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Archive for April, 2013

Food Bank Director Larry Sly Honored for Hunger-Relief Efforts

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter – Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director Larry Sly has been awarded the 2013  Fellowship by Feeding America for leadership, local and national impacts and commitment to hunger-relief, it was announced Wednesday.

The annual award from the Food Bank’s national network honors the ideals of the late John van Hengel, a soup kitchen volunteer and community activist credited with founding the nation’s first food bank in 1967.

“There are so many excellent leaders in the food bank movement who have won this award before me, so I am understandably humbled and honored to be among them this year,” Sly said in a prepared statement.

Under Sly’s leadership the Food Bank has developed several comprehensive programs designed to distribute more food efficiently and with as little waste as possible.

His latest efforts involve working with local growers to get produce to low-income neighborhoods.

Sly began at the food bank in 1976 as one of two employees as a truck driver. Since then the Food Bank has grown to a 35,000 square-foot warehouse in Concord and a 40,000 square-foot warehouse in Fairfield with a fleet of trucks.

The Kids Run the Food Drive

Guest post by Galila Kitzes: A few weeks ago, the students of ACE Charter School– a small kindergarten through 6th grade elementary school in Vacaville – organized and ran their own food drive. ACE has a dedicated group of parents who support all kinds of community activism. But as much as we parents like to engage the kids, sometimes it’s hard to turn off our own need to control outcomes and take a chance on letting the kids do it…letting the proverbial chips fall where they may even if it’s not in pretty, well planned patterns of success.

So, we took a little risk. Students planned as much of the drive that they reasonably could. On a Friday morning five, multi-age classes planned one aspect of the food drive and a team of about 15 parents guided them through it. The parent volunteers didn’t give long explanations about how Food Banks or Food Pantries work. Instead, we asked students to tell us in their own words what they thought a food drive was – which took about 3 minutes – then they got to work. Our youngest classes decorated collection boxes for each classroom and made posters. The middle grades made fliers and ideas for meal donations instead of just single item donations. They also created an enormous chart on which to display each class’s progress for item collection. The oldest class came up with the general plan: how long the food drive would run, collection goals for each student and, of course, the prize for the classroom that collected the most items. In addition to setting up the rules of the food drive, the older students played the Wheel of Life with Houston, a Food Bank Ambassador. This game teaches kids, in a straight forward manner, how a person or a family becomes in need of emergency food assistance. Kids’ thinking evolved from seeing hunger as only an issue for the homeless to understanding how a family with a home, electricity and even a vehicle can end up hungry.

After each class had worked on its part, all five classrooms convened in the multi-purpose room, and kids from each classroom took turns explaining what they had done and what the other kids would need to do. The kids strode confidently up to microphones to speak: sometimes awkwardly and with wrong information, sometimes clearly and powerfully. The student audience listened with interest to them all. After this sharing of information and food drive planning, the kids went along their merry way to recess.

The parents left on their merry way, too. The older students decided to let the drive run for 3 weeks…how would all this work out? The students had copies of the fliers they designed …but would they just end up flying around the playground much to the chagrin of the custodian or would they make it to family, neighbors and other potential supporters? The posters the students made certainly looked cute and inspiring around the campus…but would anyone even notice them after a few days, let alone a couple of weeks? The chart had to be lugged into and out of the school daily. Would it be a source of motivation? Would the students really care about it after the novelty wore off?

What was the end result? The items came pouring in: 327 lbs the first week, 472 lbs the second week and 434 lbs the final week. One family even donated $100 for the Food Bank. The chart became the focal point for daily inspiration. Each day, kids gathered during recess and after school to count “cans” (the symbol used to represent a donated item). Parents congregated around the graph, too, interested in where their child’s class was relative to the other classes. This competition fueled their motivation, far more than posters and more than fliers. Thanks to Joan Tomasini at the Food Bank, the kids learned that 1,233 lbs of food was an unusually high amount for a school of our size (144 students) and a pride-worthy achievement.

Any school that is interested in teaching kids to be activists in their own community should consider running a food drive in this manner. Given that 1 in 4 recipients of emergency food is a child, kids have a vested interest in supporting organizations like the Food Bank.

A Family Affair: Family Volunteer Day at the Food Bank

Guest post by Pamela Adelman Ball: We were the apples group. There were also grapes, broccoli, and carrots. This wasn’t Fruit of the Loom, but a recent Family Volunteer Day at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. The fruits were a fun touch though, and certainly set the tone for the day.

