Archive for January, 2013

Charity Could Tumble Over Fiscal Cliff

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano receives nearly half of its funding from individuals. We live in a generous community where people support the cost-effective work we do.

 The Food Bank is concerned that one of the options discussed in the “fiscal cliff” negotiations has been to limit the tax deductions people can take when they donate to nonprofit organizations such as the Food Bank. Donating to faith communities and nonprofit organizations is part of our social culture, but I worry that the support people provide will be limited if the tax deduction changes.

 As an example of the changes being debated, the recently passed compromise bill enacted Congress by restored a deduction that allowed those over 70 1/2 years old to donate IRA funds they must withdraw. The restored law says that if a donation of more than $100,000 is made directly to a nonprofit organization before Feb. 1, the roll-over is tax-deductible. After that, this option will not be available, so the tax-deductible motivation will be gone.

 Other options under consideration have focused on limiting the total amount of deductible donations people can give or limiting the amount people can deduct based on their income. I understand the budget issues our country faces, but anything that discourages people from giving to charitable organizations raises concerns.

 Nonprofit organizations do incredible work with limited funds. Faith communities and nonprofits are able to respond to concerns in local communities with speed and focus. We are able to carry out the work donors want to see done because we can directly respond to those who give us the funds we need. The issues we are facing today make collaboration between nonprofits and government necessary. This is not the time to limit the ability of the community to support organizations addressing the issues they see in the community.

To learn more about how you can help take action against these changes, contact Lisa Sherrill at the Food Bank: (925) 676-7543 ext. 206 or



Local Businesses Shared the Holiday Spirit

Bowles and Verna Holiday Fundraiser

We wanted to take a moment to thank businesses throughout Contra Costa and Solano for the many creative ways they raise money and awareness about the issue of hunger throughout the year.  Whether it is a portion of the proceeds for their goods or services, a grand-opening event, a special menu created just for us, having collection barrels for food donations, or sponsoring a special event, without their support it would be very difficult, if not impossible to maintain our mission and get nutritious food on the table for the many families, children and seniors that we serve.

In December there was an outpouring of giving through fundraisers and parties, for instance things were Rockin’ in San Ramon at Shboom night club!  Tan Angels of Walnut Creek and Shboom partnered to throw a party to raise money and food  for our food bank and receive toys for Toys for Tots.  The event was hosted by Wayne Coy of KKIQ, there was live music by bands Ruckatan and Caravanserai, a Santana tribute band, DJ Bene, Santa, games for kids, an auction and a grab bag of gifts and prizes.  Tan Angels and Shbooms definitely brought the ‘fun’ to their fundraiser and raised over $300.00 through donations!

Another great supporter of the Food Bank is Wood Group Field Services.  They invite friends and clients to join them on an annual Feed the Hungry Fishing Trip out of Berkeley harbor.  The hearty participants braved December’s blustery weather to take part in the festivities which included rock fishing and the opening of crab season (who doesn’t look forward to that?!).  Each fisherman could bring home up to 6 Dungeness crab and a sack full of fish!  To take part in this event Wood Group asked that everyone donate $10 in support of the Food Bank.  Now that’s dedication!

There were a wealth of holiday parties, where the spirit of giving and celebration went hand in hand.  We would like to thank Bowles and Verna  LLP for making us the beneficiary of their holiday party donations, as well as the employees and management at Brinderson professional services for energy, where managers personally matched employee  contributions. We would also like to thank Nan Brace and her Jazzercise group, Atria Living, and Western States Petroleum Association for asking everyone to bring a check to their holiday party, ready to donate!  We would also like to thank the Merry Mixers and Kathy Monthei, the CCC Bar Association Open House for their holiday donations and to Moffatt and Nichol who donated grocery store gift cards to us.

Every dollar raised provided two healthy meals for those in need during the holidays.  Thank you all for your amazing efforts to give back to your community!

We Couldn’t Do it Without Our Volunteers

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Because of support from a generous community, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has been able to increase the amount of food we distribute to people at risk of hunger.

We receive financial support from individuals and corporations, which helps us fuel our trucks and keep the lights on. We also have an outpouring of support with community food drives that add variety to the bulk items we purchase.

One of the most essential pieces of the support puzzle is the volunteer force that has answered the call to serve.

More than 50,000 volunteer hours are given to us each year — the equivalent of 25 additional staff members. Volunteers serve on our Board of Directors, help with office and fund development tasks, and help sort food. They help with food distributions and touch every program we run.

We have volunteers who hold doctoral degrees and volunteers who are developmentally disabled. Volunteers come with their Scout groups, their faith communities, their service clubs and their fellow workers. Some volunteers come once a year, some are here every week (or more).

Volunteers are important to us because they become our best advocates in the community. Volunteers have hands-on experience with our work, so they can speak with authority about what we do. They see us gather food, they see how effectively the Food Bank operates, and they see the people we serve.

