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Archive for February, 2012

USF Grad Students Distribute Food

Guest post by Adrienne Sommer-Locey – I don’t know what I was expecting when my team signed up to bag food for the Vallejo distribution with Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Times are tough, and friendly faces can be hard to find; you never know what you will encounter at an assistance program. With an open heart and willing mind, my community service team and I carpooled to Vallejo to share our talents and learn from our experience.

Upon our arrival at the Community Center in Vallejo, we hopped out of the car and met the other volunteers, a team of high school students. There was a little separation between the two groups in the beginning as we introduced ourselves and signed in, but as soon as the truck with food pulled up there was work to do and no time to be shy! In the blink of an eye, tables were put out, pallets were set up, and an assembly line was formed. We all had our marching orders as to what goes in each bag, and instantly got to work with all the hustle we could muster.

In our Undergraduate program, we studied classical management techniques, the history of the evolution of organizational structures, and beyond. Learning these facts by rote will drill the concepts into your head, but the experience at the food bank brought it to life! We were constantly seeking the “one best way” a la Frederick Taylor, testing to see how to make the flow of the product move more efficiently. We specialized in our tasks and the products we handled as Adam Smith suggested in the Wealth of Nations and which Ford perfected in the automobile industry. We employed friendly peer pressure to goad each other on in a sort of reversed “soldiering” to go faster and be a stronger team member. Each person played their part, and the work was done in record time.

Once the bags were created, we shifted gears and got ready to meet the people who would be receiving them. Some of us took the role of greeting people and distributing bags, others took a role of maintaining the bags and keeping the supply chain rolling. I was part of the latter group, but I got an opportunity to meet and talk to the recipients as well. The most difficult realization was that the people we were helping were just like me. This was not some remote group in foreign lands suffering from malnutrition like you see in ads on TV. These are our fellow Americans, our neighbors, our friends. The truth is the face of poverty is our face, and their struggles are no more remote from us than our own shadow.

It can crush your spirit to see so many people struggling to get by day to day. Instead of a painful confrontation however, the work was done with a generous heart, the food gladly given and received, and everyone, including the recipients, was friendly and positive,. They were happy for the relief, and we were happy to assist them. There was no pity or resentment, just a real sense of compassion and gratitude. It felt good not just to do for others, but to be a part of a team working for a positive goal. My day at the Vallejo food bank was unforgettable; an experience I hope to repeat and share with many others.

Girl Scouts in Action

We are very fortunate to have so many active Girl Scouts in our two counties who so often think of the Food Bank when having dances or creating a community service project. For example:

Glorietta Elementary School in Orinda just had a father-daughter dance and asked everyone to bring in nonperishable food. Troop #30667 in Danville just held a dance and soon Del Rey Elementary in Orinda and Valle Verde Elementary in Walnut Creek will be collecting nonperishable food at their father-daughter dances. We make it easy by bringing the barrel to you and picking up the food.

Girl Scout troops also brought food to the Food Bank at Family Volunteer Day. Troop # 20305 in Benicia collected food and delivered it in a decorated  box.. When people ask me what food we like, I ask if children will be helping to buy the food. Then I recommend that the children select some of the food so they feel a part of the giving. Peanut butter always tops the charts.

In January, we received a $25 check from with the attached note:

“Hi, my name is Lauren and I am a Girl Scout in Lafayette. One of the badges is the “Sign of the Sun” Live the Girl Scout Promise. I have been collecting plastic bottles and aluminum cans for a long time and after I saw your article in the Lafayette Today newspaper, I wanted to start donating the money I collect to the Food Bank. I plan to continue doing this but enclosed is a start”.

WOW! We were so impressed when we opened up the envelope and read the letter that we just had to share this story with our readers. We love your creative ways to collect money and food to help our mission of “Working to end hunger”.

The Farm Bill is Coming

The Farm Bill is coming! Are you asking “what in the world is the Farm Bill and why should I care?” The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act is commonly known as the Farm Bill and covers a wide range of food and farming programs, including SNAP (formerly Food Stamps and currently known as CalFresh in California). The huge bill is renegotiated and voted upon by the Congress roughly every five years. 2012 is the lucky year.

The bill contains a lot of information and not many of us know much about it yet what’s in it affects every one of us every day.

I highly recommend you take the 13 minutes to watch this video from Ken Cook, President of the Environmental Working Group. He gives a great overview of the bill and answers the question of why you should care AND tells you how you can help make a difference in this bill.

