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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.

Breaking the Cycle

Guest post by Food Bank friend Marla Williams: Monopoly money, something I remember thinking as a young child standing impatiently by my mother’s side, watching her tear paper coupons out of a book and hand them to the cashier. I was too young to understand anything different about the poverty my brothers and I grew up in. Not long ago, I found myself in a similar situation. A few years back, instead of waking up Christmas morning excited about opening presents like most children, my oldest daughter Lilia ran into my room and jumped on my bed exclaiming to the world that she knew it was Christmas because Santa had come and filled up the kitchen with food. That was my epiphany. I’m Marla Williams and this is the window into the life of a struggling family. A mother determined to break the cycle of poverty.  A woman fueled by the love of my family, my community, my education, and leadership.

Marla and her family

Marla and her family

Lilia loves to read and has a quiet and kind disposition. Victoria continuously will surprise people with a sense of humor often far beyond her age and is very prone to expressing her wit at random. Michael, my husband; is a former veteran who has served two tours in Iraq. Michael is currently enrolled at Los Medanos College working on his associate’s degree. Michael is also employed full time making minimum wage. Our family has faced some challenges in the past few years.

In July 2008 I held a job in the mortgage industry that paid fairly well. Two years later, I was laid off.  Through the discouragement of the situation, the children had to adapt suddenly to several new changes at once. They went from a life that was comfortable to a life that left them struggling .They have slept in the backseat in the early hours of morning while their mother worked a second job throwing newspapers out of the car window to make ends meet. They’ve been without warm clothes for school until our family could afford them. Lilia and Toria know what it is to be hungry and go without. It is their love that keeps my husband and I motivated.

After being laid off, I got a job at a well known coffee company to help make ends meet.  I knew my family would need some additional assistance with food and finances. At that time I decided to seek out answers within my community. I went to social services to see what programs I might qualify for to temporarily better our situation. After the frustration of being told we make too much money for some forms of assistance, I discovered that we could get help with groceries and fresh produce from the Food Bank.

Today, after graduating Opportunity Junction (a partner agency of the Food Bank) and helping my family change our circumstances, the holidays this year will look different for my girls. Michael is no longer working at a minimum wage job, however money is still tight. The Food Bank is the glue that holds struggling families together when we have expenses like a $900.00 car repair and there isn’t enough money left over to buy groceries. I went to the local pantry to pick up groceries just this morning so we can make it until his next payday this Friday.

I’m a dedicated individual when it comes to making our communities more resourceful for families in need. I believe in the power one individual can have to change not only their circumstances for the better but for the community around them as well. My family is on our way to no longer needing support from the Food Bank, but many like us are still in need of a helping hand. I will continue to fight to save community programs that are so vital to hundreds of families facing these financial challenges in today’s economy.

Food Bank Welcomes Assemblywoman Yamada Hunger Awareness Event – Learn If You Are Eligible to Receive Healthy Food Benefits

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano – the county’s trailblazer in hunger relief – is excited to welcome Assemblymember Mariko Yamada to Community Produce Program in Dixon on Wednesday, July 16.  Assemblymember Yamada will be volunteering at the site, helping to ensure that each person in need receives fresh fruits and vegetables to take home.

“California is on the mend, but far too many people are still struggling to make ends meet,” said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Chair of the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee.  “Through no fault of their own, working families, students and seniors face skyrocketing food prices because of the drought and the price tag for staying cool in scorching temperatures.

“I wish to thank the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for providing critical food programs that support the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Food insecurity is a daily reality for millions of Californians.  Children, the elderly, the disabled, and students are the faces of hunger amidst plenty.  The drought and summer bring added challenges to ensuring that our community’s nutritional needs are met.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano works to end hunger and increase access to nutritious food for low-income individuals and families. The Community Produce Program is just one of the ways that the Food Bank distributes food directly to people in need. Refrigerated trucks have been customized for the exclusive purpose of distributing fresh produce to communities in need. Clients will be able to pick-up an average of 20 pounds of produce, twice per month.