Volunteers do hands-on work and know the commitment we have, as an organization, to our mission.

The Food Bank could not survive without the time and energy volunteers give.

Jeans for Beans

Creative juices were swirling when Pacific Service Credit Union decided to hold a food drive with their employees!  Dedicated to making a difference in the community, they created a fun and effective Jeans for Beans program to help the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano with food and money donations.

The program worked like this: Employees would be allowed to wear jeans to work on Fridays if  they donated one nonperishable item or one dollar to the Food Bank.  They could wear jeans and tennis shoes for two items or two dollars.

In the first two weeks of the program, employees donated a barrel of food and over $600. By the end of December, employee contributions totaled $861.00 and then Pacific Service matched that  for a total of $1711.00!

The Jeans for Beans program is one of the many ways that Pacific Service Credit Union partners with the Food Bank.  They may have been walking around in jeans and sneakers , but you can’t dress down a big heart .  Thanks Pacific Service!

Pick-n-Pull Races to End Hunger

Our effort to combat Hunger continues with Pick-n-Pull, one of the largest recyclers of vehicles in the industry.  This exciting partnership recently concluded its Racing to Stop Hunger Fall Fund Drive which resulted in a major contribution to our food bank.  The entire Pick-n-Pull team and their customers rallied support to raise awareness of Hunger in our community and help feed those in need.  Thank you to the Pick-n-Pull team and all of the Pick-n-Pull customers who made a difference in the lives of so many people in need through our food bank.  We look forward to working with Pick-n-Pull closely in the future as our partnership continues.

Special Program Sees to Nutrition Needs of Seniors

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: I remember reading a quote from a political leader that said you can best evaluate a society by how well it takes care of its children and its elderly. From my experience with Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano programs, I am convinced our society can do better. The huge number of children and senior citizens coming to us for food assistance says that our social programs are not doing what they should.

One of the first direct distributions the Food Bank established was the Senior Food Program. In the early 1980s, it was obvious that Social Security benefits were not adequate to support an individual in the Bay Area. Seniors had to make difficult decisions about housing, medical care and the basics of life. When stories started coming back to us about people eating less to save money, we knew we should try to make a difference with the food donations available to us.

Beginning with 50 people, we have grown the Senior Food Program to 3,300 seniors at 28 sites in Solano and Contra Costa counties. Last year, more than 1.3 million pounds of food went to the senior citizens who participate in this program.

We are also working with those who are part of the Senior Food Program because they may be eligible to receive Cal Fresh (formerly food stamps) benefits. The people this program serves recognize that their health depends on their diet. If they are going to avoid significant medical costs, good food is important to their health.

I am grateful the community support we receive allows the Food Bank to make a difference in the lives of senior citizens.

If you are a senior who could use food assistance, or know someone who can, please go to or call (toll free) (855) 309-3663.


Leftovers Are the Best

Written by Laura Collins, Special Events Assistant: I love deals.  I mean I really love deals.  I seek them out.  I buy nothing until I’m sure I am getting the best deal possible.  If it is travel related, I’m on Trip Advisor and can have 10 windows open simultaneously making sure that I am getting the most for my hard earned dollars ( I know I’m not alone!).  If I’m buying clothes or something for my home, then you can be sure that my first choice is to visit a thrift or consignment shop.  I just picked up a gorgeous coat and sweater for a fraction of what they originally cost, and they were in mint condition.  Not only do I love the deal and the benefits to my home and wardrobe, but I love the idea of buying previously owned!  Reuse-Recycle right?  And to double dip in the goodness jar, many thrift stores exist to support great causes and services in our community.

Take Leftovers Thrift Shop in Walnut Creek.  Since it opened in 1976, Leftovers has operated entirely with volunteers, it has never had a paid employee.  The proceeds from sales goes to support the Contra Costa Crisis Center, whose mission is to keep people in Contra Costa County alive and safe, help them through personal crises with 24 hour crisis hotlines, connect them with resources such as grief counseling, homeless and youth services, and provide 211 information and referral for those who need health and social services.

During the holidays Leftovers opened its arms to help support the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels also!  A check for $1000.00 was presented to both organizations and Food Bank employees Lisa and Renee were on hand to accept and thank the very generous volunteers for their time and energies.

So next time you need to go shopping for yourself or for a gift, why not shop with a purpose –check out Leftover’s Thrift Shop – your budget will thank you, and  your purchases will come with a little extra spirit of giving thrown in.

Governor Proposes Balanced Budget

Governor Proposes Balanced Budget

A balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year was projected by Governor Brown on Thursday when he released his proposed budget plan. The big budget news is increased spending on k-12 schools. We want to focus on two areas we feel will have the most impact on the people that rely on the Food Bank.

California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program.

