of December.

Concord Teen Helps Fill Bilingual Need

Guest post by John VanLandingham, Food Bank volunteer: Toward the month’s end, many area families’ pantries start emptying. And because payday won’t come soon enough to restock, many families turn to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for assistance.

For established Food Bank clients, the process of receiving food at various distribution sites is not a problem. But for many first-time families who speak only Spanish, the process can be daunting.

Will they be asked to prove their income, the size of their families, their immigration status? How can they answer these questions in a language they don’t understand and how do they navigate the registration process?

Knowing it can be challenging for some clients, it is important to the Food Bank to communicate with every applicant and to help make the process of getting food as easy as possible. With an increasing number of people who receive food at our distribution sites within the Hispanic/Latino community, staffers and volunteers without Spanish language skills become more reliant on the assistance of bilingual volunteers such as Jesus Avalos.

Jesus, a 17-year-old senior at De La Salle High School, donates his services at the Food Bank’s Vallejo distribution site, assisting first-time applicants register and obtain food. He was recruited after responding to a volunteer announcement for bilingual volunteers who speak Spanish.

“I had been looking for opportunities to help. Somebody told me about the Food Bank,” he says.

Jesus volunteers anywhere from eight to 10 hours every month, sometimes more or less depending on his school work.

On distribution dates, Jesus travels to the distribution site and joins other volunteers in preparing for the day’s distribution. Once in Vallejo, he helps unload the food from the trucks, set up tables and chairs, bagging fresh produce, bread, and USDA commodities and then goes over to the registration table where his skills are needed most.

“I ask them if this is their first time. If so, I ask questions about their need, what food you have to have, family size and other questions. Some get scared. They fear we are going to check out how much money they have. I say we don’t check anything, just your verbal confirmation. No forms, no background checks,” the North Concord resident states in Spanish.

Sometimes the clients are nervous about immigration. “I think at times when we’re discussing their current household income, they get a little bit nervous. But they learn soon I’m not asking about immigration,” Jesus says.

He remembers one lady who nervously kept hovering near the door leading into the distribution site. Finally she came over, asking in Spanish, what she needed to do to register for food. “I told her she didn’t need to do anything except come in and register and sure enough she did. Later she came back and told me I was a great help. It was a good feeling.”

Jesus’ efforts on behalf of the Food Bank have impressed the staff. “I think this young man is great.  He is so mature for his age and interacts with the clients as though he’s been doing this for a very long time. I really admire him and am amazed by his skill level. Having him on board is definitely a big bonus for us,” says Julie Redmond, Food Assistance Program Coordinator.

But Jesus will graduate and go off to college next fall to study engineering leaving a void the Food Bank desperately wants to fill.

Meanwhile the Food Bank’s need for bilingual volunteers extends beyond Vallejo, says Redmond. “Approximately 80% of our Bay Point clients are Spanish speaking and it would be great if someone like Jesus could help interview and communicate with them.”

Bilingual area residents with Spanish language skills wanting to volunteer may email the Food Bank at

Scare Away Hunger!

Thousands of doorbells were rung on Halloween night throughout the area. But in Concord, some of the ringing had a different purpose. Halloween was all about collecting nonperishable and monetary donations for the Food Bank and our community in need. A Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery employee came up with a great way to support the Food Bank, support a school and get the community involved in helping those in need in our community – trick or treating for food. Ken Dami of Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery took the next step by organizing the interested parties and then offering a company match of $5,000 to the Food Bank and $5,000 to the chosen school, Concord High. Not only was the Food Bank going to receive food donations on Halloween night, we were also going to receive cash donations plus $5,000 from Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery.

Seven different school departments: Band, Choir, Leadership, Cheer, Football, Baseball and Softball signed up to each have a team of 12 students go out into designated neighborhoods. Tesoro rounded out the team concept by providing dinner, a Scare Away Hunger t-shirt, a glow button, a trick or treat reusable bag, seven Tesoro vehicles and staff to follow the teams to collect the food as the teams walked door to door collecting plus a bus to drive the students into and back from the neighborhoods. Led by teachers and parents, the students went out and rang hundreds of doorbells. In the end, we received a fantastic 6,619 pounds of food and $1,723.43. The winning team was Softball but just by a small amount. And the prize for winning is a party sponsored by the refinery. Of course bragging rights seem to be the real prize not to mention all of the food and money collected.

At the end of the evening when all of the food was weighed and loaded into the truck and the money was locked up, two students came up to us and said “Thank you for inviting us tonight. It was the most fun ever and we can hardly wait for next Halloween”. What more can I say than I too can hardly wait for next Halloween.

Thank you to Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery for creating this great event and for your fantastic sponsorship. Thank you Ken Dami for your leadership. Thank you Principal Gary McAdam of Concord High for your leadership and getting your fantastic teachers and students involved. Thank you students for volunteering as a team and making our first year so successful. Thank you community for giving and helping those in need. Did we Scare Away Hunger? I think we did and we will do it again every Halloween until it is gone for good.

Holiday Program Highlight

Throughout the year, the Food Bank provides its’ member agencies (soup kitchens, pantries, group homes, etc.) with 480,000 pounds per month of free food. Each holiday season, we are delighted to provide even more assistance.

In order to reach our goal of the 160,000 additional pounds the Food Bank hopes to distribute this holiday season, we have purchased 1,700 cases of food and worked to get extra produce. In addition, food drives, donations, and Merrill Lynch’s holiday boxes will bring us to our goal. This year, we have partnered with around 100 nonprofits located throughout Contra Costa and Solano Counties who are coordinating either holiday meals or holiday basket distributions.

We bolster these special holiday distributions by providing turkeys, gift certificates, produce, and food boxes. In addition, we will be distributing 3,000 $15 gift certificates for the purchase of turkeys. In all, we expect to help provide 6,000 holiday meals and 22,000 holiday food baskets.

None of this would be possible without the generosity of the people in the communities we serve. Thank you to all who support our mission. Happy holidays.