In addition to the strong leadership Assemblymember Yamada provides in the legislature, we are grateful for the hands-on help she is bringing to the people we serve,” said Larry Sly, Executive Director of the Food Bank.

Help the Hunger Awareness efforts and learn how to apply for food assistance by Clicking Here. Join the Yamada Volunteer Crew and post your hard work on social media with the #HashTags: #YamadaVolunteer #Yamada4HungerAction #[YourCounty]Volunteer on your social media accounts.

Aon Global Service Day at the Food Bank

By Rachel A. Sisson of Aon Fire Protection Engineering Corporation:  The San Ramon office of Aon eSolutions and Aon Fire Protection Engineering volunteered with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano on June 12, 2014 as part of their Global Service Day. Global Service Day is Aon’s annual day of volunteerism where colleagues across the world unite in service to strengthen the diverse communities in which we live and work. This year, Aon’s efforts once again focused on empowering people and strengthening communities at risk through a wide variety of service projects, in support of hundreds of wonderful charitable partners. Approximately 9,000 Aon colleagues in 50 countries donated more than 30,000 hours of service on Global Service Day.

Here are some of the other projects Aon participated in on Global Day of Service.

 The San Ramon offices of Aon spent part of their Global Service Day volunteering at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.     The San Ramon offices of Aon spent part of their Global Service Day volunteering at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

Easy DIY Reusable Bags

tshirt bagGuest post by Child Nutrition and Outreach Manager, Robert Brown: Food Bank Farm 2 Kids sites encourage taking home produce in reusable bags. Some of the after school program sites shared their ideas for obtaining bags:  Tiffany DuBose, at Lincoln Elementary retrieves bags from storefront recycle bins; The folks at Fair Oaks Elementary and Meadow Homes Elementary ask parents and teachers to donate bags; Sun Terrace buys T-Shirt bags at Smart and Final; Claudia Chan, at Wilson Elementary makes tote bags out of used T-Shirts.

Making a tote bag using old T-Shirts is a great idea!  Not only is this friendly to the environment, it is a good way for students to take ownership of their bags.  Erin Huffstetler, a freelance writer at About.com has given some easy-to-follow steps.

What will you need?

  1. An old t-shirt
  2. Thread
  3. A needle or sewing machine
  4. Sewing pins
  5. Scissors
  6. A large mixing bowl
  7. A pen or pencil

Instructions:

  1. Lay the t-shirt out on your work surface and smooth out any bumps or wrinkles. Then, cut off the sleeves, following the contour of the seam.
  2. Lay a mixing bowl over the neckline of the t-shirt, and trace around it. Then, cut along the line to create the opening for your tote bag.
  3. You should now be left with a t-shirt that resembles the one in the photo — pretty much your standard plastic grocery bag shape. To complete the tote bag, simply flip the shirt inside out; and sew the bottom opening shut.  (Retrieved March 31, 2014 from http://frugalliving.about.com/od/craftsgifts/ss/TShirt_Tote_Bag.htm)

Many thanks to all who shared their tips for obtaining bags.  A special thanks to Claudia Chan for sharing her wonderful idea with us, as well as a photo of the finished product (above).

24 hours of Local Giving

By Food Bank Grants Coordinator, Neil Zarchin: May 6, 2014 is the Give Local America. Combining the resources of a national campaign with the heartfelt rewards of local charity, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has joined forces with three local Community Foundations to celebrate the Give Local America – known here as We Give.

Donors all across the country will be asked to support non-profits in their own communities in a celebration of generosity. Friends of the Food Bank can access our page through the Richmond Community Foundation at www.wegivecontracosta.org, the East Bay Community Foundation at www.eastbaygives.org.

