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Community Members are Connected in a Variety of Ways to Our Efforts to Feed People

Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter:  Nearly four decades ago, when I started working at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano I didn’t realize how large a role the organization would play in the community. As the years have passed, the Food Bank has become a well-recognized resource for helping those in need in the community. Because of that recognition, people lend their support to our mission to end hunger.

Community members are connected in a variety of ways to our efforts to feed people. For those who have the time to do hands-on work, we ask volunteers to sort food, bag produce and assist with our remote distributions. Distributing nearly twenty million pounds of food means we need to address logistical issues, including trucking, food storage and running efficient distribution programs. For all these tasks, we depend on volunteers.

We also rely on volunteers to help us obtain the food we need. Food drives are organized year round because hunger exists year round. Our food drives range from the major effort organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers every May or the Boy Scouts each November to food collections done by individuals. Gardeners grow extra vegetables in their back yard to share with their neighbors in need. Businesses organize food collections as a way to give back to their community. We receive over a million pounds of food every year from a generous community, while we engage people in helping end hunger.

We are also lucky that a generous community helps us raise the money we need to distribute the food we gather. Gathering the support we need also goes from large to small, with the total effort being important to our work. We organize events like golf tournaments, motorcycle runs, or Uncorked, a food and wine afternoon at GV Cellars in Fairfield on August 3. Events like Uncorked bring people together to help the Food Bank, creating a sense of community around a common cause. Giving to charitable causes is an important part of many people’s lives, and they know the Food Bank plays an important role in improving our community.

Many people learn the habit of giving early in life. I talked to someone yesterday who shared the story of their nine year old daughter who sold wrist bands to her friends to raise money to buy food for the Food Bank. Her parents and grandparents matched the money she raised, helping her buy more food to bring to the Food Bank. When she brought the food to us, she saw how her donation became part of a bigger effort to help. Our work is possible because we connect with those in the community who want to see an end to hunger.

Annual Report Change Shows Growth of Food Bank, Local Need

Originally posted in The Vacaville Reporter: Someone was going through some old materials they found in storage and brought me an annual report from 1998, sixteen years ago. Annual reports and financial audits are snapshots in time that define how an organization is providing service in the community, so it was pretty astounding to see where we were then versus where we are now.

I was amazed at how much we have grown as an organization. In 1998, we had 32 employees; today we have 63. (Eleven of the people who worked for us in 1998 still are with us today.) We have been able to increase our services because the support we receive from the community has increased significantly. As an example, in 1998 the support we receive from individuals was one million dollars and we now receive five million dollars annually.

The Food Bank needs that increased support because we have expanded our work to meet the need in ways we never dreamed we would be doing in 1998. At that time, we had our Senior Food Program, Food Assistance Program and Food for Children program as the only direct service we provided in the community. Because of the collaborative work of food banks through the California Association of Food Banks, we now have access to supply of fresh produce through packing sheds in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys that’s only limited by the amount of support we receive to purchase it. Because this fresh food is available to us, we established the Farm 2 Kids program that distributes food to students in low-income schools. In the past two years, we developed the Community Produce Program that takes fresh produce to over fifty distribution sites throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties. I would have been surprised in 1998 to know that someday we would provide over ten million pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables in one year to low-income people in our community.

The reason we must keep focused on our work is because the need continues to grow. We were serving 58,000 people a month is 1998 and have seen that number increase to 149,000 today. At some of our Food Assistance Program sites for example, we have seen the number of people coming increase fourfold. We are sending two trucks filled with food to some of the sites we serve because nearly 600 people come for the food we give. With our increased efficiency, staff and community support, we are able to meet that high demand and outreach to those who may not know help with food is available.

I am proud of the programs we have maintained and strengthened, as well as the new programs we have initiated. Everything we do, from distributing more fresh produce to helping enroll people in CalFresh is dedicated to getting food to those in need. Our supporters should be proud as well. Because of them, we are able to be of service to the increased number of people who need us.

Public Works to Provide Food

public works

The Contra Costa County Public Works Department decided to host a food and money drive to help the Food Bank kick off the summer – a time when need is high, but donated food runs low. This county department collects money for the Food Bank during the holidays but they feel it is important to collect food and money at other times of the year. Congratulations on a fantastic drive of 463 pounds of food and over $1,300 which equates to 3,010 meals!

