Blog

Archive for ‘ Featured ’

Breaking the Cycle

Guest post by Food Bank friend Marla Williams: Monopoly money, something I remember thinking as a young child standing impatiently by my mother’s side, watching her tear paper coupons out of a book and hand them to the cashier. I was too young to understand anything different about the poverty my brothers and I grew up in. Not long ago, I found myself in a similar situation. A few years back, instead of waking up Christmas morning excited about opening presents like most children, my oldest daughter Lilia ran into my room and jumped on my bed exclaiming to the world that she knew it was Christmas because Santa had come and filled up the kitchen with food. That was my epiphany. I’m Marla Williams and this is the window into the life of a struggling family. A mother determined to break the cycle of poverty.  A woman fueled by the love of my family, my community, my education, and leadership.

Marla and her family

Marla and her family

Lilia loves to read and has a quiet and kind disposition. Victoria continuously will surprise people with a sense of humor often far beyond her age and is very prone to expressing her wit at random. Michael, my husband; is a former veteran who has served two tours in Iraq. Michael is currently enrolled at Los Medanos College working on his associate’s degree. Michael is also employed full time making minimum wage. Our family has faced some challenges in the past few years.

In July 2008 I held a job in the mortgage industry that paid fairly well. Two years later, I was laid off.  Through the discouragement of the situation, the children had to adapt suddenly to several new changes at once. They went from a life that was comfortable to a life that left them struggling .They have slept in the backseat in the early hours of morning while their mother worked a second job throwing newspapers out of the car window to make ends meet. They’ve been without warm clothes for school until our family could afford them. Lilia and Toria know what it is to be hungry and go without. It is their love that keeps my husband and I motivated.

After being laid off, I got a job at a well known coffee company to help make ends meet.  I knew my family would need some additional assistance with food and finances. At that time I decided to seek out answers within my community. I went to social services to see what programs I might qualify for to temporarily better our situation. After the frustration of being told we make too much money for some forms of assistance, I discovered that we could get help with groceries and fresh produce from the Food Bank.

Today, after graduating Opportunity Junction (a partner agency of the Food Bank) and helping my family change our circumstances, the holidays this year will look different for my girls. Michael is no longer working at a minimum wage job, however money is still tight. The Food Bank is the glue that holds struggling families together when we have expenses like a $900.00 car repair and there isn’t enough money left over to buy groceries. I went to the local pantry to pick up groceries just this morning so we can make it until his next payday this Friday.

I’m a dedicated individual when it comes to making our communities more resourceful for families in need. I believe in the power one individual can have to change not only their circumstances for the better but for the community around them as well. My family is on our way to no longer needing support from the Food Bank, but many like us are still in need of a helping hand. I will continue to fight to save community programs that are so vital to hundreds of families facing these financial challenges in today’s economy.

Serafino Bianchi and the Bianchi Real Estate Team: Feeding Families and Saving the Planet one bag at a time.

Guest Post by the Bianchi Real Estate Team: Did you know that nearly 400 billion pounds of plastic bags are used and thrown away every year? Less than 2% of that gets recycled, and the rest ends up swirling around in our oceans, damaging the eco-system and marine life. Alameda County has taken action by banning plastic shopping bags, and many individual stores have begun to charge for bags as well, to encourage their patrons to bring their own and recycle.10463910_10152373751304272_4815320970385287736_n

In light of all this, Serafino Bianchi of the Bianchi Real Estate Team had an idea. What if he provided eco-friendly grocery totes for his clients? He could provide a nice service, help save the planet, and remind his clients to think of him the next time they wanted to buy or sell their home – all at the same time.

He ordered the bags, and started putting them into the hands of his clients. They were a huge hit! Both fashionable and functional, these beautiful reusable bags are making a scene at the local grocery markets in Pleasanton, Alamo, and Danville.20140715_152630

Serafino grew up in Italy and developed a taste for healthy, wholesome food at a young age. As a young boy, loved to pick blueberries, mushrooms, and chestnuts from the wild countryside. He loves to tell stories about how the chestnuts were dried and prepared in a huge two-story stove in his tiny hometown, and how his mother would make chestnut soup and bread from the dried nuts

Since Serafino’s bags are being used to carry food, he thought about how he could help those in need who didn’t have access to a healthy meal, and decided to team up with theFood Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County. The Food Bank has been serving the community for over 35 years, and serves approximately 149,000 hungry people in need every month.

