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“Simply stated, SNAP works” – We Need to Continue to Invest in Our Future

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter:  Mathmatica Policy Research did a study that led them to conclude “simply stated, SNAP works”.  (The SNAP which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program was formerly known as the food stamp program and is known as CalFresh in California).  Mathmatica’s research demonstrated that because they participated in the program, children had significant improvements in their consistent access to food, also known as their “food security”.

The Mathmatica food security study surveyed 3000 families and compared the status of families newly-enrolled in the program with those who had been in the program for six or seven months.  In the initial part of the study, 37% of newly-enrolled families were food insecure, while those who had been on the program six months or more were at 27%.  When they checked the newly-enrolled group after six months they had seen their food insecurity decline from 37% to 25%.  This type of research shows the wisdom of feeding those in need in our community.

If an individual is food insecure they cannot find enough food or purchase enough food for themselves.  In a society as rich as ours, with huge agricultural surpluses, there is no reason an individual should be food insecure.  More importantly, there is no reason a child should be in that position.  Increases in SNAP/CalFresh that were part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) were eliminated in November of 2013.  After that, Congress cut $8 billion in funding for the program over the next ten years.  Because of these actions, average benefits for recipients will drop below $130 a month.  I know there are some people who can make that work, but I also know from my attempts to live on the average CalFresh budget for a week, that the benefits are not enough.   These budget cuts will have a negative impact on people’s ability to feed their children.

My father grew up during the Great Depression and he told me stories of receiving blocks of cheese and bags of sugar from the government.  I don’t think he was ever hungry, but he lived in a house where concern about the next meal was a part of their life.  He saved every scrap of leftovers until the day he died and his choices in the grocery store always were always based on price.  I think we are in danger that the budget decisions that are being made are creating a generation that will be as food insecure as those who lived through the Great Depression.

It’s frustrating that we are cutting a program that provides hungry people the ability to get food.  People are on the program for a short period of time (average of nine months) and research shows that the effects are positive, whether you measure improved nutrition or food security.  By giving people SNAP/CalFresh benefits, we are making sure that our children receive the food they need.  We are making an investment in the future of our society when we help hungry families.

Changing the Way We Eat, Beginning With Our Children

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Change is never easy. We all know people who tout their flexibility and their openness to change, but lock themselves up when change begins. (Other people of course, not us.) At the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano it is interesting to watch this take place around a subject everyone knows needs to be addressed, improving the nutrition of our children.

Obesity has risen dramatically among younger people (and adults too) over the past twenty years meaning that diabetes and other diseases are becoming a major health problem for our society. The astronomical costs of treating those diseases, as well as the other problems we face as an obese society can be prevented by changing what we eat. Most of us recognize we eat too many fats, too much sugar, too many empty calories. In principle we all understand that we should eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and more whole grains.

If we are going to take steps to implement these changes, one of the most effective ways is to start with our children through the school lunch program. By providing students with a healthy lunch, we can give them good food to eat once a day as well as helping to educate them about how good food tastes. Seems simple, right?

In fact, changing school lunches has become a major political issue. The School Nutrition Association, a lobbying group that focuses on school lunches has switched its position from supporting the changes recently implemented in nutrition standards to now asking for relief from those standards. There are anecdotes about the disruption the new standards have caused that raise legitimate concerns. Stories are told of schools in the Southwest having whole grain tortillas thrown away because they are not culturally acceptable. Applesauce is thrown away as are fresh fruit and vegetables. And of course, funding is not adequate for these districts to provide increasingly expensive healthy food.

On the other side, school districts in rural Georgia share stories of how they were able to move from fried chicken (a Southern staple) to herb-baked chicken that kids love. Locally grown grits are one of the most popular items for their school breakfast program. Here in our community, some school districts are purchasing fresh produce from local farms, providing healthy locally-grown food to their students.

But beyond these operational issues, on the political side, a group named the Coalition for Sustainable School Meals Programs has pushed Congress to designate pizza with tomato sauce as a vegetable. The goal of providing healthy food to our children gets complicated because providing school lunches is a multi-billion dollar program.

