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Hunger-Fighter Finishes Year of Service

 This month, Heidi Kleiner completed her term of service as an Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteer at Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

 Heidi made a significant contribution to Food Bank by recruiting, training, and organizing a specialized group of volunteers to help low-income individuals and families sign up for CalFresh, also known as SNAP nationwide.  She undertook the training of volunteers as well as partner agencies on how they could help their clients apply for benefits.  She has connected CalFresh clients with local farmer’s markets and helped them understand how they can utilize their EBT cards to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.  Heidi is part of a class of 36 Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps volunteers spanning 14 states and 18 regions with volunteers collectively completing nearly 75,000 hours of service.

The Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps is an AmeriCorps VISTA project, sponsored by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Walmart Foundation, the ConAgra Foundation and managed by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. The VISTA volunteers work in both rural and urban areas.

Little Faces

Today I was reminded why I work for the Food Bank.  During my normal Sunday grocery shopping trip, I heard someone say “That woman just pushed a whole shopping cart of groceries out the door!”  Within seconds, several employees ran after her.  I was near the front door and it was easy to see the commotion.  An old van was parked just outside the front door.  The mattress tied to the top indicated the family was homeless. A man sat in the drivers seat and two little wide-eyed kids watched  as mom and the cart of groceries was escorted back into the store. As they walked past me the mom repeated “I’ll pay!  I’ll pay!” At this point I continued shopping.  A few minutes later I overheard a clerk say that when they ran her credit card, it was denied. Fortunately for this family, she was allowed to leave without prosecution. I was grateful that the staff recognized a family in crisis.

I looked for the family in the parking lot but they were gone.  I wanted to tell them about the Food Bank resources like Food for Children and the partner agencies with emergency food pantries like the Bay Area Crisis Nursery (for her small children) and the family homeless shelter. I hope I see them again.  I also hope they reach out to help, because it is available.

What a sad reminder about the necessity of the Food Bank and other nonprofit agencies. I don’t think I will forget this family and the little scared faces peering out the van windows. Although this scene will haunt me, I am happy that I was at Safeway when this happened. This was a highly motivating experience.  This is why I work at the Food Bank.

If you know someone in need of food assistance, please visit www.foodbankccs.org or call 1.855.309.FOOD

Kathy Gleason
Corporate and Foundation Relations Manager
Food Bank of contra Costa and Solano

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.

 

Looking Forward to New Projects

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Starting the New Year is a time to reflect on what we have done in the past and what we hope to do in the future. At the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, the New Year is more a check-in time for us because we are already implementing a three-year strategic plan. So the New Year is a time to reflect on where we will go as an organization in the coming year as we think about the exciting events that will take place.

Our most immediate accomplishment is that, within the next two months, we will begin Phase 2 of our Community Produce Program, starting produce distribution in Solano County and Western Contra Costa County. Two trucks full of fresh produce will be on the road five afternoons each week, bringing healthy food to low-income people.

We will also see our vision of working collaboratively with Solano and Contra Costa counties take a step forward in the work we do with CalFresh (the new name for food stamps) outreach. Grant funds have allowed us to add a person to our staff who can build on our solid working relationship, and we hope to be able to do preliminary enrollment for CalFresh participants online, making it easier for eligibility workers to enroll people in the program.

Finally, we will continue to work on our advocacy efforts. Because of the role we play in directly feeding people in need, we bring hands-on knowledge to any discussion about hunger in our community.

In tight budget times, the voices of those in need must be part of the conversation when decisions are made. Cuts made to programs that provide assistance to low-income people have a profound social impact. Elected officials need to understand that budget cuts are not just numbers, they affect people.

Stay in touch with the Food Bank by joining our online community and receiving occasional e-news related to you area(s) of interest at www.foodbankccs.org.

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.

Taking Schools to the Next Level: School Pantries Feed the Minds of Tomorrow

Fall is generally a time of great excitement for school-age kids; it means a new year with a new teacher, new friends, and new beginnings.  Schools serve as so much more than a place where a child learns math or geography, but as a center and safe gathering place for the community surrounding it.  For the 1 out of 4 children who struggle with hunger every day, it can also serve as a place where you can they can count on receiving the food they need to learn and thrive.  The Food Bank has fostered partnerships with schools over the past five years, creating the Farm 2 Kids program that provides five pounds of fresh produce to over 9,000 children at 80 sites each week.  To take these partnerships even further, the Food Bank created a School Pantry program that provides shelf-stable food to high school students in need.

