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Scare Away Hunger!

Thousands of doorbells were rung on Halloween night throughout the area. But in Concord, some of the ringing had a different purpose. Halloween was all about collecting nonperishable and monetary donations for the Food Bank and our community in need. A Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery employee came up with a great way to support the Food Bank, support a school and get the community involved in helping those in need in our community – trick or treating for food. Ken Dami of Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery took the next step by organizing the interested parties and then offering a company match of $5,000 to the Food Bank and $5,000 to the chosen school, Concord High. Not only was the Food Bank going to receive food donations on Halloween night, we were also going to receive cash donations plus $5,000 from Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery.

Seven different school departments: Band, Choir, Leadership, Cheer, Football, Baseball and Softball signed up to each have a team of 12 students go out into designated neighborhoods. Tesoro rounded out the team concept by providing dinner, a Scare Away Hunger t-shirt, a glow button, a trick or treat reusable bag, seven Tesoro vehicles and staff to follow the teams to collect the food as the teams walked door to door collecting plus a bus to drive the students into and back from the neighborhoods. Led by teachers and parents, the students went out and rang hundreds of doorbells. In the end, we received a fantastic 6,619 pounds of food and $1,723.43. The winning team was Softball but just by a small amount. And the prize for winning is a party sponsored by the refinery. Of course bragging rights seem to be the real prize not to mention all of the food and money collected.

At the end of the evening when all of the food was weighed and loaded into the truck and the money was locked up, two students came up to us and said “Thank you for inviting us tonight. It was the most fun ever and we can hardly wait for next Halloween”. What more can I say than I too can hardly wait for next Halloween.

Thank you to Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery for creating this great event and for your fantastic sponsorship. Thank you Ken Dami for your leadership. Thank you Principal Gary McAdam of Concord High for your leadership and getting your fantastic teachers and students involved. Thank you students for volunteering as a team and making our first year so successful. Thank you community for giving and helping those in need. Did we Scare Away Hunger? I think we did and we will do it again every Halloween until it is gone for good.

Lafayette Elementary School Food Drive

Lafayette Elementary School loves to host a holiday food drive every year in October. The process: the children bring in food each week for 3 weeks and on Friday mornings Marianne Brent and a few other parents go around to each classroom to pick up and count the food items to determine the winner of the week. Once the food is collected and counted it is placed in the 4 barrels in front of the main office. Next begins the fun. The 4th grade teacher Nancy Beliveau has her students pull food from the barrels and bring it into the MU room. They do this until all of the food is on the black line on the floor. Next the students take the food, one item at a time, and place it in the appropriate Food Bank boxing category. Once all of the food is boxed, the box lids are closed and the food is taken back to the Food Bank. For week 2 and week 3, a different 4th grade class joins Nancy Beliveau’s students for the boxing. The experienced students find a partner from the other class and work as a team to retrieve the food and place it in the correct boxes until all of the food is sorted/boxed.

The Food Bank’s goal? Bring the Food Bank to the students so they can experience volunteering plus this process has increased our food collections. At the end of the 3rd Friday, the students had collected and boxed 2,551 pounds of food. It was great to watch the teamwork, the smiles and great questions as the students volunteered. The students added love to every food item they touched. Nancy also took the next step in education by adding in lesson plans about food categories and what are the best foods to help others.

Thank you Marianne Brent and parent helpers, teacher Nancy Beliveau. Lafayette Elementary School faculty, students and parents for making the food drive such a success and for sharing volunteering and compassion with these wonderful children.

By the way, the prize for the class that brought in the most food? A field trip to the Food Bank. I think we are the ultimate winners: food and future Food Bank volunteers!

Girl Scout Tour Day

On Saturday 10/22/11, we had over 160 Girl Scouts (plus leaders) visit the Food Bank for a tour and help bag potatoes for the distribution the following week. The scouts learned about who we help and how we do it. The highlights are always the large scale to weigh the food on, the coolers, the freezer and some of the unusual food donations we receive.

Little did we know that these girl scouts of all ages would really embrace the task and bag thousands of potatoes. All of the agencies receiving the potatoes were very thankful because the potatoes were ready to go to clients. I am sure that night in their sleep, the scouts were counting to 10 over and over again. The scouts also brought in over 500 pounds of food and other scout troops will be hosting their own food drives for us in the next month.

