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Archive for 2014

We Are Better When We Care For Those In Need

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano faces an enormous task every year distributing 20 million pounds of food to people in need.

We want to do our work effectively, so we need well-trained professional staff.

We need a warehouse that meets food-safety standards, inventory systems and trucks. We need boxes, shrink wrap, pallets and forklifts.

We pay handling and transportation fees for the fresh produce we distribute. While the average cost of produce is only ten cents a pound it becomes a significant amount when you multiply it by the 10 million pounds of produce we distribute.

We are committed to being effective in the work we do, and provide four dollars of food for every dollar we spend.

Our management and fund development costs are 4 percent. We know we are an organization that is well run and meets an important need.

In order to keep providing healthy food to people in need, we must ask community members to invest in the work we do. Asking people to help pay our operating costs is something we continue to do because people generally do not give unless they are asked.

The Food Bank receives less than 10 percent of our operating revenue from the government, but a bigger percentage of our support comes from corporations, foundations, service clubs and faith communities. But most of the money that supports our work comes from individuals.

Nearly half our operating revenue comes from people in the community who believe it is not acceptable for people to be hungry. They understand that money given to the Food Bank provides fresh produce to low-income senior citizens through our Senior Food Program.

They see fresh produce distributed from our trucks at our Community Produce Program sites throughout Solano and Contra Costa counties. They see us distribute food to nearly 200 non-profit organizations that provide food to those in need.

People know they can make a difference in their community by making a tax deductible donation to the Food Bank’s work.

As the year comes to a close and people consider the taxes they will pay, I hope they consider the good they can do with donations to causes that matter to them.

There is a strong non-profit community in Solano and Contra Costa counties that provides food, shelter, counseling, education, and other services to our neighbors in need.

People should be deliberate about where they give (Charity Navigator is a great tool that evaluates non-profit organizations) but they should give to causes that matter to them.

In a time when resources for non-profits continue to shrink, it is critical that the community step forward to help make a difference.

We are a society that cares for each other and we can make a difference for our neighbors who need help.

We are better when we care for those who need our help.

To donate to the food bank online, visit http://www.foodbankccs.org/give-help/donate.html. You can also learn how to become a pledge donor at the website. Or you may consider making a gift to the Food Bank as a tribute or memorial to a loved one. You can donate online or mail a check to Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, P.O. Box 6324 Concord, CA 94524. And you can have your gifts matched as many companies match employee donations made to organizations like the Food Bank. This doubles the donation and doubles the impact. Or you could start a unique donation page in less than 10 clicks to raise much-needed funds with the help of your family and friends. Include the personalized link in your emails, social media and event invitations for a fun and easy way to invite others to support the Food Bank and make a big difference. You can even start teams to have a friendly competition with friends and coworkers. Learn More about Custom Fund Drives at: http://www.foodbankccs.org/holidays.

The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord. Email: info@foodbankccs.org

Holiday Dinner Drive raises $1 million to support Bay Area Food Banks

 Guest post from Michael Altfest of the Alameda County Community Food Bank: One of the Bay Area’s most remarkable fundraising efforts to support local Food Banks has achieved a significant milestone. This season, the Holiday Dinner Drive – an effort among congregants at local synagogues and churches – raised its millionth dollar to help families in need.  As of December 22, 2014, the drive has raised more than $1,042,000 in 17 years to support Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.

The milestone will be commemorated in a ceremony at Alameda County Community Food Bank on December 23 – the day leading up to the eighth and final night of Chanukah.

The Holiday Dinner Drive was started in 1998 by Dan McClosky, a congregant at Oakland’s Temple Sanai synagogue, after reading a report that Alameda County Community Food Bank did not have enough turkeys for the upcoming holiday season. That year, McClosky raised $550 among family and friends. Temple Sanai congregants joined in the efforts the following year, raising $13,000 for the Food Bank. The drive has continued to grow every year since – in the number of congregations as well as faiths; in the number of Food Banks supported; and the amount raised.

The Holiday Dinner Drive personifies the importance of community to hunger-relief causes. This started as a simple idea resulting from one man’s passion and dedication to ending hunger – passion and dedication that proved to be contagious. The enthusiasm for this drive is palpable – and it has resulted in one of the most outstanding efforts to help those struggling with the burden of hunger.

The drive raises funds that help food banks purchase and provide holiday-specific food to families in need, including chickens and turkeys, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and fresh and canned vegetables.

In 2014, 22 synagogues and churches participated in the Holiday Dinner Drive to support the three food banks.  Fundraising for the drive continues through December 31.

