Author Archive

Larry

On Slow Job Growth and Long Term Unemployment Expiration

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: In looking for signs of economic recovery, current job growth is not encouraging. The national unemployment rate has fallen, but increases in job growth are consistently low and do not indicate a recovering economy. The low job growth numbers back up the stories we hear of people losing a corporate job and not being able to find work for years, if at all. People have lost their job when the recession began and have not been able to find meaningful employment since then. Times are getting worse because the long term unemployment insurance people relied on to pay for housing and food for their families expired at the end of 2013.

Because Congress did not extend the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Program more than 325,000 people will lose their unemployment benefits in the first six months of 2014 according to a report from the Ways and Means Committee. We know these people because they have been coming to the Food Bank’s Food Assistance Program or Community Produce Program. The 25 pounds of food they get at one of these sites helps, but it is not enough food for an entire month. Our help will not pay rent or utility bills, nor will it buy a warm coat for a child. As President Obama read Misty D’s story in his State of the Union speech: “I am confident that in time I will find a job…please give us this chance”

The people the Food Bank serves are incredible at gathering together the bits of community support that can help them hold their lives together. A meal from a soup kitchen, food from the Food Bank, clothes from the Vacaville Storehouse all help. Unemployment insurance is there to help those who can’t find work at a time when jobs are still not readily available. We have the resources to help and it’s important that we do.

Many Seniors Must Choose Between Food and Other Necessities

Originally posted by the Vacaville Reporter: Seniors often find themselves having to choose between paying for necessities such as medication and food. In fact, nearly one in five older Californians are not able to afford enough food.

Senior holding tomatoes

Fran, age 92, is a volunteer and recipient at a Senior Food Site in Walnut Creek.

With your help, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is able to provide groceries to more than 3,000 seniors each month through the Senior Food Program. Seniors 55 and over receive nutritionally balanced bags of food so they may not have to make those tough decisions. It is critical that we increase the availability of targeted nutrition assistance programs to provide seniors with the food they need to maintain a healthy life style.

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, a member of Feeding America, is committed to providing nutrition to senior citizens but we need your help. Senior Food Program participant Ron has worked three jobs his entire life and it is difficult to accept the idea that he and his wife, Rosa, need help with food.  The Senior Food Program provides groceries that supplement the food Ron is able to buy, and stretches his hard-earned dollars. Your donation to the Food Bank can help senior citizens, like Ron and Rosa, eat better and enjoy healthier food.

For more information on how you can help the Food Bank provide nutrition to seniors, please visit www.foodbankccs.org/seniorhunger.

Looking Back at 2013

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: As we near the end of 2013, we are concerned about the needs of our hungry neighbors more than ever before. We are seeing record numbers of people at our food distributions, yet federal nutrition programs keep getting cut. In spite of this challenge, we are committed to helping end hunger in Contra Costa and Solano counties, and easing the burden of those in need. But we can’t do it without the help of our amazing community.

Twice per month, an average of 6,000 households in Contra Costa and Solano counties are able to take home 20+ pounds of fresh produce twice a month through the Community Produce Program. The people who support our work help put fresh produce on families’ tables.

One of those families belongs to Mauro A. Mauro used to work full-time but his hours have been cut and he just doesn’t make enough for a whole month of food. He really appreciates the selection of vegetables at the Community Produce Program. The Food Bank is now averaging one million pounds of produce every month going to your neighbors, people like Mauro. Thank you to our amazing community for everything you’ve helped accomplish this year. Together we are working to end hunger in our community.

Amazing Events Help Us Feed People In Need

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: One of the most interesting things I have found in my time with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is how diverse people’s interests can be. A big part of my job is to raise community support for the Food Bank’s work, so our job is to find ways we can join with other groups, each with distinct interests, to help feed our neighbors in need.