Here’s my CliffsNotes version in case you don’t have 13 minutes to watch right now.

What most people do know about the Farm Bill is it provides subsidies to farmers. This is true and it does help some family farmers but the system is broken as it currently stands. 60% of farms do not get subsidies. Currently nutrition programs receive $314 billion over five years through the Farm Bill. SNAP is the single largest item in the bill and it should be. Half of the SNAP recipients are children, extremely poor children. A family of three cannot qualify if they make more than $23,000 a year and the average benefit is $4.50 per day.

I was happy to hear that while EWG is an environmental organization (duh) their top priority in the Farm Bill – or Food Bill as Mr. Cook calls it – is to serve low income people. In his talk, Mr. Cook also mentions that we (Americans) have not invested in organic like the Europeans have and in this next bill, we should be helping farmers convert.

According to the American time use survey, we spend 28 minutes a day eating while doing something else (snacking) and 87 minutes a day drinking something other than water. What Mr. Cook is asking in this video is for all of us to give three snacking or drinking moments over the year and call your member of congress. Tell them you want a Farm Bill that’s a Food Bill, that protects low income people, that protects the land and that invests in organic and healthier school lunches. Can you do that?

Let us know when you make a call by commenting below or on our Facebook page. Thank you!

Here’s the Scoop about Fentons and the Food Bank

Guest post by Ambassador Houston Robertson: I like second chances. Don’t you? I’m also fond of second scoops of ice cream. So, it’s hip hip hurrah for Fentons Creamery in Vacaville because they’ve chosen to benefit the Food Bank for a second month. In February, the Food Bank will receive 25% of the sales of Nuts About Toffee. This special sundae is listed on the menu as Myrtles Monthly Creation. If you didn’t get to Fentons in January for those generous scoops of the special Fluffernutter sundae, make sure you take advantage of this second chance to treat yourself, friends, and family and benefit the Food Bank at the same time. How about a Valentine date at Fentons? Spread the word.

 What a great community partner Fentons is! They will continue to have a Food Bank barrel for food donations in their lobby and I encourage you to come prepared to donate something. They also have a bucket for cash donations. Food Bank ambassadors will be tabling at Fentons on Saturdays from 11am – 3pm. I tabled there one Saturday in January. Fentons not only provides the table and chairs, they provide an exceptionally warm welcome to Food Bank ambassadors. Manager Keith Ortega saw us as “that special spark in getting the guests’ support”. His comprehensive view of our partnership is “a push to raise awareness and money for the Food Bank”.

Houston Robertson reporting.

If you would like to hear about more fun events like Fentons, join the Food Bank events e-news.

I Never Thought I Would be in This Position

I met the most amazing woman this morning at a Food Assistance Program/Food For Children distribution. She and her two kids escaped an abusive husband with the help of STAND! For Families Free of Violence. Friends helped her some, but they couldn’t support her and so she found herself in a small trailer with no plumbing and only $3 in her pocket. She never thought she would be in this place. She was supposed to be at home taking care of her two small children. For four months last year she lived on WIC and $40 in cash. WIC was a life saver. She was able to make just simple meals but she also had fresh fruits and veggies to feed her daughters.

She is now enrolled in CalWORKS which she sees as a way to help her get on her feet. The food she receives from the Food Bank helps her stock her pantry. “These programs are vital,” she says. She’s not looking for lifelong help, just enough to get on her feet and go back to school so she can get a job to support her girls. Right now as part of the CalWORKS program requirement, she is working 21 hours a week but is basically working to pay for a babysitter for her 5 and 7 year old daughters. She is grateful for the work and experience but is looking forward to figuring out what she wants to do and is considering early childhood education.

Without the CalWORKS “I would be homeless. I wouldn’t be able to feed my two girls,” she says. “They have clothes thankfully but they grow so fast. What about shoes? And they would outgrow their clothes within a year.” Thanks to the Medi-Cal program her daughters are caught up on their immunizations and their cavities are fixed. Now she can focus on her own medical needs after not having insurance for 3 years. She never knew about any of these programs or free medical clinics until she needed them. She never thought she would be in this position. “I am so grateful,” she says.

What can you do? Tell Governor Brown not to cuts programs like CalWORKS and Medi-Cal that help people like my new friend. Cutting these programs will hurt real families here in California. Tell him these budget cuts aren’t just numbers on a page, they are a crushing blow to California families who struggle to keep their children in school and put food on their tables.