While a few people may defend the status quo of the school lunch program, most agree that change is necessary for the good of our children. For the sake of our health, we need to see a change in our individual diets, and that will only come about through education. We need to begin with our children.

Program Today Helps Nonprofits Across the Region

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: I think we can all say we know the slight discomfort that comes between meals, so we can imagine what it would feel like to not be able to get the food you need when you want it. When people spend time learning about the issue of hunger and they understand that over 49 million Americans live in food insecure households, they realize this is a community problem we all need to work together to address.

By supporting the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano people can make a difference in the lives of hungry people in our community. People engage by donating food to us through our community food drives, volunteering at our warehouses or community events and helping to distribute food to people in need. People give their time and energy because they understand that the Food Bank is an effective organization, keeping our administrative and fund development costs to four cents out of every dollar. They also know that we can provide two meals for every dollar donated, showing a strong return because the community cares.

But it’s no great secret that an ongoing issue at every nonprofit organization is raising the money we must have to do our work. Less than 10% of our funding comes from the government; most comes from the community, with most of the community funds coming from individuals.

So many concerns face our community from hunger to environment and education to health. Given the need for all nonprofits to raise financial support, local foundations are working together through Give Local America to make a broad appeal for the support all nonprofits need. In order to be part of building a large community appeal, the Food Bank is participating in the Give Local America one-day fund raising effort on May 6. On a local basis, people can donate through the East Bay Community Foundation (eastbaygives.org) or through the Richmond Community Foundation (wegivecontracosta.org). At those sites, donors can give to the local charities that are participating in the drive. Other than credit card fees, all the money that is donated goes directly to the charity donors choose.

Give Local America came about in celebration of the 100th anniversary of community foundations in America and the vital role they have played developing and supporting local philanthropy. On May 6, 2014 from 12:00am – 11:59pm, you can check out real-time leaderboard to see how the Food Bank and any other favorite nonprofits are doing. Follow the conversation on Twitter and Facebook by using the #GiveLocalAmerica hashtag.

Give Local America is partnering with foundations and charities to increase the generosity of the community. We all believe people want to help make their community a better place to live. Supporting local nonprofits creates a stronger community for all our neighbors.

How Can I Help

Originally posted in the Vacaville ReporterThere are many volunteer opportunities at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. With positions to suit almost any interest and time availability, you can volunteer in the front office, warehouse, or in the community. If you belong to a social club, work group or fraternal organization, you can organize a food drive, volunteer as a team in the warehouse, or invite a Food Bank representative to speak to your group.

We currently need help:

Bagging and Distributing Groceries. Have any time on weekdays?  We need help bagging and distributing groceries at our Antioch, Bay Point, Pittsburg, and San Pablo Food Assistance Program sites. We also need help at our Richmond Food for Children site. Each distribution is held one weekday morning every month.

Bilingual Volunteers (Fluent in English and Spanish). The following distribution sites have a high need for bilingual volunteers:

WIC Richmond (39th & Bissell Ave, Richmond) Every 1st & 3rd Thursday, 2-3pm

Davis Park (1651 Folsom Avenue, San Pablo) Every 2nd & 4th Friday, 12-1pm

Buchanan Park (4150 Harbor St, Pittsburg) Every 1st & 3rd Tuesday, 12-1pm

WIC Concord (2355 Stanwell Circle, Concord) Every 1st & 3rd Wednesday, 2-3pm

Salvation Army KROC Center (586 E. Wigeon Way, Suisun City) Every 1st & 3rd Friday, 12-1pm

Cambridge Elementary (1135 Lacey Lane, Concord) Every 1st & 3rd Saturday, 12-1pm

Antioch High School (700 W. 18th St, Antioch) Every 2nd & 4th Saturday, 10-11am

For more information on volunteering, please contact Volunteer Help Desk (volunteerhelpdesk@foodbankccs.org). Please include your name, phone number with area code, email, city, availability, as well as the type of opportunity you are looking for.

Sequestration Update and Call for Immediate Action

This Friday, March 1, unless the Congress acts, automatic federal budget cuts under “sequestration” will go into effect. These cuts will impact a number of vital services critically-important to low-income people.

Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on the American Family Economic Protection Act (pdf), the Senate Democrats’ bill to avoid sequestration. The proposal would prevent cuts to education, public health, nutrition and other vital services by replacing them with more gradual cuts to the Pentagon, setting a minimum tax for millionaires and closing some corporate tax loopholes.

Take Action: Contact your Senators immediately and urge them to vote for the American Family Economic Act when the bill comes up for a vote tomorrow afternoon (Feb. 28).

dc-capitol

Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Phone:(202) 224-3841

 

Sen. Barbara Boxer

Phone:(202) 224-3553

 

Here is a sample of what could happen if these budget cuts go into effect:

  • 600,000 low-income women and young children could be cut from the WIC program
  • 19 million fewer meals for seniors from programs like Meals on Wheels
  • 5,000,000 fewer low-income families receiving prenatal health care and other services that help decrease infant mortality and improve maternal health
  • 112,190 fewer victims of domestic violence receiving services
  • 750,000 Americans losing their jobs
  • $2.4 million cut from funding food banks need to store and distribute food at a time of increased demand and tightened resources.

Questions? Please contact me (Lisa Sherrill) at (925) 676-7543 extension 206 or lsherrill@foodbankccs.org.

 

Call Congress Today! It’s Easy!

Today (November 28), Feeding America and other national partners are hosting a national call-in day to mobilize advocates across the country in opposition to cutting hunger-relief programs and protecting tax incentives to encourage food and fund donations as part of a deal on the Fiscal Cliff.

Call in Details:

As Congress debates how to address the looming Fiscal Cliff, we must urge them to do it the right way.  Help us show Congress that cutting programs that help feed struggling families is not the way to balance the budget.

Here’s how:

  • Call using Feeding America’s toll-free hotline at 866-527-1087.
  • Listen to the pre-recorded message and enter your zip code when prompted. Connect to your Senators first.
  • Once you are connected to your first Senator, state that you are a constituent and give your name and the town you are calling from.
  • Let them know you are calling about anti-hunger programs and deliver this important message:

I urge you to oppose cutting SNAP and other hunger-relief programs as part of any deal on the Fiscal Cliff and to continue to protect tax incentives to encourage food and fund donations to food banks.  Cutting programs that put food on the table for hungry Americans is not the way to balance our nation’s budget. 

  • Be sure to repeat the process so that you speak with your Representative and both of your Senators.

 

Give Back this ‘Giving Tuesday’

Originally posted on the Concord, CA Patch: As the people at Giving Tuesday say, “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals….Wouldn’t it be great to have a day for giving back?”

#GivingTuesday is all about turning our attention toward helping others.

This year #GivingTuesday is on Tuesday, November 27th and nonprofits, businesses and supporters from all over the world will take part. It’s about all of us trying to make the world a better place.

What can you do?

  1. Help us spread the word about #GivingTuesday! You can do that right now by inviting your friends and family to share in the celebration of giving.
  2. Choose your favorite cause and make a contribution of time or money on or around #GivingTuesday!
  3. At the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano we always need additional supplies of shelf-stable food, and the holiday season is an excellent opportunity to ask the community to donate the food needed. Safeway and Whole Foods each have an incredibly simple way for people to help. Safeway offers shoppers a $10 bag of food items for purchase. You can buy these $10 bags and drop them in the Food Bank barrels. CBS5 is partnering with Whole Foods Market for their holiday food drive. Customers have the option to buy a $5 Breakfast, $10 Lunch or Dinner, or $25 Full Day Meal for donation at the register. (Meals typically feed a family of four.) Customers may also round out an order and donate any dollar amount.In addition, we ask people to bring other food donations to these conveniently located collection sites.
  4. Text FOODBANK TO 80077 to donate $10.00 to Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Charges will appear on your wireless bill, or be deducted from your prepaid balance. All purchases must be authorized by account holder. Must be 18 years of age or have parental permission to participate. Message and Data Rates May Apply. Text STOP to 80077 to STOP. Text HELP to 80077 for HELP. Full Terms: www.mGive.org/T.