Serafino and the Bianchi team will donate to the Food Bank every time someone buys or sells a home in 2014. This feeds a family of four for an entire month with the sale or purchase of just one home.

Grocery Outlet Independence from Hunger

002 (2)UPDATE: As of 7/10, the Concord Grocery Outlet collected 4,644 pounds and they has 6 full barrels!

The Grocery Outlet store at 1840 Willow Pass Road in Concord has collected 1,693 pounds of food in three days for the kickoff of their Independence From Hunger Food Drive! They have prepacked bags for a variety of prices between $3 and $10 so everyone can afford one or more bags to donate. Let’s all help the Concord Grocery Outlet Store beat their total last year of 5,400 pounds of food donated in July. Buy a prepacked bag of food and place it in the barrel during the month of July. Every bag will provide meals for those in need in our community.

Mildred Celebrates Her 97th Birthday with the Food Bank

By Meg Zentner, Senior Food Program Coordinator: Mildred was born on April 9, 1917 in Stockton. She spent her childhood in a tiny town outside Tracy and someplace called Fireball. Her father worked for Standard Oil and in 1929 when she was 12 the family moved to Brentwood, where she has lived ever since.

mildredShe has been married twice and has no children, but is very close to her nephew and his kids. Early in her first marriage she traveled around with her husband who was an agricultural state inspector. When he returned from the service at the end of WWII they bought a walnut farm in Brentwood from her father in-law where she has lived ever since. They farmed it together until her husband passed away. She worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross, and later ran the crafts program at the original Brentwood Senior Center. Mildred started volunteering at the Senior Food Program site in Brentwood 3 months after its inception in 1981 and has been there ever since. Mildred still drives and lives independently on her walnut farm. She is an awesome human being. As I told the volunteers at her birthday party today, “When I grow up I want to be just like Mil”.

To find out how you can make friends and have fun with the Food Bank, visit www.foodbankccs.org/gethelp.

20 Creative Ways to Save with Leftovers

Written by Lauren Strouse, Fairfield Office Assistant: I grew up learning to cook in a household where leftovers were part of the menu plan in order to stretch the family food dollar. My mother didn’t waste food. As a young parent, I did the same thing, both to save money as well as time.  Reconfiguring ingredients that are already cooked can save you a lot of time on a busy weeknight. leftoversHere are some ways to save money by turning the food you have on hand into brand new dishes.

  • Use leftover roasted chicken to make chicken and noodle casserole, chicken a la king, chicken soup, or enchiladas.
  • Roast pork, beef or ham can be used in sandwiches, stews, soup, or to stuff a pita.
  • Combine leftover shredded or cubed roast beef with golden mushroom soup, sautéed onions and mushrooms and a little wine or water to make a sauce for egg noodles; add a little sour cream and you almost have stroganoff.
  • Remember hash? Add cubed leftover beef to cubed or sliced sautéed potatoes and onion.
  • Cubed ham can go into pasta and rice dishes, omelets and sandwiches or pair with potatoes.
  • Leftover rice or other grains like barley or faro can be combined with fresh or frozen vegetables and a little cubed pork, ham, or chicken to make fried rice.
  • Create a southwestern style casserole with leftover rice mixed with cream of chicken soup, canned green chilies, a bit of sour cream, grated jack cheese, beans (black, kidney or pinto), leftover chicken, plus seasonings like cumin and chili powder.
  • Combine rice with ground beef or turkey, a little soy sauce, cream of celery soup, celery, onion, green beans or pea pods, and water chestnuts, for mock chow mein. Top with some crispy noodles for crunch.
  • Leftover fresh or frozen vegetables can go into soups or stews and pasta dishes.
  • Cooked asparagus, artichoke hearts, zucchini, fennel, greens like spinach, and mushrooms are great in frittatas and omelets.
  • Toss leftover spinach and other greens straight into pasta sauces, bean and grain dishes to increase the nutritional value.
  • Leftover broccoli and cauliflower can be cooked with a little onion, garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese and served over spaghetti.  The trick is to reheat the veggies gently so you don’t overcook them.
  • Turn leftover vegetables into soup with sautéed onion and garlic. Cover with chicken broth, add whatever seasonings strike your fancy, cook until soft, puree, and thin if needed with milk (fat free evaporated is great for this and shelf stable).
  • Find yourself with half a loaf of bakery bread? Make a sweet or savory bread pudding or a strata. Layer the bread with leftover meat, veggies and cheese, soak it with an egg/milk mixture, then bake. The sweet version incorporates dried or fresh fruits like apples and cherries or even pumpkin.
  • Turn leftover bread into bread crumbs and keep them in your freezer to use in meatloaf or meatballs, or when a bread crumb mixture is called for in a recipe.
  • Do you have pound cake or angel food cake getting stale? Cube the cake and layer it in parfait or dessert glasses with vanilla pudding and fresh fruit like berries or bananas. Add some almonds or other nuts for crunch along with whipped cream on top.
  • Add leftover beef stew to a deep baking dish, make or buy pie crust, top the stew with pie crust, bake, and you have beef pot pie.
  • Make an easy shepherd’s pie with leftover mashed potatoes.  Cook ground meat with onion, a little garlic and add veggies like peas, carrots or green beans. Spread the potatoes on top and bake until the potatoes are golden and the pie is bubbling.
  • Mix leftover mashed potatoes with an egg and a bit of flour, shape into patties and fry to make mashed potato pancakes. Add shredded salmon or chicken and a bit of onion for potato croquettes.
  • Leftover polenta can be cut and fried or layered in a baking dish with tomato sauce, cheese, sliced cooked vegetables like eggplant and zucchini, spinach or chard, onions and mushrooms and then baked to create a kind of lasagna (just be very light handed with the sauce).