Nonprofits representing all the best of what makes Contra Costa and Solano counties such great places to live will be represented on these websites. Naturally, we hope that you will choose the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

This will be the second celebration of the Give Local America. With the advent of internet commerce and social media, this could very well be the future of philanthropy. So get on board at the beginning and plan to visit one of the sites above and be a part of We Give.

Together we can solve hunger.

Shop for Your Favorite Cause

By Food Bank Data Base Coordinator Becky Bourdo: By shopping sites you already use like Amazon, eBay and Daily Good, a portion of your purchase can benefit the Food Bank! Keep reading to find out how easy it is to have your regular online activities benefit the Food Bank.

Amazon Smile

Fight hunger next time you shop Amazon by logging in through www.smile.amazon.com, then shop as usual. Amazon Foundation will donate 5% of your purchase price to Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

eBay Giving Works

Sell your item through eBay Giving works and 100% of every donation processed by PayPal Giving Fund reaches your chosen nonprofit. Start shopping and selling at www.givingworks.ebay.com.

Daily Good Search

Turn your daily web searching into food for the Food Bank. GoodSearch is powered by Yahoo, reviewed and recommended by Today, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and ABC News, and partners with over 100,000 large national organizations like The American Cancer Society, The Nature Conservancy, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and more. For more information and to get started visit www.goodsearch.com.

Sparo Purchase with a Purpose

Sparo has partnered with many of buyers top selected and secure sites to allow online shoppers to donate a portion of their purchase to the charity of their choice during checkout.  Visit www.sparo.com to get started.

For questions or other ways to donate, please contact Marilu Boucher at mboucher@foodbankccs.org or call 925.676.7543 ext. 213

Mildred Celebrates Her 97th Birthday with the Food Bank

By Meg Zentner, Senior Food Program Coordinator: Mildred was born on April 9, 1917 in Stockton. She spent her childhood in a tiny town outside Tracy and someplace called Fireball. Her father worked for Standard Oil and in 1929 when she was 12 the family moved to Brentwood, where she has lived ever since.

mildredShe has been married twice and has no children, but is very close to her nephew and his kids. Early in her first marriage she traveled around with her husband who was an agricultural state inspector. When he returned from the service at the end of WWII they bought a walnut farm in Brentwood from her father in-law where she has lived ever since. They farmed it together until her husband passed away. She worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross, and later ran the crafts program at the original Brentwood Senior Center. Mildred started volunteering at the Senior Food Program site in Brentwood 3 months after its inception in 1981 and has been there ever since. Mildred still drives and lives independently on her walnut farm. She is an awesome human being. As I told the volunteers at her birthday party today, “When I grow up I want to be just like Mil”.

To find out how you can make friends and have fun with the Food Bank, visit www.foodbankccs.org/gethelp.

20 Creative Ways to Save with Leftovers

Written by Lauren Strouse, Fairfield Office Assistant: I grew up learning to cook in a household where leftovers were part of the menu plan in order to stretch the family food dollar. My mother didn’t waste food. As a young parent, I did the same thing, both to save money as well as time.  Reconfiguring ingredients that are already cooked can save you a lot of time on a busy weeknight. leftoversHere are some ways to save money by turning the food you have on hand into brand new dishes.