The scouts were from Lafayette, San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Brentwood, Antioch, Concord, Pleasant Hill and Benicia. It was such a success, I want to have another Girl Scout Only Day in the spring. Next time I will plan better for these super volunteers! GIRL SCOUTS ARE GREAT!

Pleasant Hill 50th Anniversary

Pleasant Hill 50th

The City of Pleasant Hill is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. We have the opportunity to help the city celebrate by collecting 50 barrels of food in its honor by November 14.

We have already collected 9 barrels of food at the Pleasant Hill Community Service Day last month. Navlet’s Garden Center (2895 Contra Costa Blvd) has a barrel year round, so does Citibank (2255 Contra Costa Blvd) and so does the YMCA (350 Civic Drive). Navlet’s just swapped out a full barrel and Girl Scout Troop 31125 filled up 3 barrels at Strandwood Elementary on October 7th. We are well on our way to 50 full barrels and just have 37 left to fill.

UPDATE: We will be delivering 25 barrels to Pleasant Hill Middle School for pick up on October 24. Teacher Jan Quimet is great at inspiring the students to fill the barrels. That means 12 barrels to go.

Would you like to help commemorate Pleasant Hill’s 50 years by hosting a barrel? We have one ready with your name on it. Not only are you celebrating the city’s 50th anniversary, you are helping our community in need.


Community Service Days

Pleasant Hill has done this for seven years, Walnut Creek has done this for one year and hundreds show up at 7am for pancakes. What is this? Community Service Days!

Both the City of Pleasant Hill and the City of Walnut Creek host an annual Community Service Day where hundreds of residents get to choose a half-day community project including school cleanups, painting projects for nonprofits, environmental projects and most important to us is a food drive. The wonderful part of volunteering is that you can select what interests you and your family. We were very fortunate to have many families and small groups conduct neighborhood food drives on each of these days. It was very simple: we provided bags/flyers and the family/group placed the bags on the doorsteps of their neighbors at least 3 to 7 days before the food pickup day. Then on the Community Service Day, they came back and looked for the full bags of food waiting for them.

On September 24th, we picked up 1,031 pounds of food from the Pleasant Hill Community Service Day and on October 1st, we picked up 4,327 pounds of food from the Walnut Creek Community Service Day. This food comes at a time when we are low on food to sort and distribute so it is very important. But more than the food is the opportunity to help our city, schools and neighbors in need by volunteering in our own community. We thank the volunteers that made both Community Service Days so successful and we thank all of those that left out a bag of food.

If you would like to conduct your own neighborhood food drive – just give us a call! We will happily provide bags, flyers and all of the support you need. A neighborhood food drive is an easy way to get the whole family involved!  

Cub Scout and Boy Scout Day

On Sunday October 2, over 120 cub scouts, boy scouts and leaders attended our 1st Cub Scout and Boy Scout Day at the Food Bank. We created this special day to educate the scouts on why their November food drive, Scouting for Food, is so important and what happens to the food after the scouts pick it up from the doorsteps of houses all over our community.

The scouts had a tour of the warehouse including walking into our cooler (drive in refrigerator), the freezer and seeing all of the pallets of food ready for distribution, not to mention the empty barrels waiting to go out for the holidays. Next they played the “Wheel of Life” where they learned about why people need help with food due to various circumstances in their life (loss of job, car breaks down, animal is sick and many other reasons why money is diverted away from purchasing food for the family). They also had the opportunity to make banners for their Scouting for Food food drive sites on November 19. The most popular part of the day (other than the freezer) was boxing all of the plums which were bound for many, many people in need in our community.

Thank you cub scouts and boy scouts for making this day very special for us at the Food Bank. We look forward to Scouting for Food on Saturday November 19 when you will bring thousands of pounds of food back to the Food Bank. To our community, there will be hundreds of scouts picking up food from doorsteps. If you see a supercharged scout, you can bet he was at the Food Bank and learned more about hunger and how he can make a difference!

More than Just Books

Libraries are a very important part of our community! They help us educate our children and ourselves. Several of our libraries also help collect food for those in need by hosting a barrel from the Food Bank.