During the holiday season, we participate in some amazing events that help us feed people in need. Some examples include:

  • Instead of having a golf tournament, the Valero Benicia Refinery had a clay pigeon shoot. Refinery employees and their subcontractors raised money while having target practice.
  • We received funds from the annual coin show put on by the Diablo Numismatic Society.
  • Local realtors have networking groups and the Food Bank benefitted from the holiday parties of the Contra Costa Realtors in Motion and the Realtors Marketing Association of San Ramon.
  • Sunset Development provides financial support during their Christmas tree lighting.
  • Donations came from the Western States Petroleum Association’s holiday party
  • The Food Bank received money raised from the offering taken at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church during their performance of Handel’s Messiah.
Valero Clay Pigeons

Valero Benicia Refinery employees and their subcontractors raised money while having target practice.

While this list is just a sample of the way people help us in our work (and I apologize to the many people I did not include) it demonstrates that thousands of people with a wide range of interests agree that hunger should not exist in our community. I think everyone involved with the Food Bank knows, as a community we can do better. There should not be hungry children, there should not be hungry adults and there should not be hungry seniors. Hunger is unacceptable.

Tenth Annual County Cares Food Fight

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: The Solano County Board of Supervisors recently challenged the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to “bring it on” for the tenth annual County Cares Food Fight. This friendly competition between employees of both counties is a way of sharing the holiday spirit with the people in need the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano serves. County employees volunteer their time in creative ways raising funds for the Food Bank so help can be there during the holiday season and beyond.

Bake sales, gently-used jewelry sales, and donations for a dress-down day all help the Food Bank’s work. County staff members have fun with the “competition” that exists between departments in each county so they can get bragging rights with their fellow employees. The energy and creativity people put into this drive shows that people truly care about those in need in their community. It also shows they know how to have a fun time as they make a difference.

The County Cup Food Fight benefits the Food Bank several ways. Obviously, the money makes a real difference. This drive has raised over one million dollars in the past nine years, and provides the Food Bank more than $120,000 each year to help our work. But this drive is as important in the sense of community it brings. It is a significant act when people work together to make a difference in the lives of those in need. Through their actions, county employees are saying that it is not acceptable for hungry people to exist in our communities. The money and energy they give are a statement that hunger is not acceptable in our community.

How Can I Help

Originally posted in the Vacaville ReporterThere are many volunteer opportunities at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. With positions to suit almost any interest and time availability, you can volunteer in the front office, warehouse, or in the community. If you belong to a social club, work group or fraternal organization, you can organize a food drive, volunteer as a team in the warehouse, or invite a Food Bank representative to speak to your group.

We currently need help:

Bagging and Distributing Groceries. Have any time on weekdays?  We need help bagging and distributing groceries at our Antioch, Bay Point, Pittsburg, and San Pablo Food Assistance Program sites. We also need help at our Richmond Food for Children site. Each distribution is held one weekday morning every month.

Bilingual Volunteers (Fluent in English and Spanish). The following distribution sites have a high need for bilingual volunteers:

WIC Richmond (39th & Bissell Ave, Richmond) Every 1st & 3rd Thursday, 2-3pm

Davis Park (1651 Folsom Avenue, San Pablo) Every 2nd & 4th Friday, 12-1pm

Buchanan Park (4150 Harbor St, Pittsburg) Every 1st & 3rd Tuesday, 12-1pm

WIC Concord (2355 Stanwell Circle, Concord) Every 1st & 3rd Wednesday, 2-3pm

Salvation Army KROC Center (586 E. Wigeon Way, Suisun City) Every 1st & 3rd Friday, 12-1pm

Cambridge Elementary (1135 Lacey Lane, Concord) Every 1st & 3rd Saturday, 12-1pm

Antioch High School (700 W. 18th St, Antioch) Every 2nd & 4th Saturday, 10-11am

For more information on volunteering, please contact Volunteer Help Desk (volunteerhelpdesk@foodbankccs.org). Please include your name, phone number with area code, email, city, availability, as well as the type of opportunity you are looking for.