Food Bank Marks 40th Year Of Battling Hunger

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: The end of the calendar year is always a time to reflect on what has been accomplished in the year that is coming to a close and plan for the coming year.

The year 2015 is special for those of us at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano because it is the 40th anniversary of the year we were incorporated, so we look back to when we began as we plan for where we hope to go.

In 1975 the Food Bank started as two employees trying to provide more food to emergency food pantries.

The pantries provided short-term help to people who were waiting to obtain assistance from government aid programs. In our first year we provided more than 30,000 pounds of food through the agencies we served.

Now, 40 years later, through direct distribution and partner agencies like emergency food pantries, soup kitchens and other nonprofit partners the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provided more than 20 million pounds of food, the most food we have ever distributed.

We had another significant milestone last year with half the food we distributed being fresh produce.

Because of our partnership with the California Association of Food Banks, we have access to millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables that are not marketable to the mainstream, but are still nutritious. In order to get this fresh food to those in need, we have established direct service programs like the Community Produce Program and Farm 2 Kids.

We celebrate the fact we have such a positive impact on low-income people’s lives, both economically and nutritionally.

We are extremely positive about the good work we do and the nutritious food we are able to distribute, but we are concerned that one in eight people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties rely on the Food Bank to get by day to day.

We know it is a positive thing we can provide food every day because people need the help we give. But in the coming years I hope we can work toward the Food Bank again becoming an emergency resource instead of an essential part of the support system for people in need.

It is not acceptable that people should be hungry in an affluent food-rich society like ours.

The Food Bank is proud of what we are able to do every day, providing healthy food to people in need. As long as people are hungry, we still have work to do.

But going forward we need to be part of the conversation about why people need food and what we can do as a society to make sure everyone has the nutrition they need no matter what the economy or life situation.

If you would like to help the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano there are many ways to donate. For every $1 you donate, the Food Bank can distribute two meals to those in need. Donate online at http://www.foodbankccs.org/give-help/donate.html or mail a check to Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, P.O. Box 6324 Concord, CA 94524. All donations to the Food Bank are tax deductible.

You could also become a pledge donor and fight hunger regularly throughout the year by having your donation automatically deducted from your bank account or credit card. Your gift goes directly to the Food Bank, where it is put to work immediately to help feed hungry children and needy adults. Plus it saves time, paper and postage further stretching your donation.

The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord. Email: info@foodbankccs.org

Local high schools compete to end hunger at the Solano Town Center

solano centerThe Solano Town Center celebrated the success of its first annual canned food drive as six participating high
schools throughout the area raised 6,801 pounds of food for the Food Bank of Contra and Solano.

Students from Fairfield High School, Rodriguez High School, Public Safety Academy, Sem Yeto Satellite, Matt Garcia Learning Center, and Armijo High School joined the cause-related competition, which began Monday, October 27. To generate donations, the students stood by their designated kiosk, which they decorated with artwork and televised multimedia to attract attention.

The drive ended Monday, November 24, with Armijo High School collecting 4,118 pounds of food, more than any of the other schools. The entire school will receive a catered lunch from Fuddruckers on Monday,
December 15.

“We’re so impressed with the dedication and work that all of the schools and students put into collecting donations and raising awareness for the Food Bank of Contra and Solano,” said Marketing Director Jenny Mallory. “Families and students are a central part of the Solano Town Center culture and we’re happy to work with them in what we hope will become an annual holiday tradition.”

About Solano Town Center
Solano Town Center is located at 1350 Travis Boulevard, Fairfield, California. Center hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Restaurants and some stores operate additional hours. For more information, guests may call (707) 425-1164, visit the center’s website ShoppingSolanoTownCenter.com and follow the center on Facebook.

Grateful For Food Drives During The Holidays

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is lucky to have the support of CBS 5 KPIX  and Whole Foods in organizing the Food for Bay Area Families food drive.  Whole Foods helps us collect food at their stores which helps us provide food to those in need in our community.  But equally important to us in our efforts to fight hunger, Whole Foods and KPIX help educate the community about why people in our community need food assistance.

KPIX is incredibly generous in giving Bay Area food banks the opportunity to publicize businesses and organizations that help us feed those in need.  During the Food for Bay Area Families effort, KPIX carves a minute or two out of their noon and six o’clock newscasts so Bay Area food banks can bring people on to talk about the good things they have done to help us feed those in need.  We bring international companies like Chevron on to talk about their financial support of our work, or bring on local Rotary clubs to talk about helping us obtain bright orange tee shirts branded “Go Orange to Fight Hunger” for Hunger Action Month.  Eight Rotary clubs in the Diablo Valley helped us get the message out that hunger is a real issue in our community.

