Archive for May, 2012

If I Couldn’t Grab a Midnight Snack

Guest post by Jenay Ross, Print and Digital Journalism major//Music Industry minor, University of Southern California: Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were homeless? What it would be like if you didn’t have the same bed to sleep in every night or if you didn’t have a fridge to go through to search for a snack?

I think about it every time I feed the hungry.

Tonight I volunteered for Mission Solano’s Nomadic Shelter Program hosted by the Rockville Presbyterian Church in Fairfield. It was the most put-together food line I had ever volunteered at.

I don’t mean in terms of how organized it was, but how special everything looked. Instead of paper plates and plastic utensils, they used real plates and silverware placed on nice table cloths with candle center pieces.

The clients, or “guests,” arrived by bus shortly after 6:15PM, clean from their showers back at Mission Solano and ready for a filling meal.

Tonight’s meal consisted of glazed ham, green beans, mashed potatoes. bread, salad and a variety of cakes.

As if their “thank yous weren’t enough to warm my heart, every face had gratefulness written all over it. I even had the pleasure of having a conversation with a few of them about my own experiences at other food lines and my journalism endeavors.

One thing that blew me away was how helpful the clients were. They didn’t just congregate somewhere else while the volunteers cleaned up. They started breaking down tables, putting away chairs and even mopped up the floor while the volunteers did the dishes.

My favorite moment of the night was when a lovely young man was playing the church’s piano and started singing while some of the others laughed and danced.

Now the people are being tucked away at the church for a good night’s rest with a roof over their heads.

No one should ever go hungry and sometimes it’s up to us, the more fortunate souls, to be there for them.

Editor’s Note: Mission Solano is a Food Bank Partner Agency. To learn more about our agencies visit:

Classic Car Club Cruises Up to the Food Bank

Guest Post by Diablo A’s Club President – Ed JamesPictured above is Ed James, president of the Diablo A’s Model A car club handing a check for $250 to Renee Baptiste, Special Events Manager of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

This Model A Club is a local Concord club with 80 families that have tour outings once a month.  Before visiting the Food Bank the club visited Chateau III Assisted Living in Pleasant Hill, to allow many seniors a chance to admire and remember the days when they would drive a Model A as a daily driver.  After the Assisted Living tour nine of the 14 cars made time to help in the check presentation.

The club has taken on the Food Bank as a project to make donations twice a year for community service.

Bid on the Big Easy

Guest post by Board Member Judy Bradford

Here is a sneak peak at one of the many exciting live auction items you can bid on at the annual An Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden fundraiser on June 24th, 2012. Visit the event site for more auction items.

The Big Easy   Explore New Orleans’s timeless, old-world charm; walk the French Quarter, renown for its music halls, antique and novelty shops, churches, museums and architecture; relax with a potent “Hurricane” at one of the city’s historic taverns and pubs; or step into famous restaurants and cafés to sample legendary fried oyster po’boys, red beans and rice, and crawfish étouffée.

Our New Orleans Jazz and Dining Experience includes:

  • A 3-night stay at the Renaissance Pere Marquette hotel, just steps from the famed “French Quarter” with daily breakfast for two.
  • A 6-course dinner paired with wine at the iconic “Commander’s Palace” Restaurant, named “most popular” and “best décor” by Zagat.
  • VIP Admission, including front-of-line entry, to the Preservation Hall Jazz Club
  • Round-trip airfare for 2 from any location in the contiguous 48 states and Canada on American Airlines

Make your reservations for an Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden online or call 925.771.1310 for more information.

Safety Net Needed to Keep California’s Families Afloat

Our effort to end hunger doesn’t stop with bags of groceries for our neighbors in need — we also work toward policies that will create a culture in which hunger can be eradicated. These days, stopping cuts to our safety net are our top priority. Food Bankers, pantry and soup kitchen volunteers and staff, nutritionists, food bank supporters, homelessness service providers and others from across the state concerned about the more than 7 million Californians experiencing hunger marched and spoke to legislators on May 17 for Hunger Action Day. We made known that California can do better than a budget that asks only that our children, seniors and people with disabilities sacrifice again and again.