We welcome our newest member of our ongoing food drives: The Hercules Library at 109 Civic Drive in Hercules. They now have a barrel just ready for food donations and they are committed to filling it throughout the year. The Pittsburg Library is going to host a barrel over the holidays so if things go well, they may keep it year round too. The library that has had a barrel the longest is the Richmond Public Library (325 Civic Center Plaza) which has had a barrel since 2008 and has collected over 2,000 pounds of much needed food. For Solano County, there are barrels in the Fairfield Cordelia Library, the Fairfield Civic Center Library and the Suisun City Library.

The next time you visit one of these libraries don’t forget to bring a few nonperishable items for those in need in your community. While you are at the library you can take our Hunger Action Month action to educate by reading a book about hunger to a young child. We recommend The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need, Sam and the Lucky Money and the DVD The Pursuit of Happyness. You can even reserve your books online and have them sent to a library with one of our Food Bank barrels.

A big thank you to our wonderful libraries across our 2 counties!

For more on Hunger Action Month visit the official page.

Feds Feed Families

During the summer, food banks around the country are facing severe shortages of non-perishable items and children are left without school nutrition programs. But, the federal employees nationwide  have stepped up to meet this challenge by gathering donations of food for families. Each year more federal departments in our two counties are joining the Feds Feed Families campaign. This year we are very fortunate to have the following departments:

Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Travis AFB
Social Security Administration in Antioch, Richmond and Walnut Creek
US Forest Service at Mare Island in Vallejo
USDA Service Center in Dixon

Each of these departments has stepped up their food gathering efforts from their employees to ensure that those in need in our community will have food. As fast as they call us to pick up the food, we are sorting/boxing the food to get it out to the respective communities.  Together they have collected over 12,000 pounds of food from their employees.

Of special note is the USDA Service Center in Dixon that procured 10,000 pounds of canario beans from a local grower. Of course when the USDA office called to ask if we would like these beans, the answer was YES. But then I had never heard of the bean and the staff at the USDA office said everyone in Dixon knows about the beans and once you try these you will never eat anything else. So why not give our clients a treat! Here is what I found out on the internet:

 A small, oval, ivory to pale yellow dried bean common in Latin American cooking and a basic part of northern Mexico’s cuisine. Peruanos have a light, buttery flavor and a soft, creamy texture. They’re also called azufrado beans, canaria beans, canario beans, maicoba beans, mayo coba beans, mayocoba beans, Mexican yellow beans Peruvian beans.

Thank you to all federal employees across the country! Together we are all working to end hunger.

Wear Orange

I love the San Francisco Giants but won’t wear the color orange. I love Halloween but won’t wear the color orange. And now I am asked to wear an orange t-shirt every Wednesday to symbolize hunger? Are you kidding me? But when I put on my new t-shirt with the statement “1 in 6 Americans Struggles With Hunger”, I felt like a superhero as I bagged fresh produce for people in need. No longer is it just about me and not liking the color orange, it is about what I can do in September to help the 1 in 6 people struggling with hunger.  Suddenly I have an endless amount of energy for putting bread on racks, sorting food and helping do the many tasks to get food out to those in need.

wear orange

Wear orange on Wednesdays in September!

In September, I am going to wear an orange t-shirt every Wednesday to remind me of the 1 in 6 people who are struggling with hunger. I am going to take ACTION to make sure I make a difference. Today is about ORANGE, tomorrow is about volunteering and making a difference. Every day is about all of us having the opportunity to be a SUPERHERO. Join me in wearing orange and being a superhero to those we may never meet but who receive the food they need thanks to all of us working together.

Learn more about how you can help make a difference during Hunger Action month this September at

How Do You Spell HELP?

I spell it 2 1 1. Did you know that if you need help in the Bay Area, you just need to dial 211 on your phone. 211 is a toll-free, three-digit phone number to call 24 hours a day for information about local health and social services. It enables people to find out about valuable resources in their community quickly and easily.

211 logoI may not need to call 211 but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t know how important 211 is. I always mention 211 to others so they will pass it on and those they tell will pass it on. You never know when you will meet someone who needs information about disability services, alcohol and drug abuse services, dental care, health insurance, rental assistance, child care, legal aid, senior services and so many other types of assistance. I only need to know one phone number for help. There are trained people answering the calls who will provide the information needed – just by dialing three numbers 2 1 1. And no matter what language you speak, there is someone on the other end that can speak your language to make help even more accessible.

Now, how do YOU spell HELP?  2 1 1, which means help is just a phone call away. Let’s all make sure we share this number!