We had Pick-N-Pull on the air to talk about the support they provide at their Fairfield and Richmond stores.  They do everything from asking their customers to donate to giving us the change they find in the cars that come to them.  Pick and Pull’s parent company Schnitzer Steel also makes a matching donation, further helping us in our work.

The people from Forma Gym in Walnut Creek talked about the holiday run they staged on Thanksgiving Day that raises money to help the Food Bank’s work.  They put on a phenomenal event which reached a caring community (they got MC Hammer to help sponsor the event!).  We also had a chance to acknowledge the CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer for the help they give the Food Bank’s efforts to provide food to those in need in our community.

We are grateful to KPIX and Whole Foods for giving us the opportunity to publicly thank the generous individuals, businesses, service clubs and community members who make our work possible.  But I will admit that we are also hoping that when people see what others in the community do, they will decide to take steps to make a difference as well.  We know that no one in our country should go hungry and people will take action to help those who need food.  When we can show that those we put on the news make a difference by giving food, money or time, we are helping to build a community that cares.  That community will make a difference in the lives of their neighbors who need food.

NBC Bay Area’s “Help Us End Hunger” Food Drive Helps Communities This Holiday Season

NBC Bay Area has once again teamed up with Safeway Stores for a month-long effort to fight hunger with food banks in the Bay Area. The “Help Us End Hunger” food drive is taking place at 155 Safeway locations throughout the Bay Area making it easy for community members to participate and help feed their neighbors in need.

In addition to providing on air promotion, NBC Bay Area anchors and reporters helped at their own neighborhood Safeway Stores alongside Kiwanis Club members and Food Bank volunteers on Saturday, November 22 to encourage shoppers to donate food items. On this day, 21,663 pounds of food was collected, meaning that more than 17,000 meals can be provided from one day alone!

To make the donation process easier, a specially produced shopping bag filled with items that food banks need the most will be available for $10 at all local Safeway stores. Items include pasta and sauce, canned vegetables and important protein items like peanut butter and canned tuna. Once collected, the bags are delivered to food banks for distribution to families in need. The bags will be available for Safeway shoppers to purchase now through December 25.

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Neighbor To Neighbor, Community Food Drives Make An Impact

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Nearly twenty five years ago, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano began working with a local television station to set up a holiday food drive in collaboration with the other Feeding America food banks in the Bay Area.  The General Manager of the station was incredibly enthusiastic about the idea and suggested that we approach the homeowners association at Blackhawk, the community where he lived.  Blackhawk was one of the first planned communities with upscale homes built around golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools. Sports personalities and business leaders owned homes in a gated community that had a limited number of entrance and exit gates.  We were lucky enough to find volunteers within the homeowners association who felt this collection effort resonated with social responsibility beliefs that came from their faith community.  We worked with them to take their ideas and grew food collections that make a significant contribution to our work.

Today, ten gated communities (including Rancho Solano in Fairfield) have similar drives where neighbors ask neighbors to help us feed those in need.  Volunteers come to our warehouse in October to staple flyers to grocery bags that are specific to each individual community.  Volunteers from each community go door to door leaving the bag with their neighbors.  On the day of the food collection, we set up our plywood sleighs with food barrels placed inside.  As people drive out the gate, their neighbors happily accept the bag of groceries right from the car.  We also place return envelopes in the bag and many individuals also give us a financial donation as well.  Communities vary in how much they provide, but the larger communities can give as much as 10,000 pounds of food and $25,000, making a significant contribution to feeding those in need.

These gated community drives are making a difference in people’s lives. People like Grace, 73, of Vacaville. Grace was married, owned a house, worked part time and lived comfortably with her husband until she retired at 62. Then everything changed when her husband passed away in 1999.  The house they owned needed repairs her husband used to be able to do and it needed a new roof. She couldn’t afford to fix it up. When she finally sold it to buy a smaller condominium, “I barely broke even,” she said. Now her only income is her Social Security, which leaves her about $400 after utilities, mortgage and homeowners association fees.

It was on a trip to a Food Bank partner agency, Vacaville Storehouse, a year and a half ago that Grace discovered she could get groceries to stretch her pantry and refrigerator. Bread and meat she divides into portions to freeze help stretch her grocery budget. “I could never do as well as I do with proteins without being blessed by the Vacaville Storehouse,” Grace tells us.

The food and funds collected by neighbors in their gated communities support people like Grace every day.