Family Volunteer Days are designed for families with young children to visit the Food Bank and learn more about hunger in our country, and what the Food Bank is doing to help those in need. I was impressed at the turnout — both sessions were filled to capacity, with dozens of families coming out on a St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, interested in introducing their kids to these important issues.

I brought my five-year-old daughter, Peyton. While we are looking to instill in her compassion for others and the importance of being an active participant in her community, we’ve been uncertain how to talk to her about potentially frightening topics such as hunger or the disadvantaged. Luckily the staff and volunteers at the Food Bank had a way to introduce this in a manner kids could understand. The 90-minute event included coloring, counting, stickering, tying knots, and checking out some cool sci-fi-ish technology — what could be more fun for a child?

 

The counting and stickers were labeling and packing fruit cans; coloring was a paper lunch bag campaign to convince elected officials not to cut funding for food stamps; tying knots was sorting apples into bags. The sci-fi was touring the massive warehouse and cold storage area. Throughout the event, Food Bank representatives spoke about hunger, ways the organization was helping, and ways we as a community could contribute.

Some of the take-home points were shocking: 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger, and 1 in 4 people receiving emergency food from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano are children. The Food Bank feeds approximately 149,000 people each month, and not just homeless; some of them are just like you and me. Kids are going hungry at school, so in partnership with after school programs in low-income areas the Food Bank provides fresh fruits and vegetables to 9,000 kids in 80 schools. As a result each child receives a 3-5 pound bag of produce to take home every week during the school year.

While it was sad to be reminded of how much need exists right her in our community, it was also heartwarming to hear how much is being done to help. As for my daughter? I was happy to hear her take-home point was right on target: “Mommy, that was really fun.”

 

If you are interested in the next Family Volunteer Day, please let us know.

Help Us Win $45,000 to Provide Fruits and Veggies to Kids!

The Farm 2 Kids program provides children in low-income areas with 3-5 pounds of fresh produce per week. Sometimes it is the only food they have for dinner.

As part of their Fighting Hunger Together initiative, Walmart is giving out grants for the most innovative and effective programs that help alleviate child hunger. Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is in the running to win one of 100 grants, but we need your help to win!

 Here’s How it Works

April 1 through April 30, go to www.foodbankccs.org/walmart to vote for our project. You can vote once a day, so please vote as often as you can.

You do not have to “like” Walmart on Facebook to participate, but do need a Facebook account. Contact Rachel if you have more questions or need Facebook help, rbraver@foodbankccs.org or 925.677.7011.

Funding for child hunger programs is especially critical considering the need that exists. Here in Contra Costa and Solano counties, 1 in 6 children struggle with hunger. The Walmart grant would go a long way to helping ensure that all children have access to the food they need to thrive.

Please share this with your friends and family!

Garden like a Pro at the Urban Farm Expo

Guest post by Master Gardener Marian Woodard: This time of year plant sales pop up like dandelions, and the nurseries are full of vegetables already fruiting. It’s easy to buy a plant grown in huge hothouses sprayed with heaven only knows what, but what if you want an organic, locally grown treasure AND want to know how best to care for it so it produces long and well?

Trust in the Master Gardeners and local experts at the Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm Expo & Plant Sale this Saturday, April 6th.  Not only will they have lovingly grown, local, organic, heirloom vegetables, herbs, flowers and succulents, but there will be experts on hand to answer all your gardening questions.

There are also free classes on subjects from chickens to creative container gardening with 10 more in between. AND there are phenomenal products (some brand new to market!) like biodynamic compost, worm castings and towers, containers and teas to make your plants thank you all summer.

All this will take place in a gorgeous, historic setting. Visitors will also have the option to sponsor a plant for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. For a suggested donation, we will grow fresh vegetables for our neighbors in need. You can visit your adopted plant as often as you like!  While you’re waiting for your plant to grow, a Pleasant Hill native food vendor will make sure your tummy’s happy.  Come early for the plants; stay for the classes!

Rodgers Ranch Urban Farm Expo & Plant Sale
315 Cortsen Rd (between Taylor Blvd and Pleasant Hill Road off Grayson)
Pleasant Hill
10:00am – 4:00pm

Carpool if you can as parking may be limited.

www.RodgersRanchUrbanFarm.org