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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.

Sponsors Are Critical in the Fight Against Hunger

At the Food Bank, we are careful stewards of the money donated to us, ensuring that as much as possible goes to providing food to the people we serve. Savvy donors have been using sites such as Charity Navigator and GuideStar to make more informed decisions about where to donate their dollars.  We have to ask ourselves often “are we putting donations raised to the best use possible?”

One of the factors that enables us to put 95 cents out of every dollar raised directly into food assistance programs is our connection to the local business community.  Sponsorship opportunities help us not only purchase nearly half the food we distribute, but also afford the necessary items we need to spread the word about our work. It allows us to promote and acknowledge local businesses, strengthening our ties to the community.

For instance, to spread the word out about our recent event Empty Bowls, we wanted to print materials to distribute to potential guests. We carefully source a good price for printing, then reach out to potential supporters.  We were fortunate to have Appel Law Firm in Walnut Creek become our print sponsor for Empty Bowls. They were happy to help, and saw it as an opportunity to support our mission. Thanks to Appel Law Firm, we were able to give your registration fee a lot more hunger-fighting power!

In addition to the print sponsor, Chevron bought bowls for the event and even came out to paint them, add those to bowls donated by Clay Planet of Santa Clara and the Walnut Creek Clay Arts Guild, bread donated by Panera Bread, soups donated by local agencies and businesses, media sponsorship supplied by CBS5 and Diablo Magazine, and what do you have?  An event where the bottom line is all about the people we serve.

We could not move forward with our mission to end hunger without the generous support of the local business community.

If you would like to become a sponsor, we have many options available. Please contact Kathy Gleason, kgleason@foodbankccs.org for more information.

Kraft Rolls Out a ‘Farmers’-Market-On-Wheels’ for the Food Bank

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is fighting hunger one mile at a time with the gift of a new Kraft Mobile Pantry truck.  The refrigerated vehicle will hit the road to bring a fresh produce to low-income areas in the community, expanding the reach of the Food Bank while delivering fresh fruit and vegetables.

 This truck is part of a nationwide fleet being rolled out by Kraft Foods Foundation (now known as Mondelēz International Foundation) and Feeding America, to reach those hardest hit with food insecurity. The mobile pantry will be used as part of the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program to expand the service area to West Contra Costa and Solano county to bring approximately 20 pounds per person of four to seven types of produce to three distribution sites per day serving 50-200 people, depending upon the site and location, at a time when the need has never been greater.

 Here in Contra Costa and Solano counties, 1 in 4 of our neighbors face food insecurity.  We’re seeing more residents reaching out for food assistance than ever before.   The Kraft Mobile Pantry could not come at a better time to help us increase the number of clients and areas we are able to reach.

 Fighting hunger is not new for Kraft.  The company has partnered with Feeding America for decades to do just that.  The mobile pantry program is one of many programs making a difference in communities where the company’s employees live and work.

Special Program Sees to Nutrition Needs of Seniors

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: I remember reading a quote from a political leader that said you can best evaluate a society by how well it takes care of its children and its elderly. From my experience with Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano programs, I am convinced our society can do better. The huge number of children and senior citizens coming to us for food assistance says that our social programs are not doing what they should.

One of the first direct distributions the Food Bank established was the Senior Food Program. In the early 1980s, it was obvious that Social Security benefits were not adequate to support an individual in the Bay Area. Seniors had to make difficult decisions about housing, medical care and the basics of life. When stories started coming back to us about people eating less to save money, we knew we should try to make a difference with the food donations available to us.

Beginning with 50 people, we have grown the Senior Food Program to 3,300 seniors at 28 sites in Solano and Contra Costa counties. Last year, more than 1.3 million pounds of food went to the senior citizens who participate in this program.

We are also working with those who are part of the Senior Food Program because they may be eligible to receive Cal Fresh (formerly food stamps) benefits. The people this program serves recognize that their health depends on their diet. If they are going to avoid significant medical costs, good food is important to their health.

I am grateful the community support we receive allows the Food Bank to make a difference in the lives of senior citizens.

If you are a senior who could use food assistance, or know someone who can, please go to www.foodbankccs.org/get-help/senior-food-program.html or call (toll free) (855) 309-3663.

