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Archive for September, 2012

11th Annual Refinery Run

Although our local refineries support our Food Bank year round, they also like to begin our holiday season early collaborating to fill our shelves with food. Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery, Shell Oil Products US, Phillips 66 and Valero Benicia Refinery began collecting food and money the beginning of August and end mid-September with a fundraiser celeabration which includes a Poker Run, sponsored by RSC, S&S, and Contra Costa Electric, motorcycle and custom classic-car show, music, great food and lots of laughter.

These refineries as well as their contractors and employees of both give time, money and food to help their neighbors in their community. It is great experience working with all of them towards our mission. So far this year, they have been able to raise over $18,300. Contra Costa Electric, Inc., TC Inspection, Bay Area Instruments & Electric, Inc., Mistras Group, Inc., Pinnacle, and Transfield Services, our Contractor Sponsors, also deserve big thanks for all the support they give to the Food Bank.

The Shell Clubhouse, jumping with music by Bourbon Fixx Band was powered by DC Solar and the food was good as always when using England’s Café & Catering. Great vendors, fun games and a variety of raffle items made this day complete. We would like to thank all of you for caring and helping your neighbors in need.

The Little Pink Bike That Could

Although we only request donations of food or funds, sometimes non-food donations make their way into our warehouse.  A nice, pink bike cruised into our Concord warehouse this year and left to find a happy home.

Saturday 9/22 was Pleasant Hill’s Community Service Day. For 8 years, the Pleasant Hill Police, Boy Scouts and local bicycle repair shops have joined together to repair/refurbish bicycles to go to children/youth in the foster care system in conjunction with the nonprofit CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates). On Saturday, we delivered a tricycle, a bike in a box needing to be built and the pink bicycle. It turns out that all the pink bicycle needed was a technician to adjust the brakes. Sport Chalet staff had the bike ready to go in less than 10 minutes. Once the repaired bikes were ready they stood on one side of the park waiting for the children/youth to stop by.

From a distance, I saw a tall girl checking out the pink bike. The girl who is 13 and stands at least 5 foot 7 inches tall, goes to Carquinez Middle School. Her foster mother said she is growing so fast that her old bike doesn’t fit her and it is quite old and beat up. The girl rode the bike for a few seconds and thought it might be the one. I told her I was from the Food Bank and the bike came from Target and had never been owned by anyone else. She would be the original owner. All it needed was a quick fixing of the brakes but Target chose to give it to us instead. You could see the girl’s face light up when she found out she was the first owner of this bike. She then rode the bike around the park wearing the biggest smile you could imagine. The CASA representative told me this young girl rarely smiles and rarely has received anything new, so this pink bicycle was going to be very special to her and she would never forget the Food Bank for bringing it to the park for her. The foster mother had tears in her eyes as she watched the girl ride around and around never wanting to get off her new pink bike.

Hunger Speaks to a Global Audience

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is a member of Feeding America, a national network of food banks. Our service is local in Solano and Contra Costa counties, but we are also part of a national effort dedicated to bringing an end to hunger. Through this national work we find connections that are inspiring.

We were recently contacted by representatives of Elanco, a Greenfield, Ind.-based business that develops products to improve the health and food productivity of farm animals. A group of their international leadership was at a symposium in Napa, and Elanco’s corporate culture meant that a breakout session included a trip to the Food Bank so they could learn about the CalFresh (food stamp) program.

We discussed our overall work at the food bank and specifically the outreach we do trying to enroll more people in the CalFresh program.

The Elanco folks were given a WalMart gift card and went to the local store to try to buy food for their family for a week on a CalFresh budget. Although they shopped for values to stretch their dollars, they realized the challenges people face when they are using the CalFresh program.

The Elanco folks are scientists, well-educated, intelligent and knowledgeable about food and nutrition. It was a transformation for them to realize they could not have the food they wanted, but had to make tough choices about the food they needed and the nutritional value they wanted to reach.

Part of the work of both our Food Bank and Feeding America is to help people understand why hunger exists.

Because of the culture Elanco has, we now have 40 knowledgeable people talking to their friends about what the food stamp program means and the challenges people at risk of hunger face every day.

