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“Hungry” Plays a Role in Education

Guest post by Food Bank volunteer Leslie Mladinich: When I think of hunger having a voice, I think of TV commercials showing starving children in faraway lands and a celebrity asking for a monthly pledge to feed that child.

But the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s educational play, Hungry, showed me that hunger does have a real voice, and it’s speaking right here in our own community.

Hunger is an actual character who acts as the conscience of Eric, a middle school student who struggles with not having enough food to eat when his father is out of work. The play wraps up its 4-week tour today at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, with more than 4,000 students learning about hunger through this innovative tool each Fall. (Information about booking future performances can be found at the end of the article).

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Commissioned by the Food Bank, the play was written by award-winning playwright Patricia Loughrey to educate the community in a unique way. Throughout the plot, professional actors alternate in roles of students, teachers, a mother, father, fast food server, nutritionist, school nurse, and Food Bank employees to convey that hunger is a strong emotional and physiological force.

And it isn’t isolated to those faraway lands in television commercials.

But with his booming, abrasive rap, the character of Hunger is the loudest: he voices Eric’s dialogue in his head – broadcasting the physical pains, scattered concentration, and low energy that come with having to skip meals regularly.

Thinking back on my time in middle school, I could put myself in the shoes of Reena, a cliquey, insecure girl who doesn’t want to work with Eric, “that weird guy who sleeps all the time,” when they are assigned a joint class presentation on hunger. Eric is also hesitant to work with Reena, afraid she’ll discover his secret of having mayonnaise sandwiches for dinner and being constantly hungry. He doesn’t want her to know that along with falling asleep in class, hunger causes his stomach to hurt and his mind to obsess with embarrassment. When Reena gives Eric a bag of food she carries on the bus to his house, he throws it away because he’s ashamed of taking a handout.

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Eric and Reena tour their local Food Bank for research. For example, as Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director Larry Sly pointed out before the play, the Food Bank helps some 149,000 people each month and distributed approximately 16 million pounds of food last year which is enough food for 13 million meals. Startled by the statistics and not feeling so alone, Eric realizes it is okay for others to know his family is hungry and declares to Reena: “Why is it any different for you to help me with food than for me to help you with math?” Eric decides he is going to ask his parents to get help from the Food Bank because: “I’m sick of being hungry.”

Interest in the topic of hunger is rising and through the play, actors tell community members how they can help. They could donate their time and food. Sandra Scherer, Executive Director of the Monument Crisis Center in Concord, said the play hit on themes that she sees everyday from clients across the economic spectrum.

“Hunger hits across all of our communities,” she said.

The play Hungry makes it possible to humanize this.

For nearly 10 years, the Food Bank has been using theatre as an educational tool by sponsoring this free performance. Questions about sponsorship opportunities or booking “Hungry” performances should be directed to Patty McDowell at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543, extension 243. 

Who Needs Help?

The things I learn as I am out being the representative of the Food Bank can be overwhelming sometimes.  I had a woman at a presentation I made last week hand me her business card.  The card said she has a B.A. and a M.A. in Counseling Psychology.  But the handwritten message on the card said “Jobs at Food Bank?  I REALLY NEED A JOB! PLEASE CALL”.  I talked to her so I know what her skills are if a job should open up at the Food Bank. Unfortunately I am not her answer today.  She needs a job and is doing all she can to get the position she needs, but even with the skill she has she cannot get the job she needs right now.

I also got a note we received with a financial donation that said “Enclosed please find a check in the amount of $1000.  This is a donation to the Food Bank.  After spending five months unemployed, I made a pledge to myself to contribute to the Food Bank once I was employed again.  Happily this is now the case.  I hope you find this donation helpful.”

I don’t know if these people received food from the Food Bank, but they demonstrate that there is a real need in the community today.  People who used to donate to us have been unemployed for months.  People with advanced degrees are not able to find work.  Our community is in a very fragile place right now, and the Food Bank is doing all we can to provide food to those who need help.

For more way you can help, visit www.foodbankccs.org/givehelp.

Interact Club of MVHS Takes on a Food Drive

Guest post by Ambassador Aaron Yuen: The Interact Club of Monte Vista High School in Danville once again is sponsoring a food drive. Last year, the club collected 2,550 pounds of food, quite a huge accomplishment for a student organization which utilized only the lunch break to plan and launch the food drive.

To kick off the food drive this year, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano was invited to give a talk to student members on Thursday, March 22. Having two graduates of MVHS in my family, I was delighted to take on the assignment wearing the MVHS colors of red and black and a Food Bank Ambassador badge at the same time.

The student members are very much into community service.  In addition to doing the food drive, the club is planning a car wash to raise funds to help fight teenage slavery trafficking.

Monte Vista received 15 barrels on Monday, April 16 and called to report that they are collecting food. They also mentioned they are not giving the barrels back until they are completely full.

Our future generation at work taking on current issues!

Admirable and inspirational indeed.

Food Bank Educates Students

“The Hungry play is top notch in every way — good acting, nicely and cleverly staged, and the message, which all kids need to hear, was clearly and age-appropriately stated through the story of the play. I’m a fan!”

This is just one of the many positive comments we’ve received regarding the Food Bank’s FREE live performances of the play entitled, Hungry at middle schools throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties. Hungry, written by award-winning playwright, Patricia Loughrey debuted in 2004 and tours annually. In 2010, Hungry was performed in front of more than 6,000 students, teachers and parents and typically, schools follow up on the message of the play by organizing holiday food drives or including hunger as a topic in their social science studies. The Food Bank is currently scheduling morning performance dates for Fall 2011.