 

Helping Put Healthy Food on the Table

Juan Orozco teamed up with Liliana Sandoval from the San Francisco and Marin Food Bank

By Juan Orozco, CalFresh Outreach Coordinator for Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano: In an effort to educate and raise public awareness about CalFresh, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is partnering with other Bay Area food banks to provide CalFresh Outreach at the San Francisco Mexican Consulate.  The goal is to increase participation in federal food assistance programs, thereby helping to reduce food insecurity for people struggling to make ends meet.  Studies have shown one of the primary reasons why low–income households who qualify for CalFresh are not participating in the program is lack of eligibility information.  In collaboration with the San Francisco Mexican Consulate we hope that we can encourage more legal immigrants to apply for the nutrition benefits of CalFresh.  CalFresh helps millions of Americans in need to put nutritious food on their table.

If you would like to learn more about CalFresh eligibility or need assistance with the application process, please visit www.foodbankccs.org/calfresh.

Will Workout for Turkey

Guest post by Laura Collins, Special Events Assistant: For the first time in many years, I did not host Thanksgiving. I didn’t have to prepare dishes days beforehand. I didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to pull the turkey from the cooler full of brine, or get the deep fryer ready, or pesto rub my free range bird, or do whatever the turkey de jour was for that year. So when I got up that morning, well, I just felt so aimless, I ended up burrowing into my sofa watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade just to feel like it was a holiday. LAME.

I made a promise to myself that I would never do that again, that I would do something to make my Thanksgiving morning meaningful, I mean that’s what it’s all about, right? The 65 people that turned out for Fit 2 the Core’s Turkey Day Workout made it meaningful this year. Talk about burn baby burn! These motivated folks spent their Thanksgiving morning torching calories, boosting their metabolism and put themselves through one hard core workout so that when they sat down to their feast, they earned it! (I just remembered, I did get up a couple of times to get more coffee – that had to burn at least, what, 24 calories??)

Tim and the Crew at Fit to the Core, provided this opportunity to do something healthy for participants, and they also provided the opportunity to make it doubly meaningful by helping others in the community. Anyone could participate that morning, with the gift of a minimum of a $10.00 gift certificate from a local grocery store which would donated to the Food Bank to help put holiday meals and nutritious food on the table of a family in need.

Thanks Tim, Donnie, Megan, Kelley and all who joined in that morning, way to do some serious damage control to hunger! And thanks for inspiring this couch potato, next year I’ll be up and about putting the giving back in Thanksgiving!

If you need motivation over the next year, don’t forget to check out what’s happening at the Food Bank, we always have ways to get involved, if you are already a hunger fighter, share your stories!

New Vistas Christian School In Martinez California Helps Feed The Hungry

 

When the Food Bank barrels were delivered, Rachel, one of our students called a local Nob Hill Grocery, Walmart, and Ace Hardware store, to ask if we could place barrels in their businesses. They were all extremely cooperative and the public response to our barrels was overwhelming. In the three weeks that we held our drive we collected from students, and participating businesses around 1,500 lbs. of food, as well as a $100.00 check donated to the Food Bank by a generous donor. We would like to say a big “Thank You,” to all of the businesses and people in the community who supported our efforts.

Hunger Speaks to a Global Audience

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is a member of Feeding America, a national network of food banks. Our service is local in Solano and Contra Costa counties, but we are also part of a national effort dedicated to bringing an end to hunger. Through this national work we find connections that are inspiring.

We were recently contacted by representatives of Elanco, a Greenfield, Ind.-based business that develops products to improve the health and food productivity of farm animals. A group of their international leadership was at a symposium in Napa, and Elanco’s corporate culture meant that a breakout session included a trip to the Food Bank so they could learn about the CalFresh (food stamp) program.

We discussed our overall work at the food bank and specifically the outreach we do trying to enroll more people in the CalFresh program.

The Elanco folks were given a WalMart gift card and went to the local store to try to buy food for their family for a week on a CalFresh budget. Although they shopped for values to stretch their dollars, they realized the challenges people face when they are using the CalFresh program.

The Elanco folks are scientists, well-educated, intelligent and knowledgeable about food and nutrition. It was a transformation for them to realize they could not have the food they wanted, but had to make tough choices about the food they needed and the nutritional value they wanted to reach.

Part of the work of both our Food Bank and Feeding America is to help people understand why hunger exists.

Because of the culture Elanco has, we now have 40 knowledgeable people talking to their friends about what the food stamp program means and the challenges people at risk of hunger face every day.