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Archive for November, 2012

“Hungry” Plays a Role in Education

Guest post by Food Bank volunteer Leslie Mladinich: When I think of hunger having a voice, I think of TV commercials showing starving children in faraway lands and a celebrity asking for a monthly pledge to feed that child.

But the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s educational play, Hungry, showed me that hunger does have a real voice, and it’s speaking right here in our own community.

Hunger is an actual character who acts as the conscience of Eric, a middle school student who struggles with not having enough food to eat when his father is out of work. The play wraps up its 4-week tour today at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, with more than 4,000 students learning about hunger through this innovative tool each Fall. (Information about booking future performances can be found at the end of the article).

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Commissioned by the Food Bank, the play was written by award-winning playwright Patricia Loughrey to educate the community in a unique way. Throughout the plot, professional actors alternate in roles of students, teachers, a mother, father, fast food server, nutritionist, school nurse, and Food Bank employees to convey that hunger is a strong emotional and physiological force.

And it isn’t isolated to those faraway lands in television commercials.

But with his booming, abrasive rap, the character of Hunger is the loudest: he voices Eric’s dialogue in his head – broadcasting the physical pains, scattered concentration, and low energy that come with having to skip meals regularly.

Thinking back on my time in middle school, I could put myself in the shoes of Reena, a cliquey, insecure girl who doesn’t want to work with Eric, “that weird guy who sleeps all the time,” when they are assigned a joint class presentation on hunger. Eric is also hesitant to work with Reena, afraid she’ll discover his secret of having mayonnaise sandwiches for dinner and being constantly hungry. He doesn’t want her to know that along with falling asleep in class, hunger causes his stomach to hurt and his mind to obsess with embarrassment. When Reena gives Eric a bag of food she carries on the bus to his house, he throws it away because he’s ashamed of taking a handout.

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Eric and Reena tour their local Food Bank for research. For example, as Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director Larry Sly pointed out before the play, the Food Bank helps some 149,000 people each month and distributed approximately 16 million pounds of food last year which is enough food for 13 million meals. Startled by the statistics and not feeling so alone, Eric realizes it is okay for others to know his family is hungry and declares to Reena: “Why is it any different for you to help me with food than for me to help you with math?” Eric decides he is going to ask his parents to get help from the Food Bank because: “I’m sick of being hungry.”

Interest in the topic of hunger is rising and through the play, actors tell community members how they can help. They could donate their time and food. Sandra Scherer, Executive Director of the Monument Crisis Center in Concord, said the play hit on themes that she sees everyday from clients across the economic spectrum.

“Hunger hits across all of our communities,” she said.

The play Hungry makes it possible to humanize this.

For nearly 10 years, the Food Bank has been using theatre as an educational tool by sponsoring this free performance. Questions about sponsorship opportunities or booking “Hungry” performances should be directed to Patty McDowell at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543, extension 243. 

Trick or Treat for Food!

For the second year, Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery challenged 7 teams of Concord High School students to go door to door on Halloween night collecting food and money for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for the Tesoro 2nd Annual Scare Away Hunger food drive. The teams of 12 students represented Cheer, Choir, Football, Leadership, Music, Soccer, and Softball. Several days before Halloween, the students delivered paper bags to their designated neighborhoods in hopes of increasing donations and thus winning bragging rights. Of course the real winners are those we serve in the community. The grand total was 10,256 pounds of food (3,600 pounds more than last year) and $1,162.05 plus a $1,000 donation from an individual who wanted to do more with their money when they heard that Tesoro would match the pounds/money up to $5,000 for the Food Bank and an additional $5,000 to the Concord High School programs.

The winning team for the food collection was Music with 2,184 pounds of food. The winning team for the money collection was Softball with $323.56. The best surprise of the evening was when a film crew from ABC7 with anchor Alan Wong showed up to film the event. Alan Wong said he thought this was a very creative way to collect food and money for the Food Bank, to involve the students in a fun and rewarding community project and to allow the community to be a part of something good.

 Thank you to Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery for sponsoring the event for a 2nd year. 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 again. Thank you students for volunteering as a team and making the 2nd 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.

Honoring the Volunteers Who Make the Food Bank Work

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: One of the wonderful things about working at a nonprofit organization is that an essential part of the staff are volunteer workers.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has more than 50,000 hours of volunteer time given to us each year. People serve on our board of directors, answer our phones, bag vegetables, help with food distributions and serve as ambassadors to spread the word about the Food Bank’s work.

It can’t be said enough that there is no way the Food Bank could do its work without the volunteers who dedicate their time to helping us feed people in need.

We know that the least we can do as a thank-you is to host a volunteer recognition event each year, to express our gratitude to the people who help us. One of the major positives about the volunteer recognition event, held last Sunday, was that we were able to share a fun day with those who mean so much to our work.

We pull out all the stops so we can serve people lunch, have some entertainment (provided by volunteers) and give people a goody bag of donated items. Many of our volunteers seldom attend events like this, so it is important to us that they feel like the special guests they are.

This year was difficult for us because we were honoring the memory of Charlene Burns. Char was the coordinator who oversaw our Senior Food Program, until she passed away suddenly in September.

The volunteers who make the Senior Food Program work and Char were family. So, for both volunteers and staff members, losing Char turned us upside down. This year’s volunteer recognition was a bittersweet experience, but it gave us an opportunity to come together to celebrate what we do at the same time we shared our loss.

We thank all of our volunteers for their continued support throughout the year.

If you would like to learn about the many ways to volunteer at the Food Bank, please contact volunteerhelpdesk@foodbankccs.org or call 855.309.FOOD.