 

Hungry to finish the CalFresh Challenge

Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter: As part of Hunger Action Month at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, I am now finishing my week of living on a CalFresh (formerly food stamp) budget.

I began living on $34.31 worth of groceries last Sunday, and am so looking forward to this coming Sunday, when every meal will no longer be a major decision in my life. For the people we serve, it is not a decision they can make as easily.

I learned from the CalFresh challenge that I am a terrible planner. I’m not good at grocery shopping anyway and am worse when I have to strictly pay attention to costs. Shopping on a budget is all about planning, so this was a challenge.

Couple that with a lack of imagination, and you have breakfast every day this week being a slice of toast and a piece of fruit. As part of the CalFresh Challenge, I agreed to not eat food served at events, to truly feel the limits of the budget. When I was the agency speaker at a United Way event with Wells Fargo leadership, I could have had a bagel and cream cheese with a nice plate of expensive fruit and, truly, if I were on food assistance, I would have.

Lunch has been yogurt, fruit, a carrot and a piece of cheese. Every day. Forget variety when the budget is tight.

Fried eggs with toasted bread was a filling Sunday night dinner. Bean burritos Monday night (with some greens). Chicken on Tuesday, with a salad. Home late from a meeting on Wednesday, so scrambled eggs (tortillas instead of bread). Black beans and toast on Thursday night because I had to hustle to an evening meeting.

So, my pattern seems to be lots of carbs and some protein. Good thing I’m getting fruit, because vegetables are not working into my limited cooking and food dollars.

I also wonder how a diet heavy on eggs and dairy products would work long-term, since I’m trying to limit cholesterol, but they are an affordable source of protein. I also realize that living on a CalFresh diet would require me to be more deliberate about grocery shopping. I’m sure I could find different options than the breakfast and lunch treadmill I am on, but it requires much more thought.

I am grateful to be able to stop making these tough food choices after a short week. I have gained empathy for the people who rely on CalFresh to help them access fresh, healthy food every month because, without it, many would go hungry.

If you are someone you know are in need of food assistance including CalFresh, please call the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano at 855-309-FOOD or visit us at www.foodbankccs.org/get-help.html.

The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord.

 

Adding Community to Service

The cities of Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek rally the community to get involved at their annual Community Service Days. Pleasant Hill is hosting their 8th annual Community Service Day on 9/22 and Walnut Creek is hosting their 2nd annual Community Service Day on 10/6. There are many projects benefitting the nonprofits and schools in these cities.

We invite you to join the Food Bank team in conducting a neighborhood food drive. We supply the bags and flyers, you engage your neighbors/friends, you pick up and deliver their food donations to our Food Bank truck at the park. This is a great project for youth of all ages, groups, individuals and families.

Sign up on the City of Pleasant Hill’s website.
Sign up on the City of Walnut Creek’s Website.

The Community Produce Program is People Friendly

Guest post by ambassador Cecelia Williams: As a Food Bank Ambassador, I distributed information for the new Community Produce Program being offered at Antioch High School.  During the high school registration days we reached out to people to publicize free healthy fruits and vegetables on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.  This program is particularly attractive because of the simplicity of qualification.  There are no applications or forms to fill out, and no documentation of any sort needed.  It is run on the honor system and an income chart.  Only two questions are asked: 1) How many people are in your household? and 2) Is your income below this level?  If the person qualifies, he/she signs her name and proceeds down the line to fill his/her bags with fresh healthy fruits and vegetables.  This program is definitely people friendly.

Saturday, August 11 was a great day.  It was the first distribution day at Antioch High School and I had the opportunity to help out.  It was nice meeting Cassie, Will, Matt, and Corinne.  The site is right across from the high school.  I enjoyed “meeting and greeting” everyone as they came to pick up food.  I tried to make it a happy day and a welcome experience for the people that came out on this hot morning.  There were several familiar faces from the Antioch High School registration day, and I gave them an extra big hello and glad to see them.

An informational white board with pictures of food available that day, as well as the upcoming dates was displayed to people while they waited in line to sign in.  I thought it was a nice touch that the item was named in both Spanish and English on the picture, as many of the people were Spanish speaking.

I had met a high school staff volunteer that week named Irma.  She was interested in disseminating information and in volunteering.  It was a wonderful surprise to see that Irma came to help that Saturday morning.

