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Archive for October, 2013

12th Annual Refinery Run

What started as a cloudy rain turned into a downpour but that did not stop these dedicated refinery workers, contractors and families for coming out to raise money for our Community Produce Program*. Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery, Shell Oil Products US, Phillips 66 and Valero Benicia Refinery began collecting food and money the beginning of August and ended mid-September with a fundraiser celebration which includes a Poker Run, sponsored by United Rentals, 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 throughout the year.

It is great experience working with all of them towards our mission. So far this year, they have been able to raise over $23,000. Contra Costa Electric, Inc., S & S Supplies and Solutions, Brinderson and Discover Land Care, 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, such as, McGuire Harley-Davidson, Joyce Cid CMT, Origami Owl, Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, Crowne Plaza, Body Savior Wraps, Fit 2 the Core, Central Valley Paranormal and Contra Costa Chiropractic, 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.

*Through June 2014 John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund is committed to a 50% match on donations that are designated for Community Produce Program operations in central and east Contra Costa County. With your help we can continue to bring high-quality fresh produce to people in need in your community. Donate to provide more fresh produce today!

Food Day Celebration

Post by Blanca Campos, Food Bank Nutrition Education Coordinator: Food Day is a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, and sustainably produced food and a grassroots campaign for better food policies. It builds all year long and culminates on October 24.

Food Day aims to help people Eat Real. That means cutting back on sugar drinks, overly salted packaged foods, and fatty, factory-farmed meats in favor of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and sustainably raised protein. Food Day envisions shorter lines at fast-food drive-thrus—and bigger crowds at farmers markets.

Locally, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano partnered with the Pittsburg Unified School District, John Muir Health, Contra Costa Health Services, Kaiser Permanente and the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market to celebrate Food Day at Willow Cove Elementary.  The celebration included carrot salad tasting, nutrition information, recipes, and fresh produce giveaway (courtesy of the Food Bank).  Over 150 parents participated and received fresh produce during the event.

We’ll be celebrating Food Day at Rancho Medanos Jr. High today!

Were you involved in Food Day this year? If so, please tell us how.

Valero Takes Aim at Hunger

Clay shooters to aim to provide over 100,000 meals!

A strong supporter of the Food Bank for many years, Valero’s Benicia Refinery placed an increased emphasis on the mission and work of the Food Bank among  its employees and contracting companies during a Month of Caring.  Valero employees were encouraged to provide volunteer service sorting food orders, packaging fresh produce, and distributing food to those in need.   The employees responded by donating 460 hours of volunteer service.  In addition to supporting the volunteer effort, Valero also sponsored the Inaugural Sporting Clays Invitational held at Birds Landing, October 4, 2013.  Thanks to the support of numerous contractors and volunteers, the event raised $55,000 for the Farm 2 Kids program.  When asked about Valero’s involvement with the Food Bank, John Hill, Vice-President and General Manager of Valero’s Benicia Refinery said that he and his fellow employees love volunteering at the Food Bank because we can see the direct and positive results of service.  Food comes from the farms, volunteers package it for distribution, and people receive it the next day.  As far as having a direct, timely, and positive impact for people in need, it doesn’t get much better than that!

Budget Cuts Hurt Low-Income Households

Editorial originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter: Passing the Federal budget takes away one piece of chaos from the “perfect storm” striking low-income people, but it certainly doesn’t end the challenges they face. Those who receive CalFresh (food stamp) benefits may be surprised on November 1 when the benefits they receive go down. A family of four will see a 5% decline in the $668 monthly CalFresh benefit they receive, losing $36 each month and over $400 annually.

This is extremely frustrating for us who are trying to help low-income people get food because the CalFresh reduction is a political decision. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) increased the CalFresh benefits people receive. This increase helped get more food to low-income people, and helped stimulate the economy because those dollars were spent in grocery stores every month. In 2010 Congress passed bills to end this stimulus early because a decision was made that there were more important places to use the funds. Little publicity came out about this action, so people who are depending on CalFresh benefits to feed their children will be surprised when they receive less help in November.

The more frustrating part is that Congress is also considering a proposal to reduce expenditures on the CalFresh program by $40 billion over the next ten years. This doesn’t make sense when the Food Bank is providing food to more people than we ever have before. As the cost of living continues to go up, people have a difficult time making ends meet, even if they have a working individual in their family. As recent events around the Federal budget show, difficult political decisions are being made. The Food Bank must continue to speak up for the people we serve.

Growing Food to Build Community

Sometimes I think it can be easy for us to forget how fortunate many of us are and why we need organizations like the Food Bank. This week I had the pleasure of attending a three day conference in Tucson titled Closing the Hunger Gap. The conference was made up of three parts:

1. Visiting existing programs
2. Learning and brainstorming about issues relate to hunger relief including policy change and nutrition
3. Planning actions we will take over the next year to make a change

On day one I went with a group to see a school, soup kitchen, farm and home garden.

The school was amazing! Everyday the kids are involved in the operation of the school garden and sustainability program at the school. They grow fruits and veggies, raise chicken and tilapia, compost, collect rain water and host a farmers’ market. Incredible! The outcomes are just as amazing from increased attendance and parent involvement to better understanding of math and overall academic improvement. I encourage you to check out www.goManzo.com to see all the amazing work the school and community are doing.

At the soup kitchen I was again blown away and honestly I wasn’t expecting much here. Terrible I know but I thought I’ve seen soup.kitchen and know what good works they do. What could I possible learn here? Well, this soup kitchen not only feeds people everyday (except thanksgiving and Christmas – because “everyone else wants to do that”) but every afternoon they spend working on community organizing. They are working on keeping bus fares from increasing knowing the people they serve absolutely cannot afford even a five cent increase. A crossing guard was needed so families could safely cross the street to get their food and the community organizers at Casa Maria helped make that happen. It’s amazing how a group of community members can affect so much change. I think we forget the power we have.

Next stop on our tour was the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s farm. Community plots are available for families and groups. The food bank also grows food for their services, but the farm is more than that. It’s a place for the neighborhood to gather and to continue a tradition of farming that has been taking place there for thousands of years. One gentleman spoke about how he brings kids on probation to the farm and what a difference that make in their lives. The host potlucks and workshops. It’s an outdoor community center for that neighborhood.

Finally we went to the home of a man who is growing food in his front yard to provide for his family. The food bank helped by providing education and starter plants. Also he sells some of the produce on consignment at the food banks farmers market.

This blog post doesn’t do justice to what I saw last month. Amazing work being done in a community that not only needed help with food but also help remembering how to be a community. They are being given space to gather and learn as well as the tools to affect lasting change in their community. I think this is something we should all think on.