Hunger Action Day opening remarks

This year, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano along with the Monument Crisis Center, Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church food pantry and a community advocate volunteer joined 400 other California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC) advocates at the Capitol. We heard personal stories from people who have benefited from the very programs the governor proposes to cut. Without the safety net their families would not have been able to improve their situations and make a better life for themselves. One woman had experienced a time of homelessness and through CalWORKS was able to go back to school. It was amazing to hear how she turned her situation around with a little help and she even earned her Bachelor’s degree.

Rally around the Capitol (photo by Monument Crisis Center staff)

Our group had 7 meetings with legislative staffers and asked our representatives to protect the most vulnerable among us — the children, seniors and working families we serve each day. The response we got each time was the Assemblymember/Senator supports what you are saying but it is going to be tough.

That’s why we need your help. Even if you weren’t able to join us in Sacramento yesterday, you can get involved now! Please help us send a CLEAR message to Governor Brown to save our safety net.

Governor Brown has proposed drastic cuts to our safety net programs, particularly CalWORKS, which would instantly cut 100,000 children out of the safety net and reduce families’ grants to what they were in the 1980s if his proposal is enacted. We need to stand up for our communities and fight against policies that balance our state budget on the backs of children, seniors and working-class families.

Use the sample email below to send a message to Governor Brown. You can contact him through his website. Please let him know what you think about his budget cuts and advocate for a budget that isn’t balanced on the backs of low-income children, seniors and the disabled.

Sample letter

Governor Brown,

Over 400 advocates from across the state went to Sacramento on May 17 to stand up against hunger, and call on you and the Legislature to stand down on your attacks against California’s safety net.

After three years and $15 billion in cuts to vital social programs, it is unconscionable to allow California’s safety net to be further dismantled at a time when our families need it most. When a family’s income falls short, the first place they cut is their food budget, leading to unacceptable hunger throughout our state.
Stop allowing the California’s child poverty rate to continue to climb dangerously and keep all Californians afloat. It’s just the right thing to do.


Your name

Thank you to all the amazing advocates for their passion, energy and heart on Hunger Action Day and every day. It was an amazing experience and I hope you will join us next year!

If you want to learn more about the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s advocacy efforts and how you can help, please contact me at

Governor Releases May Revision to 2012-2013 State Budget

The following is an excerpt from the California Budget Project’s report: Governor Releases May Revision: Tax Collections Down and Deeper Cuts Proposed, Highlighting Need for a Balanced Approach With Significant Additional Revenues. We have included information about cuts to the two programs most likely to impact Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano clients directly: CalWORKS and Medi-Cal.To read the full report, visit

Governor Jerry Brown released the May Revision to his proposed 2012-13 budget on May 14. The May Revision updates policy proposals, revenue projections, and estimated expenditures for the current year as well as the upcoming budget year, which begins on July 1. The May Revision estimates a two-year budget gap of $15.7 billion, up from a $9.2 billion gap as estimated in January. The May Revision identifies lower-than-anticipated tax collections as the primary cause of the widening gap. The Governor outlines $16.7 billion in “solutions” to close the budget gap and provide a $1.0 billion reserve. Spending reductions make up nearly half ($8.3 billion) of the “solutions.”

In addition, the May Revision assumes that voters pass a tax measure that the Governor is attempting to place on the November 2012 ballot. The measure would temporarily increase personal income tax rates on very-high-income Californians and boost the sales tax rate by one-quarter cent, raising an estimated $8.5 billion in 2011-12 and 2012-13 combined. The May Revision specifies $6.1 billion in spending cuts – primarily to schools, colleges, and universities – that would automatically take effect in January 2013 if voters do not approve the proposed tax measure in November.

Regardless of whether voters pass the tax measure, the May Revision proposes deeper cuts to the Medi-Cal and In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) programs than those proposed in January. The May Revision also includes new proposals to reduce spending on state employee compensation by more than $400 million and to use the “cash assets” of redevelopment agencies – entities that were eliminated in February of this year – in order to offset $1.4 billion in state spending for schools and community colleges in 2012-13.