Save yourself some money and learn to utilize your leftovers. Let your creative juices flow and create delicious “planned over” dishes for your family.

38 Years of Food Banking

cfcoalition 77

The Community Food Coalition 2 years after it was founded in 1977. Larry Sly is 3rd from the right.

I just celebrated my 38th year working at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and so it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the changes I have seen. When I was hired, I was the second employee; the one and only truck driver. At that time the Food Bank was a trailer Safeway had loaned us to store canned food. Our job was to provide food to 17 food pantries that gave people an emergency three-day food supply. Individuals who tried to obtain government assistance programs like CalFresh (food stamps) often found that they had neglected to bring proper documentation, so the eligibility worker was able to use the community resource these food pantries represented to deal with a short term emergency.

We still provide food to pantries today, in addition to our direct service programs, but many programs now provide food to people on a regular basis. Even if people receive government support, they have difficult time getting by on a limited income. The first Food Bank direct program was what is now known as the Senior Food Program because we saw that people could not make ends meet on Social Security alone. The Food Assistance Program was set up to give surplus food from the US Department of Agriculture to low-income people. The availability of fresh produce allowed for the creation of the Farm 2 Kids program and the Community Produce Program.

Food Banking has changed as the need in the community changed. The government programs that provide financial assistance to people in need have greatly diminished. While we cannot make up the loss, we are able to make a difference for those at risk of hunger. We’d like to get back to a place where people only need food from us in an emergency, but until hunger is recognized as a national issue, the Food Bank will do all we can to help people get the nutritious food they need.

Farm Bill Passes in the House, Sent to the Senate for Vote Next Week

United_States_Capitol

Originally posted by our friends at Feeding America San Diego: After three years of negotiations, the House of Representatives has approved the Farm Bill by a vote of 251-166, with 15 members not voting on Wednesday, January 29, 2014.

The Senate is expected to begin procedural moves this week so that a Senate vote on the Farm Bill will take place on Monday next week.

Highlights from the nutrition title include the following (all numbers are based on a ten-year budget):

  • $8.55 billion cut to SNAP by tightening the “Heat and Eat” policy, which would affect the following states:  California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • $205 million increase for TEFAP.  The TEFAP funding would be front loaded to provide greater resources in the initial three years of the bill, with an additional $50 million in FY2015, $40 million in FY2016, $20 million in FY2017, $15 million in FY2018 and FY2019, $16 million in FY2020, FY2021, and FY2022, and $17 million in FY2023.  The funding is indexed for food price inflation.  This funding also has the same transfer authority as TEFAP mandatory funding, allowing states to transfer up to 10% of the funding into TEFAP storage and distribution grants.
  • Establishes the Dairy Donation Program. If dairy prices fall below a specific price trigger for 5 consecutive months, USDA is authorized to begin a dairy purchase program, with the dairy products going to public and private nonprofit organizations, and with instructions for USDA to consult with nonprofits on the type of dairy products requested. While there is no set cost, this would provide additional commodities much like TEFAP bonus commodities do when prices are low enough to trigger USDA price support.
  • $250 million for states to pilot innovative programs help SNAP participants get back to work.
  • Clarifies allowable SNAP outreach activities (for example, forbids outreach workers from receiving rewards on a per-head basis for number of applications processed).
  • Improves SNAP access by allowing SNAP home delivery for homebound seniors and disabled participants.
  • Promotes access to nutritious food by tightening stocking requirements for SNAP retailers and testing new ways to use EBT cards (for example, swiping on a mobile device at a farmers’ market).
  • Improves SNAP integrity through new measures to combat trafficking of benefits by retailers and recipients and policy changes forbidding benefits for lottery winners and affluent college students.
  • Transitions the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) to a senior only program, allowing women and children currently participating in the program to remain on the caseload.
  • Protects SNAP nutrition education.

