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Food Bank To Hold Black-Tie Optional Fundraiser

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: The year was 1975. Gasoline cost $0.44 a gallon. The average cost of a home was $40,000. You could get a brand new car for $4,000. Even back then, although those prices seem like a bargain today, not everyone had enough food to get by. This is why the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano (then called the Community Food Coalition) formed and incorporated.

We were simply a group of people who were responding to the needs of our community. When someone applied for food stamps or other government assistance programs, there would often be delays in receiving benefits.

For people in that predicament, the eligibility worker would refer them to a local church or community center where they could get three days of food from local volunteer organizations. The Food Bank was created to help those organizations stretch their dollars by buying food in bulk and soliciting donations.

Little did we understand in 1975 the impact that the Food Bank would have in our community and how the need for food would grow.

Last year we provided over twenty million pounds of food to people in need in our local communities.

We work with nearly two hundred nonprofit service agencies and have a variety of direct service programs that bring food directly to low-income senior citizens, children and other people in need. We have a positive health impact on the people we serve because over half the food we distribute is fresh produce.

Everyone connected with the organization is incredibly proud of what we have been able to accomplish, but we struggle with using the term “celebration” to acknowledge our fortieth anniversary.

Some of us feel that it would truly be a cause for celebration if we didn’t have the need for food banks in a country that is as wealthy as the United States.

More importantly than looking back at what we’ve accomplished over the past 40 years, is the need to look forward. We need to focus on what needs to be done to get food in the hands of people who need it.

In addition to food donations, we need to raise money to pay the handling fees for the produce we distribute and for transporting it to our warehouse. We need to raise funds to pay for our trucks and drivers who bring the food to those we serve.

To honor 40 years of nourishing our community, we are holding a black-tie optional gala on Saturday, May 16. Nourish is our 1st annual Gala benefitting the Food Bank.

Money raised at the gala will help us accomplish the work we need to do in the coming years. For every dollar we receive, 0.96 goes directly to food programs.

If you would like to come to this dinner dance and auction fundraiser, visit www.foodbankccs.org/40th. On the web page you can RSVP to the event or make a donation if you want to help, but are unable to attend the gala.

Food Bank Marks 40 Years Of Service

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: In 1975 Linda Locke worked in the Contra Costa County Social Service Department.  When she was not able to sign a client up for food stamps because of missing paperwork, she would refer the person to the food room in a local faith community.   Volunteers in those food rooms would provide the person in need with a three-day package of food to get by. Linda soon discovered that the food room inventory would run short before the end of the month.  Being a resourceful type, Linda worked with her department, faith communities, food donors and obtained the loan of a trailer from Safeway.  Using county trucks and two desks in a county office, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano was born.  Little did I suspect when I began working for the organization in March of 1976 that I would be writing an article today that celebrates the 40th anniversary of an incredible idea.

Beginning with the storage trailer and two staff members (I was the truck driver) we distributed just over 30,000 pounds of food to the food pantries in our first year.  I would not have believed that forty years later we would have seventy people on our staff, 88,000 hours of volunteer time and would distribute twenty-million pounds of food in our community each year.  I would not have guessed that half the food we give out would go through direct service programs, where we bring food to church parking lots or health clinics.  Serving Contra Costa and Solano Counties, we provide food to a large geographic area. We continue to improve the service we provide to nearly two-hundred nonprofit agencies.  It is essential for us to make the food we provide easily accessible to the people in need. With half of the food we distribute being fresh fruit and vegetables, it’s critical that we distribute the perishable produce in a quick and efficient manner so individuals can benefit from the added nutrition.

The first fundraising effort we made was applying for a grant from the Presbyterian Church to buy food for the pantries we served.  Today we continue raising money so we can provide food, including fresh produce, to the people we serve.  Through the generous support of many significant donors, we have a matching fund up to $100,000 for those who make a donation to honor and acknowledge our forty years of nourishing our community.  It is a different world than it was forty years ago, but hunger is still part of our community and people need food every day. These financial contributions to honor our forty years of service will help our neighbors in need.