Give Where You Live ABC7 Thanksgiving Food Drive

There is no other way to put it, hunger just hurts more during the holidays.  For many in the Bay Area, this time of year shines a spotlight on just how much food insecurity affects their lives.  That’s why ABC7 and Bay Area food banks are working together to collect much needed food and cash donations this holiday season.

On Nov. 18th ABC7 broadcasted live from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano warehouse in Concord. On-air interviews were conducted with people who receive food, member agencies, and of course our own executive Director, Larry Sly. Volunteers and visitors were able to meet Spencer Christian, ABC7 News weather forecaster, in person. Food provided by Panera Bread, Round Table, Togo’s and Tower Grille, kept our guests energy up while Mark from Denon & Doyle kept the music going for the evening’s festivities.

More than 780,000 people in the Bay Area go hungry each month. That’s about 1 in 6 Bay Area residents, which includes families, children and seniors. For 23 years, ABC7 and Bay Area food banks have worked together and you can join us in helping feed our neighbors in need this holiday season! Text the word FEED to number 80077 to donate $10 to Bay Area food banks. When prompted, reply with YES to confirm the donation and have it added to your phone bill.

In addition to your donations, each of the Bay Area food banks were awarded with $15,000 from Disney-ABC to help provide food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, to children and families who need it most in the Bay Area.

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Fall Events – Fun for Cause

Thank you to everyone who hosted and attended events this Fall. Here are some highlights from the recent calendar.

  • Scare Away Hunger – Thanks to the students at Alhambra and Concord High Schools who spent their Halloween collecting food. In just a few hours, they collected more than 14,862 pounds of food and $2,500.
  • Gourmet East Bay – Gourmet East Bay, Sponsored by Diablo Magazine and Broadway Plaza was held on Saturday November 1st. Guests were able to sample dishes from many top local restaurants, and fill their glasses with the finest wines, brews and spirits from local vendors. Live music, great weather, and fantastic silent auction items to bid on made this the place to be! The Food Bank was able to raise $7,700, which that will be used to purchase food for the holidays. Thank you to all who came out and supported the Food Bank.
  • The Habit Burger Grill in Antioch held its Pre-Grand Opening on Tuesday November 11th. One hundred percent of proceeds from the lunchtime sales of their mouth-watering menu items were donated to the Food Bank!
  • Moraga Turkey Shoot – The Moraga Country Club Senior Golf Association, and the Moraga Country Club, sponsored their second annual “Turkey Shoot”, on Thursday November 6th. Thank you to everyone who participated.  Through registration, a silent auction and a very entertaining live auction, we were able to raise more than $21,000 to help feed those experiencing hunger in our community.
  • Scouting for Food – over 120,000 pounds were collected by Scouts in Contra Costa and Solano Counties in one day!
  • WSPA Holiday Mixer – The Western States Petroleum Association mixed and mingled for the 4th annual Holiday mixer. Guests donated along with registration adding up to over 8,600 meals!
  • ABC7 Give #WhereYouLive – ABC7 Weather Anchor, Spencer Christian spent the evening with the Food Bank for a live broadcast on November 18th where he presented us with a check for $15,000 from parent company, Disney. We were also joined by member agencies, clients, volunteers and donors who shared their stories on the air and helped box produce. Thanks to all who showed up in person or tuned in to support Give #WhereYouLive.
  • Manor Care in Rossmoor partied the night away, casino-style for their annual holiday party and open house. Guests contributed enough funds for over 3,000 meals!

To learn more about events you can attend, visit www.foodbankccs.org/events.

Clayton Valley Concord Sunrise Rotary Lives up to Service Above Self Motto

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Guest post by Rotary Member Hugh Toloui: A group of volunteers from the Rotary Club of Clayton Valley Concord Sunrise have been rolling out of bed in the crack of dawn every Tuesday morning and have come to the Food Bank to serve. They have done so regularly and faithfully for the past nearly eleven years. Up to the present, they have sorted and packed nearly two million pounds of donated food that are collected in those familiar barrels as well as those from the large chain stores, boy scouts, mail carriers, etc.

Why the donated food need to be sorted, you may ask?  Before the food is distributed to the needy via some over one hundred pantries, dozens of charity organizations, shelters, etc., they need to be checked to weed out the out-of-dates, dented and damaged, proper labeling, etc., and boxed in some 16 different categories.

This group of dedicated Rotarians have indeed tried to live up to the lofty Rotary motto: “Service Above Self”. Serving at the Contra Costa / Solano Food Bank is one of this Club’s many domestic and International service projects. Knowing that the beneficiaries are the needy and the less fortunate, adds an extra dimension of satisfaction to this service project.