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Archive for March, 2013

Hunger-Fighter Finishes Year of Service

 This month, Heidi Kleiner completed her term of service as an Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteer at Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

 Heidi made a significant contribution to Food Bank by recruiting, training, and organizing a specialized group of volunteers to help low-income individuals and families sign up for CalFresh, also known as SNAP nationwide.  She undertook the training of volunteers as well as partner agencies on how they could help their clients apply for benefits.  She has connected CalFresh clients with local farmer’s markets and helped them understand how they can utilize their EBT cards to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.  Heidi is part of a class of 36 Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteers spanning 14 states and 18 regions with volunteers collectively completing nearly 75,000 hours of service.

The Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps is an AmeriCorps VISTA project, sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Walmart Foundation, the ConAgra Foundation and managed by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The VISTA volunteers work in both rural and urban areas.

Sponsors Are Critical in the Fight Against Hunger

At the Food Bank, we are careful stewards of the money donated to us, ensuring that as much as possible goes to providing food to the people we serve. Savvy donors have been using sites such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar to make more informed decisions about where to donate their dollars.  We have to ask ourselves often “are we putting donations raised to the best use possible?”

One of the factors that enables us to put 95 cents out of every dollar raised directly into food assistance programs is our connection to the local business community.  Sponsorship opportunities help us not only purchase nearly half the food we distribute, but also afford the necessary items we need to spread the word about our work. It allows us to promote and acknowledge local businesses, strengthening our ties to the community.

For instance, to spread the word out about our recent event Empty Bowls, we wanted to print materials to distribute to potential guests. We carefully source a good price for printing, then reach out to potential supporters.  We were fortunate to have Appel Law Firm in Walnut Creek become our print sponsor for Empty Bowls. They were happy to help, and saw it as an opportunity to support our mission. Thanks to Appel Law Firm, we were able to give your registration fee a lot more hunger-fighting power!

In addition to the print sponsor, Chevron bought bowls for the event and even came out to paint them, add those to bowls donated by Clay Planet of Santa Clara and the Walnut Creek Clay Arts Guild, bread donated by Panera Bread, soups donated by local agencies and businesses, media sponsorship supplied by CBS5 and Diablo Magazine, and what do you have?  An event where the bottom line is all about the people we serve.

We could not move forward with our mission to end hunger without the generous support of the local business community.

If you would like to become a sponsor, we have many options available. Please contact Kathy Gleason, kgleason@foodbankccs.org for more information.

An Update from the Capitol

Where can you find nearly 800 passionate anti-hunger fighters all in one place? At the National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference of course! The conference presented by Feeding America and Food Research and Action Center draws anti-hunger and anti-poverty advocates; federal, state and local government officials; child advocates; representatives of food banks and food rescue organizations; and nutrition and anti-obesity groups, for three days of training, networking and Capitol Hill advocacy.

Participants share information and learn how to strengthen the quality and reach of federal nutrition programs, learn best outreach and program practices from other states and localities, fill in the gaps in food service for millions of low-income children, and identify creative ideas for new and innovative approaches to ending hunger.

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano staff met with offices of our local Congressmen to tell the story of poverty and hunger in our community. What did we ask of our representatives? For Congress to protect and strengthen SNAP/CalFresh and TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), two of our most important resources. 1 in 4 people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties are at risk of hunger. The Food Bank is now feeding approximately 149,000 people each month but it is not enough. We can’t do it alone. With the high cost of living in the Bay Area, a family would need three full-time jobs at minimum wage just to make ends meet. Without important nutrition programs like TEFAP and SNAP the need in our community could not be met and families like Millicent’s would go hungry.

Single mother Millicent worked as a sales manager for four years until she was laid off. She was able to receive unemployment and then worked eight weeks at a temp job before she was in a car accident. Now her unemployment is only for ten weeks instead of the two years it would have been if she never worked those eight weeks. All of her cash is going to pay her bills and there is no money for food or medical expenses. She has two children ages ten and five and lost her child care. She has been coming to Food for Children for four months now and receives CalFresh/SNAP, which allows her to buy groceries.

Congress must oppose any cuts to SNAP and continue to support additional resources to purchase TEFAP commodities on which so many food banks rely on heavily. Please call your representatives today at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to protect SNAP and TEFAP.

Getting to the Heart of Poverty Problem

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter – I am incredibly proud of the work the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano does. We are currently distributing more than 16 million pounds of food a year to approximately 149,000 people each month, and through our Community Produce Program will distribute an additional 2 million pounds of fresh produce this year, making a total of 8 million pounds.

But when I take a step back, I realize that the fact we are serving nearly 50 percent more people than we were serving six years ago demonstrates a real problem. The need for food is an indicator of larger problems we need to deal with as a community.

What gives me hope is that I see agencies and people who provide assistance coming together to work on the issues we face. Government agencies, nonprofits, schools, and foundations are part of the Solano Safety Net that is working to see how we can best combine our efforts to help our community.

At a recent meeting, we talked about the fact that the recidivism rate for parolees is 70 percent. The sheriff knows that part of that is because 40 percent of the inmates in county jail read at a fourth-grade level. They are released into a community where they have no support system and have little chance of getting a job.

Although the 70 percent rate is high, there is not yet enough public support to make a change.

We all need to collaborate to strengthen the safety net, making sure that food, shelter and services are there for people who need help.

We can also work on the bigger issues, recognizing that education and job training prevent people from needing to access the safety net.

When the community creates systems that help people provide for themselves, the safety net will be the short-term response it should be.

For ways you can help strengthen the safety net, contact Lisa Sherrill, lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

A Fight to the Finish

The Food Bank salutes Solano and Contra Costa county employees for hitting the million dollar mark in the ninth annual Counties Care Holiday Food Fight!

The Food Fight began in 2004 when Contra Costa County employees challenged Solano County employees to raise funds for the Food Bank during the holiday season.  Solano County employees replied “Bring it on!”

The winning county every year is based on the dollar amount per employee. Solano County won the first challenge, and employees from both counties have been competing for possession of the coveted Big Apple trophy every year since.  In the 2012 Food Fight, Solano County employees won by raising $10.38 per person and Contra Costa County came in second with $9.70 per person for a total of $129,054.26.

Over a nine-year period, county Food Fighters have raised an amazing grand total of $1,027,310.65! The friendly competition also makes a big difference in the community.  Thank you county employees, your cumulative donations have provided over 2 million meals for our neighbors in need.  Job well done!

Sequester Impact

Over 600,000 low-income women and young children will lose WIC benefits that enable them to buy basic grocery items like milk and bread, because of the government sequester on Friday.

The sequester scheduled to go into effect this Friday will cut critical funding for nutrition assistance programs – programs that protect our most vulnerable children and seniors and that support our nation’s food banks. About 600,000 low-income women, infants, and children would be kicked off of the WIC program; programs like Meals on Wheels would have to cut as many as 19 million meals to seniors; and charities like the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano would lose TEFAP funding for the storage and distribution of food at a time when the demand for food assistance is higher than ever and food banks are stretched thin meeting that demand.