Help Make Holidays a Little Brighter for Those in Need

Every year during the holiday season, we are especially thankful for all of our caring supporters who have joined the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano in our fight against hunger.  The holiday spirit means people are willing to donate money, food or time to make a difference.  County employees in both Solano and Contra Costa collect money to help the Food Bank’s work by doing bake sales or “a cream pie in the department head’s face” fundraisers.  Golf tournaments and food collections at holiday parties benefit the Food Bank.  Donations are given during “Sing Along Messiah” events.  Food and money are raised in Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith communities.  Businesses collect food and money, schools join the effort, the whole community comes together to make a difference.

 

The story of need in the community is more prominent during the holidays.  News stories during this time help us see that most of the people who need food are not that different than us.  People who come to the Food Bank have had unfortunate circumstances take place that mean they need help.  Because of the generosity of the community, the Food Bank can make a difference.

 

The community trusts us to provide food to our neighbors in need during the holidays and all year long.  Thanks to our generous community, we are gathering food from those who want to give and are distributing it to partner agencies and directly to people who need help.  Together we are making the holidays a little brighter for people in need right here in our community.

 

To learn more about how you can make a difference this holiday season, visit our holiday ways to help page.

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.

Helping Prevent Childhood Hunger in Solano, Contra Costa Counties

Originally published in the Vacaville Reporter: Teachers know it’s difficult to educate a hungry child. Day-to-day, hungry students cannot focus and are not learning. Long term, students who do not eat well develop health problems caused by poor nutrition. To help students be healthy and ready to learn, the school lunch program makes sure every child in public school has a meal available to them every school day.

In order to continue this important program, a summer lunch program exists so that children can continue to get food year round. But budget cuts mean few schools actually have a summer school program, so children do not come to school each day causing participation in the summer lunch program to drop significantly. Both Contra Costa and Solano County school districts have responded in creative ways to continue providing meals to eligible children. Vacaville schools, for example, have a mobile lunch truck that takes meals to low-income housing areas, making it easy for children to get the food they need. While these systems help, overall results are a good news/bad news situation.

On the positive side, Contra Costa County has the 9th highest participation rate in the state of children who receive free and reduced price lunches continuing on the summer lunch program. Solano County does well too, having the 13th highest rate. The negative side is that Contra Costa only has 17 percent of the children participating and Solano only has 12 percent. Because of the suburban nature of our communities, we need to have a “place” where those in need can go to get the food they need. Schools are a common area where people trust those helping educate and care for their children. Investing in our schools provides a place to care for our children, both educationally and nutritionally.

Learn more about child hunger and ways you can help at www.foodbankccs.org/childhunger.

 

Getting to the Heart of Poverty Problem

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter – I am incredibly proud of the work the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano does. We are currently distributing more than 16 million pounds of food a year to approximately 149,000 people each month, and through our Community Produce Program will distribute an additional 2 million pounds of fresh produce this year, making a total of 8 million pounds.

But when I take a step back, I realize that the fact we are serving nearly 50 percent more people than we were serving six years ago demonstrates a real problem. The need for food is an indicator of larger problems we need to deal with as a community.

What gives me hope is that I see agencies and people who provide assistance coming together to work on the issues we face. Government agencies, nonprofits, schools, and foundations are part of the Solano Safety Net that is working to see how we can best combine our efforts to help our community.

At a recent meeting, we talked about the fact that the recidivism rate for parolees is 70 percent. The sheriff knows that part of that is because 40 percent of the inmates in county jail read at a fourth-grade level. They are released into a community where they have no support system and have little chance of getting a job.

Although the 70 percent rate is high, there is not yet enough public support to make a change.

We all need to collaborate to strengthen the safety net, making sure that food, shelter and services are there for people who need help.

We can also work on the bigger issues, recognizing that education and job training prevent people from needing to access the safety net.

When the community creates systems that help people provide for themselves, the safety net will be the short-term response it should be.

For ways you can help strengthen the safety net, contact Lisa Sherrill, lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.