Holiday Donations Exceed Food Bank’s 6 Million Meal Goal

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: We want to thank everyone for the incredible community support during the holidays, helping the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano exceed our six million meal goal. The community donated over 600,000 pounds of food and enough funds to provide over 8,500,000 meals throughout the year! So many groups contributed, including shoppers at local grocery stores, banks, credit unions, Scouts, realtors, schools and county employees.

Some of the grocery stores we work with put together bags of food that give us our most-needed food (tuna, peanut butter, pasta and pasta sauce).  They priced these bags at $10 or so and made it an easy donation for a shopper who wanted to make a difference.  The Safeway stores in Solano County, for example, donated nearly 19,000 pounds of food this last holiday season, because Safeway made it easy for their shoppers to give.

Families like Angel and Lisa have already benefited from the fantastic community support during the holidays. Lisa is on dialysis and needed help with groceries. They attended a distribution at a Food Bank partner agency where they received a turkey and groceries for the holidays. Thanks to you, Angel spent the holidays with family and “ate lots of food!”

The number of people the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provides food to has increased more than 25% in the last two years. In fact, one in eight residents now relies on the Food Bank. Hunger exists in every corner of our community and affects people of all ages, ethnicities, education levels and employment status. The economy may be getting better, but for far too many in our community that has not yet translated into an income level that can keep food on the table.

Last year, the Food Bank provided the equivalent of 16 million meals to your neighbors in need; more than half of the food was fresh produce. With the help we received during the holidays, we can project another year of meeting the high need.

To help feed a neighbor in need, contact the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano at www.foodbankccs.org or 855-309-FOOD.

Kudos to Solano and Contra Costa County Employees For a Record-Breaking 2014 Holiday Food Fight!

The Food Fight is a friendly competition between county employees focused on raising funds for the Food Bank.  Starting in 2004, the counties vie for bragging rights and ownership of the Big Apple trophy for one year.  Determined to win the trophy back from Solano County this year, Contra Costa County  employees made an extra effort to raise funds.  The winning county is based on a dollar amount raised per person. During the holidays, Contra Cost County raised $109,412.91 resulting in $11.96 per employee while Solano County came in at $30,812.84 or $11.70 per employee.  This year, Contra Costa County hit the overall million dollar mark, bringing in over $1 million dollars since the first Holiday Food Fight. The Food Bank and its clients sincerely thank employees of both counties for their spirit and persistence in coming back year after year to help their neighbors in need!

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

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

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.

Season Of Caring Is Also Season Of Friendly Competition

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: This week kicks off the annual Counties Care Holiday Food Fight. This friendly competition between employees of Solano and Contra Costa 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.

Twelve years ago, Contra Costa County employees decided to do a food collection in the County Administrators office.  They raised 1600 pounds of food and felt incredibly positive about what they had accomplished.  They felt so positive that the next year they threw the challenge out to other county departments setting up a friendly competition to see which department could be most generous.  Incredibly creative ideas were shared within the county employee community about how to help more.  Departments offered dress down days for employees who donated and some departments competed to see who got to throw a shaving cream pie into the department head’s face.

As the employees learned more about the Food Bank’s efficiencies, they realized that raising money was more effective than raising food.  The “food drive” became a “fund drive” that gives the Food Bank the money it needs to acquire the fresh produce that has become such an essential part of our work.  The organizers also knew that the Food Bank serves both Solano and Contra Costa counties, so the friendly competition grew to be a contest between the two counties to see which could raise the most funds per employee.  So within each county individual departments compete with other departments to see which can be the most giving.  The prize for the county competition is the Big Apple trophy (going back to the time a huge donation of apples helped bring a victory for a Board of Supervisors member).  This year, Solano County has held the Big Apple trophy for two years in a row, but Contra Costa wants it back!

There are two victories that come out of this competition.  People who are part of the county employee community, in both Solano and Contra Costa counties have fun.  They work together for something that benefits the greater community, no matter which department they work for.  More important, their accomplishments allow the Food Bank to provide help to people in need in both counties.  The Counties Care Holiday Food Fight has raised over $1.1 million for the Food Bank.  More than twenty million pounds of food went to people in need in our community last year because people—like the county employees — care.