While, elements of this bill are positive, the cuts to SNAP are devastating for Californians and people in other states impacted by this cut. Please call Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and tell them “Vote NO on the Farm Bill. I oppose all SNAP cuts.” The number to use is the Capitol Switchboard:  (202)-224-3121.

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.

Growing Food to Build Community

Sometimes I think it can be easy for us to forget how fortunate many of us are and why we need organizations like the Food Bank. This week I had the pleasure of attending a three day conference in Tucson titled Closing the Hunger Gap. The conference was made up of three parts:

1. Visiting existing programs
2. Learning and brainstorming about issues relate to hunger relief including policy change and nutrition
3. Planning actions we will take over the next year to make a change

On day one I went with a group to see a school, soup kitchen, farm and home garden.

The school was amazing! Everyday the kids are involved in the operation of the school garden and sustainability program at the school. They grow fruits and veggies, raise chicken and tilapia, compost, collect rain water and host a farmers’ market. Incredible! The outcomes are just as amazing from increased attendance and parent involvement to better understanding of math and overall academic improvement. I encourage you to check out www.goManzo.com to see all the amazing work the school and community are doing.

At the soup kitchen I was again blown away and honestly I wasn’t expecting much here. Terrible I know but I thought I’ve seen soup.kitchen and know what good works they do. What could I possible learn here? Well, this soup kitchen not only feeds people everyday (except thanksgiving and Christmas – because “everyone else wants to do that”) but every afternoon they spend working on community organizing. They are working on keeping bus fares from increasing knowing the people they serve absolutely cannot afford even a five cent increase. A crossing guard was needed so families could safely cross the street to get their food and the community organizers at Casa Maria helped make that happen. It’s amazing how a group of community members can affect so much change. I think we forget the power we have.

Next stop on our tour was the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona’s farm. Community plots are available for families and groups. The food bank also grows food for their services, but the farm is more than that. It’s a place for the neighborhood to gather and to continue a tradition of farming that has been taking place there for thousands of years. One gentleman spoke about how he brings kids on probation to the farm and what a difference that make in their lives. The host potlucks and workshops. It’s an outdoor community center for that neighborhood.

Finally we went to the home of a man who is growing food in his front yard to provide for his family. The food bank helped by providing education and starter plants. Also he sells some of the produce on consignment at the food banks farmers market.

This blog post doesn’t do justice to what I saw last month. Amazing work being done in a community that not only needed help with food but also help remembering how to be a community. They are being given space to gather and learn as well as the tools to affect lasting change in their community. I think this is something we should all think on. 

USDA Releases New Food Insecurity Report During Hunger Action Month

hunger action month banner

Breaking News – The United States Department of Agriculture reported today that 14.5 percent of American households (15.6% in California) remain food insecure, meaning those households had difficulty at some time during the year in providing enough food for all their members.

When it comes to food insecurity rates, any number is too high. That’s why the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano — along with the Feeding America nationwide network of food banks — is asking you take action this September during Hunger Action Month.

Here are three easy actions you can take:

GO ORANGE! Orange is the official color of hunger awareness and makes a bold statement to start the conversation about hunger. Join us tomorrow, September 5, by wearing the color orange. Or show your support online by making your Facebook and Twitter profiles orange. Don’t have any orange? We’ve got you covered. Fill out this form to receive Go Orange materials to share with friends and family.

EXPERIENCE the Hunger Challenge happening September 16-20. Can you shop and eat for just $4.50 a day? Get a sense of what life is like for those struggling to put food on the table with the average benefit for people who receive SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). Sign me up for the Hunger Challenge!

SHARE a hunger fact with friends, share the action calendar or just share a great pic of your Go Orange activities with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram#HungerAction.

Ready to take action? Check out a list of actions you can take during Hunger Action Month and beyond!

Together, we can solve hunger.