The Governor’s $16.7 billion in budget “solutions” include:

  • $8.3 billion in spending reductions, including a $1.2 billion cut to Medi-Cal, an $879.9 million reduction to the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program, and deep cuts to IHSS, child care, the courts, and the Cal Grant college financial aid program;
  • $5.9 billion in additional revenues, nearly all of which is attributable to the proposed tax measure;
  • $2.5 billion in fund shifts, loan payment deferrals, borrowing from special funds, and other onetime measures; and
  • A $1.0 billion reserve.

The following update provides a “quick and dirty” summary of key provisions of the May Revision.

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program

The May Revision includes most of the deep cuts proposed in January for the CalWORKs Program, which provides cash assistance for 1.1 million low-income children while helping parents to find jobs and overcome barriers to employment. The May Revision retains the Governor’s proposed CalWORKs restructuring, while making modifications that reduce the 2012-13 cuts to $879.9 million, slightly less than the $946.2 million reduction proposed in January.

Medi-Cal Program

The May Revision maintains the Governor’s January proposal to shift more than 1 million seniors and people with disabilities who currently qualify for both Medi-Cal and Medicare – so-called “dual eligibles” – from fee-for-service Medi-Cal into managed care. However, the May Revision modifies or clarifies the original proposal in a number of ways, including phasing in the integration of long-term care services as each county transitions into managed care, delaying the implementation date from January 1 to March 1, 2013, and specifying that IHSS participants would continue to “select and direct” their home care provider. The proposal, as modified by the May Revision, is estimated to reduce state spending by $663.3 million in 2012-13 and by $887 million per year when fully implemented. However, budget documents indicate that implementation would depend on achieving a “six-month stable enrollment period,” as well as on securing an agreement with the federal government that would allow the state to share 50 percent of the Medicare savings that result from this proposal.


Farmers’ Markets for All

By Heidi Kliner, AmeriCorps VISTA: There is a common misconception that farmers’ markets are just for the privileged due to the idea that farmers’ markets are significantly more expensive than grocery stores, but many studies have shown that farmers’ market prices are not much higher than supermarket prices, with many of the fresh, seasonal produce being comparable or even less expensive than the same items in the supermarket, and with the added benefit of better quality and a boost for local business and community.  In truth, farmers’ markets can be a great way for low-income individuals and families to access healthy food, especially if they have CalFresh (aka Food Stamps)!

The way it works is someone with CalFresh goes to the information booth and tells the market manager he or she wants to use their EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card.  The market manager then swipes the card on a POS machine for the amount the person plans on spending at the market, and then gives tokens, each worth a dollar, which can be used at the different vendor stands like cash.  These tokens can be used to purchase produce, dairy products, baked items, meat, seafood, and even plants for growing one’s own food.

Tips for saving money when using your EBT card at the market:

  • Ask about incentive programs for people using EBT.  For example, all the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association markets this year have the Market Match program, where someone spending at least ten dollars in tokens at the market will receive five extra dollar tokens to be used for produce.
  • Split up some of the shopping based on price.  If some of the items like the meat or baked goods seem more expensive than in the grocery store, consider splitting up your shopping by buying all your fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market and your other items at the store.
  • Shop later in the day.  Vendors may discount their items near the end of the market day in order to get rid of it.
  • Buy a plant.  If you have a yard or a porch you can use for growing food, purchasing a plant at the market can be a low cost way of having several fruits or vegetables throughout the season (just be sure to look into whether your market is currently selling edible plants).

Interact Club of MVHS Takes on a Food Drive

Guest post by Ambassador Aaron Yuen: The Interact Club of Monte Vista High School in Danville once again is sponsoring a food drive. Last year, the club collected 2,550 pounds of food, quite a huge accomplishment for a student organization which utilized only the lunch break to plan and launch the food drive.

To kick off the food drive this year, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano was invited to give a talk to student members on Thursday, March 22. Having two graduates of MVHS in my family, I was delighted to take on the assignment wearing the MVHS colors of red and black and a Food Bank Ambassador badge at the same time.

The student members are very much into community service.  In addition to doing the food drive, the club is planning a car wash to raise funds to help fight teenage slavery trafficking.

Monte Vista received 15 barrels on Monday, April 16 and called to report that they are collecting food. They also mentioned they are not giving the barrels back until they are completely full.

Our future generation at work taking on current issues!

Admirable and inspirational indeed.