The School Pantries are located on school grounds and run by a school staff member.  This way food can be given out discreetly to avoid any embarrassment that many students already experience during high school years.  The office manager of one high school realized a girl at school was not eating anything except for the free lunch she received at school.  When she spoke with this girl, the student explained that her dad has diabetes and they spend all of their money on buying him special foods.  Sometimes there is just not enough for her brothers and sisters.  She is now able to pick out the foods her family can eat like brown rice, canned vegetables without salt and low-sugar cereals.  This represents a need that the Food Bank would not be able to identify on their own.  Through these strategic partnerships the Food Bank is able to help students of all ages in a way that makes them confident, happy and ready to learn.

The Food Bank is able to maintain programs like school pantries and Farm 2 Kids with support from a generous community. Find out how to donate on our website.

 

West Contra Costa and Solano Produce Sites Needed

Our Community Produce Program is expanding into West Contra Costa and Solano counties come early 2013.  This program provides free produce to low income individuals and families.  The Food Bank will distribute fresh fruits and vegetables directly off of a beverage-style truck at one hour distributions throughout the region.  We are currently looking for community organizations to partner with in these areas.  Some factors we must consider are:

  • Is the organization in a high-need area?
  • Is there a good-sized and well-lit parking lot?
  • Will the organization provide volunteers during the one hour distribution?
  • Will the organization aid in publicizing the program?

If you think that your organization would be a good match, fill out the form below and we will contact you shortly.

The Community Produce Program is People Friendly

Guest post by ambassador Cecelia Williams: As a Food Bank Ambassador, I distributed information for the new Community Produce Program being offered at Antioch High School.  During the high school registration days we reached out to people to publicize free healthy fruits and vegetables on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.  This program is particularly attractive because of the simplicity of qualification.  There are no applications or forms to fill out, and no documentation of any sort needed.  It is run on the honor system and an income chart.  Only two questions are asked: 1) How many people are in your household? and 2) Is your income below this level?  If the person qualifies, he/she signs her name and proceeds down the line to fill his/her bags with fresh healthy fruits and vegetables.  This program is definitely people friendly.

Saturday, August 11 was a great day.  It was the first distribution day at Antioch High School and I had the opportunity to help out.  It was nice meeting Cassie, Will, Matt, and Corinne.  The site is right across from the high school.  I enjoyed “meeting and greeting” everyone as they came to pick up food.  I tried to make it a happy day and a welcome experience for the people that came out on this hot morning.  There were several familiar faces from the Antioch High School registration day, and I gave them an extra big hello and glad to see them.

An informational white board with pictures of food available that day, as well as the upcoming dates was displayed to people while they waited in line to sign in.  I thought it was a nice touch that the item was named in both Spanish and English on the picture, as many of the people were Spanish speaking.

I had met a high school staff volunteer that week named Irma.  She was interested in disseminating information and in volunteering.  It was a wonderful surprise to see that Irma came to help that Saturday morning.

I helped people fill their bags in order to keep the line moving.  I also invited people to help themselves to a little more because we were told there was plenty of fresh produce for everyone.  Not having worked the program before, I was a bit worried about running out of food, which absolutely did not happen.  Everyone went home with bags full.  What a great feeling.

One lady said to me (in Spanish), “Thank you for helping us.”  I responded, “Each of us needs a little help now and then.”

My goal as an ambassador or in any of my volunteer work is to make a small, but positive difference for at least one person.  This world is made up of many people…one person at a time.  I am just one individual, so improving the world is a daunting thought, but helping one person, and then another, and then another….that I CAN do.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano staff really had the site organized and ready to go.  The ease with which the program flowed was awesome.  It was a good day and it was certainly my pleasure to help.

To learn about volunteer opportunities with the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program, email volunteerhelpdesk@foodbankccs.org or call Sharon at (925) 676-7543 extension 209.

Farm 2 Kids Program Recognized by Kaiser

Guest post by Food Bank Grants Coordinator Don McCall – Farm 2 Kids provides 3-5 pounds of nutritious produce every week to low-income children in after school programs. The program not only received a very generous $25,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente Napa-Solano this year, but the program was also honored with a second runner-up award in their First Annual Officer Jim Capoot Community Project of the Year Award.

The Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit Department for the Napa-Solano area has been providing support in the form of grants for the Solano County distributions of our Farm 2 Kids Program since 2008. This year we received an additional honor for the program along with an additional $500. The Officer Jim Capoot Community Project of the Year Award is named in honor of the slain Vallejo police officer who lost his life last November in the line of duty. The award acknowledges organizations making an impact in the community and helping change the lives of underserved populations. The award was won by On the Move, a nonprofit agency working with the underserved in Napa.

The Leaven, a Fairfield agency that tutors children and is one of the Food Bank’s partner  agencies received the first runner-up award. The winners were selected from the 38 area nonprofit organizations who had already won big by receiving generous grants for their programs from Kaiser Napa-Solano.