CalWORKS provides cash assistance for 1.1 million low-income children as their parents find jobs. Significant cuts have been made to this program over the recent years including reducing General Fund spending on CalWORKS by $469 million in the current fiscal year. In the governor’s proposal, there is an increase of $142.8 million in state support for CalWORKS. This is to support counties as that implement programmatic changes. Otherwise the proposed budget maintains the curs that were made without reducing spending further.

Medi-Cal Program.

California’s version of Medicaid is called Medi-Cal and is a health coverage program serving approximately 8 million low-income children, parents, seniors and people with disabilities. Several cuts have been made to this program in recent years as well.

Governor Brown proposes two options for implementing the Medi-Cal expansion envisioned by the federal health care reform:

  1. A state-based approach that would build upon the existing state-administered program and a managed care delivery system, or
  2. a county-based approach that builds on the existing Low Income Health Program with the counties being the lead for the expansion.

Other proposals to Medi-Cal include:

  • Extend a current fee on hospitals that is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2013, resulting in General Fund savings of $310 million. The fee provides funding for children’s health coverage as well as supplemental payments for hospitals.
  • Implement unspecified “efficiencies” in Medi-Cal managed care in order to reduce General Fund spending by $135 million.
  • Require Medi-Cal enrollees to select their health plans during an annual open enrollment period and remain in that plan for a full year. This proposal would reduce General Fund spending by $1 million in 2013-14 and each year thereafter.

We will keep you posted on how the budget will impact low-income people in our community as the budget process continues.

The information in this article was adapted from the California Budget Project brief on the Governor’s proposal. You can read the full report here:

Tesoro Goes Above and Beyond

Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery is a longtime supporter of the Food Bank that consistently looks for ways to raise awareness and support.  For example, this year Tesoro sponsored the Food Bank in a banner program with the City of Concord and Chamber of Commerce.  Fifteen banners advertising the Food Bank were displayed throughout the city on light posts.  The banners raise awareness and remind us that no one should go hungry throughout the year.

Tesoro has also been instrumental in raising awareness and support through various programs throughout the year where they match public dollars for donations. Beyond just giving money, Tesoro invests a lot of hands-on time with events like Kidfest, where Tesoro matched dollar for dollar (up to $5,000) per pound of food donated or dollar of donation received.  In partnership with Concord High School, Tesoro and over 100 students collected over 17,000 pounds of food in two hours trick or treating for it on Halloween night.  Again, Tesoro matched dollar for dollar (up to $5,000).  During the year, other events such as Taking the World by Storm and An Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden continued to raise awareness and support the mission of the Food Bank. Every year refinery employees meet up for an event called Bay Area Refinery Motorcycle Run/Food Drive, chaired by Tesoro employee Chris McDowell, where local refineries collect food and funds for the Food Bank then celebrate their efforts with a motorcycle and classic-car ride ending in a BBQ with entertainment and raffle to benefit the Food Bank.  Many Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery employees also volunteer their time to sort food and serve the Food Bank as exemplified by Environmental Health & Safety Manager, Claire Spencer, who serves on the Food Bank’s Board of Directors as Secretary.

Tesoro and Golden Eagle strives to improve the quality of life in the surrounding community.  Over half a million dollars was invested in 2012 into local charities by employees’ personal donations, as well as, the company charitable fund contributions.  Over fifty charities were supported in 2012 and employees donated over 4,000 volunteer hours.

We thank Tesoro for their continued support and invite you to find out how your company can get involved at the Food Bank.








Looking Forward to New Projects

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Starting the New Year is a time to reflect on what we have done in the past and what we hope to do in the future. At the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, the New Year is more a check-in time for us because we are already implementing a three-year strategic plan. So the New Year is a time to reflect on where we will go as an organization in the coming year as we think about the exciting events that will take place.

Our most immediate accomplishment is that, within the next two months, we will begin Phase 2 of our Community Produce Program, starting produce distribution in Solano County and Western Contra Costa County. Two trucks full of fresh produce will be on the road five afternoons each week, bringing healthy food to low-income people.

We will also see our vision of working collaboratively with Solano and Contra Costa counties take a step forward in the work we do with CalFresh (the new name for food stamps) outreach. Grant funds have allowed us to add a person to our staff who can build on our solid working relationship, and we hope to be able to do preliminary enrollment for CalFresh participants online, making it easier for eligibility workers to enroll people in the program.

Finally, we will continue to work on our advocacy efforts. Because of the role we play in directly feeding people in need, we bring hands-on knowledge to any discussion about hunger in our community.

In tight budget times, the voices of those in need must be part of the conversation when decisions are made. Cuts made to programs that provide assistance to low-income people have a profound social impact. Elected officials need to understand that budget cuts are not just numbers, they affect people.

Stay in touch with the Food Bank by joining our online community and receiving occasional e-news related to you area(s) of interest at