  • Use leftover roasted chicken to make chicken and noodle casserole, chicken a la king, chicken soup, or enchiladas.
  • Roast pork, beef or ham can be used in sandwiches, stews, soup, or to stuff a pita.
  • Combine leftover shredded or cubed roast beef with golden mushroom soup, sautéed onions and mushrooms and a little wine or water to make a sauce for egg noodles; add a little sour cream and you almost have stroganoff.
  • Remember hash? Add cubed leftover beef to cubed or sliced sautéed potatoes and onion.
  • Cubed ham can go into pasta and rice dishes, omelets and sandwiches or pair with potatoes.
  • Leftover rice or other grains like barley or faro can be combined with fresh or frozen vegetables and a little cubed pork, ham, or chicken to make fried rice.
  • Create a southwestern style casserole with leftover rice mixed with cream of chicken soup, canned green chilies, a bit of sour cream, grated jack cheese, beans (black, kidney or pinto), leftover chicken, plus seasonings like cumin and chili powder.
  • Combine rice with ground beef or turkey, a little soy sauce, cream of celery soup, celery, onion, green beans or pea pods, and water chestnuts, for mock chow mein. Top with some crispy noodles for crunch.
  • Leftover fresh or frozen vegetables can go into soups or stews and pasta dishes.
  • Cooked asparagus, artichoke hearts, zucchini, fennel, greens like spinach, and mushrooms are great in frittatas and omelets.
  • Toss leftover spinach and other greens straight into pasta sauces, bean and grain dishes to increase the nutritional value.
  • Leftover broccoli and cauliflower can be cooked with a little onion, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and served over spaghetti.  The trick is to reheat the veggies gently so you don’t overcook them.
  • Turn leftover vegetables into soup with sautéed onion and garlic. Cover with chicken broth, add whatever seasonings strike your fancy, cook until soft, puree, and thin if needed with milk (fat free evaporated is great for this and shelf stable).
  • Find yourself with half a loaf of bakery bread? Make a sweet or savory bread pudding or a strata. Layer the bread with leftover meat, veggies and cheese, soak it with an egg/milk mixture, then bake. The sweet version incorporates dried or fresh fruits like apples and cherries or even pumpkin.
  • Turn leftover bread into bread crumbs and keep them in your freezer to use in meatloaf or meatballs, or when a bread crumb mixture is called for in a recipe.
  • Do you have pound cake or angel food cake getting stale? Cube the cake and layer it in parfait or dessert glasses with vanilla pudding and fresh fruit like berries or bananas. Add some almonds or other nuts for crunch along with whipped cream on top.
  • Add leftover beef stew to a deep baking dish, make or buy pie crust, top the stew with pie crust, bake, and you have beef pot pie.
  • Make an easy shepherd’s pie with leftover mashed potatoes.  Cook ground meat with onion, a little garlic and add veggies like peas, carrots or green beans. Spread the potatoes on top and bake until the potatoes are golden and the pie is bubbling.
  • Mix leftover mashed potatoes with an egg and a bit of flour, shape into patties and fry to make mashed potato pancakes. Add shredded salmon or chicken and a bit of onion for potato croquettes.
  • Leftover polenta can be cut and fried or layered in a baking dish with tomato sauce, cheese, sliced cooked vegetables like eggplant and zucchini, spinach or chard, onions and mushrooms and then baked to create a kind of lasagna (just be very light handed with the sauce).

Save yourself some money and learn to utilize your leftovers. Let your creative juices flow and create delicious “planned over” dishes for your family.

Are You Starving?

Guest Post By Jenay RossMillions of people are at risk of hunger. 1 in 6 people suffer from it. Unemployment and poverty are to blame for food insecurity. And this issue doesn’t exist solely during the holidays when most people decide to donate and volunteer. It’s a year-round issue. All year, people need to find help so they can help themselves and the families they provide for.

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During my first day home for spring break in March, I attended my local food bank’s Empty Bowls, an annual informative fundraiser event. Attendees chose from a large selection of handcrafted bowls and were then served soup, which was super tasty. Here’s one of the bowls I chose for myself:

I’m very familiar with the work this food bank does. I volunteered often during middle school and high school. I dug through donated non-perishables and produce to decide what was suitable to be eaten by the food bank’s clients. I once organized a school and community-wide food drive. A few summers ago, I even interned in its PR department and was allowed the opportunity to interview  volunteers, agencies and hungry clients to craft stories from each perspective.

I try to remind myself how important it is to volunteer and to attend events such as Empty Bowls. It not only reminds me of how fortunate I am to eat whenever I please, but also how fortunate I am to be able to help others.

Please visit Feeding America to learn more about hunger in this country and how you can donate, volunteer and/or receive help.