A Fairy Tale Food Drive

Employees of the Disney store at Sun Valley Mall were inspired to hold a food drive after volunteering at the Food Bank and learning about the need for food in their community. So far they have collected a fantastic 418 pounds of food which equates to 334 meals. The employees are continuing to collect food throughout 2014 for those in need in our community.

Before we brought them a collection barrel, they built a fairy tale can castle.
disney can castle

Program Today Helps Nonprofits Across the Region

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: I think we can all say we know the slight discomfort that comes between meals, so we can imagine what it would feel like to not be able to get the food you need when you want it. When people spend time learning about the issue of hunger and they understand that over 49 million Americans live in food insecure households, they realize this is a community problem we all need to work together to address.

By supporting the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano people can make a difference in the lives of hungry people in our community. People engage by donating food to us through our community food drives, volunteering at our warehouses or community events and helping to distribute food to people in need. People give their time and energy because they understand that the Food Bank is an effective organization, keeping our administrative and fund development costs to four cents out of every dollar. They also know that we can provide two meals for every dollar donated, showing a strong return because the community cares.

But it’s no great secret that an ongoing issue at every nonprofit organization is raising the money we must have to do our work. Less than 10% of our funding comes from the government; most comes from the community, with most of the community funds coming from individuals.

So many concerns face our community from hunger to environment and education to health. Given the need for all nonprofits to raise financial support, local foundations are working together through Give Local America to make a broad appeal for the support all nonprofits need. In order to be part of building a large community appeal, the Food Bank is participating in the Give Local America one-day fund raising effort on May 6. On a local basis, people can donate through the East Bay Community Foundation (eastbaygives.org) or through the Richmond Community Foundation (wegivecontracosta.org). At those sites, donors can give to the local charities that are participating in the drive. Other than credit card fees, all the money that is donated goes directly to the charity donors choose.

Give Local America came about in celebration of the 100th anniversary of community foundations in America and the vital role they have played developing and supporting local philanthropy. On May 6, 2014 from 12:00am – 11:59pm, you can check out real-time leaderboard to see how the Food Bank and any other favorite nonprofits are doing. Follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook by using the #GiveLocalAmerica hashtag.

Give Local America is partnering with foundations and charities to increase the generosity of the community. We all believe people want to help make their community a better place to live. Supporting local nonprofits creates a stronger community for all our neighbors.

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

Donations Still Needed for Third Annual Faith Food Fridays’ Christmas Dinner Box and Toy Distribution

Guest Post: Faith Food Fridays founder and director Ben Buggs. This Friday, December 20th between 3 and 6pm, Faith Food Fridays will hold its third annual Christmas dinner box and toy distribution. The local food pantry that is supported by Faith Bible Church of Vallejo and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano still needs donations of turkeys, chickens, hams and new or VERY gently used toys.

So far, 140 families have signed up – representing more than 400 children, between the ages of infants to 12 year of age, and we need your help.

We are anticipating a larger crowd than we had last year, based on how Thanksgiving went. Last year we served about 260 Thanksgiving dinners, this year it was 415. We believe that means our Christmas numbers will be greatly increased as well.

If you are able to donate, please drop off items at 901 Solano Ave. during business hours or across the street at 826 Solano Ave. on Thursday between 3-7pm. Monetary donations should be made out to “Faith Bible Church of Vallejo” with Faith Food Fridays on the memo line and dropped off or mailed to 901 Solano Ave., Vallejo, CA 94590.

Donations received so far have been meaningful, just last Sunday two gentlemen walked up during the church services with armloads of toys saying they wanted to ‘donate locally’ and had Googled the organization in order to help others as they had been helped in the past.

We are optimistic that we will be able to help everyone who shows up on Friday. We’re especially excited this time of year, to celebrate with our neighbors the birth of Jesus – since that’s the whole reason for the season.

Faith Food Fridays is located at 826 Solano Ave. More information can be found at www.faithfoodfridays.com or by calling (510) 978-2396.

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.