I helped people fill their bags in order to keep the line moving.  I also invited people to help themselves to a little more because we were told there was plenty of fresh produce for everyone.  Not having worked the program before, I was a bit worried about running out of food, which absolutely did not happen.  Everyone went home with bags full.  What a great feeling.

One lady said to me (in Spanish), “Thank you for helping us.”  I responded, “Each of us needs a little help now and then.”

My goal as an ambassador or in any of my volunteer work is to make a small, but positive difference for at least one person.  This world is made up of many people…one person at a time.  I am just one individual, so improving the world is a daunting thought, but helping one person, and then another, and then another….that I CAN do.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano staff really had the site organized and ready to go.  The ease with which the program flowed was awesome.  It was a good day and it was certainly my pleasure to help.

To learn about volunteer opportunities with the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program, email volunteerhelpdesk@foodbankccs.org or call Sharon at (925) 676-7543 extension 209.

Sly: Speak out against hunger

Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter on 9/4/2012 – When I started working as a truck driver at the Community Food Coalition in 1976, I had no idea that, 36 years later, I would be the executive director of an organization that has become the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

We have grown from a small nonprofit that had two employees distributing food from a borrowed 40-foot trailer into an organization that today has 56 employees distributing 17 million pounds of food from two 30,000-square-foot warehouses.

We continue with the same work of providing food to emergency pantries, soup kitchens, faith communities and more than 180 other nonprofit organizations that give food to people in need.

In addition, we have direct service programs that provide food to low-income children, senior citizens and people in the community who need help. Through these efforts, we are helping more than 132,000 people each month in Solano and Contra Costa counties.

As good as we are at getting food to people in need, we recognize that we need to address the reasons people keep coming to us for food. We now do outreach for the Cal Fresh program (formerly known as food stamps). Nearly half the people who could be receiving this important assistance do not participate. They either do not understand that they are eligible or they are overwhelmed by the paperwork required to receive this assistance. When we help them enroll, we are giving them the ability to buy the food they need for their families.

We are also joining with others who are fighting hunger so that the community understands the situation hungry people face.

September is Hunger Action Month and we have joined our national organization, Feeding America, in a campaign to Speak Out Against Hunger. We are doing something every day in September to show that the community can fight hunger “30 Ways in 30 Days,” Whether someone is donating food to the Food Bank or writing a letter to an elected official, they are making a difference.

I am proud of the work the food bank does, but we need to do more. Hunger will stop when the community makes it happen. Join us in Hunger Action Month. Make a difference.

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The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord. To learn more about the Food Bank and how you can Speak Out Against Hunger, visit www.foodbankccs.org/hungeractionmonth.

 

Take Part in Hunger Action Month

While you’re getting back into the swing of things following the holiday weekend, don’t forget that Hunger Action Month has officially begun. Join anti-hunger advocates from across the country to raise awareness of the 49 million people in the US who face hunger by taking part in Hunger Action Month — a month-long campaign to help end hunger in our country.

Students kicking off Hunger Action month by sorting food.

Everyone can rally for hunger relief by doing these simple tasks this September:

Like the Food Bank on Facebook (www.fb.com/foodbankccs). Share information about Hunger Action Month. Tell your contacts to like us too! During the month of September, ANDREW D MARSHALL DDS AND LYNNE D MARTZ DDS will be donating $1 for every new facebook like they get (up to $300).

Go Orange on September 6 and every Thursday in September. Wear orange on Thursdays in September and hang a Hunger Action Month poster in your business or classroom. Or change your online avatar to one of the Hunger Action Month options on the social media page of our site. Send a tweet in support saying: “I’m going orange for the 1 in 6 people in the U.S. struggling w/hunger. #HungerAction.” Or post to Facebook. If you or anyone you know would like a t-shirt or would be willing to hang a poster please email lsherrill@foodbankccs.org (limited quantities; first come, first served).

Get involved by downloading the Food Bank’s 30 Ways in 30 Days calendar, to find daily ways to make a difference.

To learn more about Hunger Action Month, please visit www.foodbankccs.org/hungeractionmonth.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano would like to thank our Hunger Action Month sponsor: AT&T Pioneers.