There is no cost to the school and the gymnasium or multipurpose room can serve as a venue for the play. The play runs about 40 minutes and should fit within a single class period. If you would like to preview that play, a DVD can be provided for you per your request.

Note to Businesses: Your sponsorship is a fantastic opportunity to promote your company, enhance your presence within the local community, and be recognized as a supporter of hunger education.

Please contact Patty McDowell (pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543 extension 243) for any questions you have or if you would like to preview the play, schedule a performance, or find out about sponsorship opportunities.

Mangos!

Millions of Mangos or so it seemed! Today we received mangos which we had never received before. So after seeing all of these mangos, I had to look on the internet to see what to do with one. We received these mangos from a produce distributor in Ventura. I am sure all of the California food banks have them right now so this is pretty exciting to have something new and exotic. Will the children eat them – I definitely think so.

So here is what you need to know: The mango is a comfort food. Mangos really can make you feel better! Beyond being delicious and rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, mangos contain an enzyme with stomach soothing properties and act as a digestive aid. Mangos are an excellent source of Vitamins A and C, as well as a good source of Potassium and contain beta carotene. Mangos are high in fiber, but low in calories (approx. 110 per average sized mango), fat (only 1 gram) and sodium.

That is all nice but how do you eat it? You can slice it and eat it or put it in a salad or a rice dish. You can put it in an omelet, add it to French toast or cereal. Add a mango to soup or pizza or just about any dish you can think of. The recipes are endless. So this seems to be the perfect fruit! Check out www.freshmangoes.com to see some great recipes and learn more about the mango. Our mangos are on their way to hundreds of children today. I hope they like them and learn how wonderful fruit can be.

Bad Apples Gone Good

When we buy fresh produce for those we help, we often find broken open apples that we can’t distribute to people. Based on health department regulations, we can’t distribute these bad apples but we also don’t want those we help to feel they deserve badly bruised or broken apples. So what do we do with these apples? Well, today I got to deliver a few small containers of bad apples to Loma Vista Farm in Vallejo (an educational farm not far from Six Flags Theme Park). My two favorite cows, Oreo and Keebler could hardly wait for me to hand them an apple. They open their mouths and I just put the apple inside – their tongues are really scratchy! After a few hand fed apples, I dumped the rest in their food bin. They are really happy cows right now. It is a great feeling to be helping the environment by reducing our garbage and helping this wonderful educational farm.

As I was starting to leave, one of our Food Bank trucks pulled up to the school down the street delivering the Farm 2 Kids produce. Rita, at Loma Vista Farm told me the children will come and visit the cows and chickens later today and notice that the farm animals have apples to eat. She uses this as an educational moment to explain to the children that farm animals also need fresh produce. So if Keebler and Oreo like apples, you children should too. She says it always works and the children come back the next week saying how much they now like apples and how much they appreciate the farm animals as they are pretty smart animals. I left with a smile on my face knowing our community partner Loma Vista Farms is helping spread the word of how good fresh produce is for all of us.

Oreo and Keebler

Oreo and Keebler (picture from the Loma Vista farms facebook page)

The Food Stamp Challenge comes to end for some, but not for the thousands of people who live with hunger every day.

The San Francisco Food Bank 2009 Hunger Challenge ran from September 20-26. For seven days, participants ate on $4 dollars a day, the budget of a food stamp recipient.

Read about CBS 5 Reporter Sue Kwon’s week on the Hunger Challenge. http://cbs5.com/consumer/hunger.challenge.food.2.1198974.html

No room for error living on $4 a day

A cup of coffee cost Sue Kwon a big part of her $4 food budget. See what she has to say here: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=55825@kpix.dayport.com

CBS 5 Reporter Takes $4-A-Day Hunger Challenge

The San Francisco Food Bank’s 2009 Hunger Challenge is this week – September 20-26. CBS 5 ConsumerWatch reporter Sue Kwon takes on the challenge and will file reports everyday this week documenting her experiment that we hope will put a spotlight on hunger.

Tuesday: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=55719@kpix.dayport.com

And Wednesday: http://cbs5.com/video/?id=55774@kpix.dayport.com

If you’re taking on the Hunger Challenge we would like to hear about it. If you are on food stamps and have budget stretching ideas or want to share your thoughts, please share them with CBS 5.

Hunger Solutions

We would like to thank Joel Berg for speaking at Clayton Books on March 14 and at the Food Bank on March 16. Even if you missed the event, be sure to read the book. Below are Joel’s facts for California and his ideas for solving hunger in America.

THE FACTS: California
? According to the USDA, from 2005 to 2007, more than ten percent of California residents were hungry or at risk for hunger – and that was before the recent economic crisis. High food prices and skyrocketing unemployment have only made things worse, as millions of additional Americans have been forced to join the lines at soup kitchens and food pantries in California and across the country.
? In 2006, California ranked last in food stamp participation among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to a 2008 USDA report. (Note: The Federal Food Stamp Program was recently re-named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.)
? At last tally, in 2007, 36.2 million Americans lived in homes that couldn’t afford enough food – including more than 12 million children.
? According to a Harvard study, hunger costs our country an estimated $90 billion per year in decreased worker productivity, impaired educational performance, and increased health care spending.

THE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS
? Reform, streamline, yet increase the purchasing power of more than a dozen existing federal government nutrition programs, like food stamps and school meals.
? Provide universal, free school breakfasts in classrooms to all students, regardless of family income.
? Implement a national plan to increase living wage jobs and slash poverty.
? Give charities the resources they need to fill in the gaps after government has done its job.

To learn more, read the book and visit http://joelberg.net/.