Thankful For Help At Thanksgiving And Throughout The Holidays

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: One in eight residents now relies on the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and during the holidays we work with our more than 180 partner agencies to bring additional hope and relief to our neighbors struggling with hunger.  This Thanksgiving and Holiday season we will provide food for over 14,000 meals and about 30,000 grocery baskets to your neighbors in need. Thanks to amazing community support through monetary donations and food drives, we can make the holidays more hopeful for children, families and seniors who struggle to put food on their tables.

We have a tradition going back longer than I can remember coordinating food drives with Safeway.  Obviously, there is no better place to do a food drive than a grocery store.  Years ago, Safeway let us place barrels in stores and we did all we could to urge people to donate.  Other corporate sponsors helped us purchase colorful wraps to go around the barrels.  We put the types of food we most wanted on the barrel wraps and on flyers.  Volunteer groups passed the flyers out to shoppers as they went into the stores.  Those efforts produced thousands of pounds of food donated by a generous community.

For the last five years, NBC Bay Area has partnered with Safeway to help stock the shelves of local food banks. In addition to providing on air promotion, the station enlists hundreds of volunteers – including NBC Bay Area anchors and reporters helping at their own neighborhood Safeway Stores –to encourage shoppers to donate food items. NBC Bay Area is once again teaming up with Safeway Stores for a one-day food drive on Saturday, November 22, kicking off a month-long effort to fight hunger with Bay Area Food Banks, a collaboration of seven food banks serving over 780,000 local residents each month. The “Help Us End Hunger” food drive will take place at 155 Safeway locations throughout the Bay Area making it easy for community members to participate and help feed their neighbors in need.

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 will be delivered to food banks for distribution to needy families. The bags will be available for Safeway shoppers to purchase now through December 25.

The holiday season is the time everyone can help their neighbors in need.  NBC Bay Area, Safeway, Kiwanis clubs, scout troops, other community organizations and the entire community helps make a difference, each in their individual way.

We thank NBC Bay Area and Safeway for bringing attention to the severity of local hunger and for creating a simple way for anyone in our community to help a family in need. The Food Bank and our partners are feeding people in every neighborhood and you can donate to make a difference in the lives of people in your community.

 

Scouts Help Feed Families In Need This Holiday Season

The generous support from the community makes the work of Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano possible.  What we ask is quite straightforward; we need people to donate food, give volunteer time or donate money.  By combining those three things together, in different amounts from different people, we distributed over twenty million pounds of food to people in need last year. The amazing thing for me is the creative ways people find to tie their personal style to helping us in our work.

For example, part of being a Boy Scout is doing a “good turn”.   Boy Scouts know that they have a responsibility to improve their community, so the national organization endorses the Scouting for Food drive.  Scout troops reach out to their neighbors, placing door hangers on people’s front doors.  They come back the following week, picking up bags of food the community wants to share.  Scouting for Food is an incredible one-day effort, brings the Food Bank over 130,000 pounds of food.  Coming in the middle of November, this donated food gives us a perfect start providing food donations to the charities preparing to distribute holiday baskets.

Behind the volunteer work the Scout troops are doing, the Food Bank provides the support they need to succeed.  Scout troops pick up the food donations with their parents on Saturday, November 15 and they return it to a central location (usually a church or school parking lot) where the Food Bank has placed bins to collect the food.  Scout troops are at those locations as well, overseeing the consolidation of the donations.  Food comes in to these collections sites all day, and then the Food Bank trucks pick food up and bring it back to our warehouse.

Scouting for Food brings in more than three trailer loads of food which we need to distribute quickly.  Volunteers from corporations, service clubs, faith communities (and even some Scout troops) come to our warehouse to help sort the donations we have received.  Volunteers sort the food into seventeen different categories, putting things like peanut butter, tuna, canned fruit and canned vegetables in separate boxes.  With this sorting done, Food Bank partner agencies receive the food they need to help the people they feed during the holidays.

The effort involved in getting the food from Scouting for Food into the hands of hungry people is done mostly by volunteers.  Volunteer Scouts collect the food and we help by transporting what they have raised.  Community volunteers come to our warehouse to sort the food.  Staff members roll bins of unsorted food into the sorting room so volunteers can prepare it for the volunteer-run agencies that provide food to those in need. These incredible volunteers enable us to supply millions of pounds of donated food to a community in need.