 

How will you give back this Giving Tuesday?

Today — October 22 — is the last day to register to vote!

We urge you to register to vote in the election on Tuesday, November 6.

If you live in California, it’s as easy as 1-2-3:

1. REGISTER

2. GET INFORMED

  • Find out what’s on your local ballot at www.smartvoter.org: type in your address to get your polling place and the list of races on your ballot, along with links to candidate statements and summaries of propositions.

3. VOTE!

  • Once registered, go to the polls on or before November 6!
  • If you prefer to vote by mail, request a vote-by-mail ballot from your County Elections Office no later than October 30, and be sure to mail it well in advance of November 6!

 

Take Part in Hunger Action Month

While you’re getting back into the swing of things following the holiday weekend, don’t forget that Hunger Action Month has officially begun. Join anti-hunger advocates from across the country to raise awareness of the 49 million people in the US who face hunger by taking part in Hunger Action Month — a month-long campaign to help end hunger in our country.

Students kicking off Hunger Action month by sorting food.

Everyone can rally for hunger relief by doing these simple tasks this September:

Like the Food Bank on Facebook (www.fb.com/foodbankccs). Share information about Hunger Action Month. Tell your contacts to like us too! During the month of September, ANDREW D MARSHALL DDS AND LYNNE D MARTZ DDS will be donating $1 for every new facebook like they get (up to $300).

Go Orange on September 6 and every Thursday in September. Wear orange on Thursdays in September and hang a Hunger Action Month poster in your business or classroom. Or change your online avatar to one of the Hunger Action Month options on the social media page of our site. Send a tweet in support saying: “I’m going orange for the 1 in 6 people in the U.S. struggling w/hunger. #HungerAction.” Or post to Facebook. If you or anyone you know would like a t-shirt or would be willing to hang a poster please email lsherrill@foodbankccs.org (limited quantities; first come, first served).

Get involved by downloading the Food Bank’s 30 Ways in 30 Days calendar, to find daily ways to make a difference.

To learn more about Hunger Action Month, please visit www.foodbankccs.org/hungeractionmonth.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano would like to thank our Hunger Action Month sponsor: AT&T Pioneers.

 

How My 7th Grade “Take Action Project” Purchased Over 1600 Meals!

Guest post by Caleb C. – 7th Grader – Orinda Intermediate School: For my 7th grade science project, I decided to do a Take Action Project. The topic I chose to take action on is hungry children in the Bay Area. There are thousands and thousands of children in the Bay Area that do not have enough to eat every day. I researched hunger, did a PowerPoint presentation for my class and volunteered at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano where they provide food for hungry children. As part of my project, I decided to do a Virtual Food Drive with the Food Bank. It makes it easy to donate food – just pick the food from the site and pay. The Food Bank takes care of everything else. You can use your credit card and it’s a donation for your taxes too.

To raise money for the Food Bank I sent an email to over 75 friends and family asking them to contribute to my Virtual Food Drive and the total donations received were $830.27.

This will help the Food Bank provide enough food for 1660 meals to our neighbors in need. I learned that some families only use the Food Bank once and others have to use it many times. Also, there are some children who really need the food at the Food Bank because they are too young for some government programs like school lunch and too old for other programs, like WIC (Women Infants and Children).

One thing that I wanted to say was that I really enjoyed working at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. It was a lot more fun than I had expected. I also got the chance to volunteer at the Food Bank. I helped sort the bread at the Food Bank and I also sorted cans for the Food for Children program. The staff at the Food Bank are really nice. All the people there seemed happy to be volunteering. I even met some people who have been volunteering once a week with their friends for many years.

Again, I thank you all that donated and also those that looked at the email, as I enjoyed making you aware of this problem. I would encourage any teen out there to give them a call and spend some time volunteering to help feed the families they serve. I am sure that like me, you would be surprised to learn about how many children especially don’t get enough to eat. I know what it’s like to be hungry but I have never had to go without food for long. I am glad that the Food Bank is there to help anyone in our county that needs a little help.

The Food Bank was the perfect choice for my project. I plan to volunteer there again.