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Let The 2014 Counties Care Holiday Food Fight Begin!

HAM_Child42014 marks the 11th year that employees of Solano and Contra Costa counties will raise funds for their neighbors in need and compete for possession of the coveted Big Apple trophy!  The annual Holiday Food Fight began in 2003 as a friendly competition to raise funds for the Food Bank.  In the past eleven years county employees have creatively raised over $1 million dollars for the Food Bank! The county raising the most dollars per person wins bragging rights and possession of the coveted Big Apple trophy for one year.

Many county employees work directly with low-income clients and understand their need for help with food.  Many county employees want to make their community a better place to live in and take an active role in improving their neighbors’ lives.  You too can help by donating online at www.foodbankccs.org/countycup. Through the end of the year, scroll down past Paypal, click on the drop down menu and select “Friend of” Costa County or Solano County employee.

A Local Business, Filling an Important Role in Our Local Economy

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter:  The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano hosted a recent mixer for the local Chamber of Commerce and it reminded me of the many roles the Food Bank plays in the community. I often focus on the “non-profit” side of our status as a non-profit corporation, downplaying our role as a local business. But when we gather with other local businesses in Vacaville, Fairfield, and Vallejo, I realize that we are like many other small businesses in our community.

We employ more than 60 people in Solano and Contra Costa counties. We own a warehouse in Concord and lease 30,000 square feet of warehouse space in Fairfield. We have bobtails and tractor trailer trucks that deliver millions of pounds of food to agencies in our community. While we do not pay business or property taxes because of our non-profit status, we pay DMV fees, sales tax, Social Security taxes, Worker’s Comp, etc. We provide health insurance for our employees.

As a local business, we consume fuel (lots of fuel), we buy boxes to store donated food, and we buy bags for produce. We buy office supplies, pallet jacks and forklifts. We contract with a payroll service, a janitorial service and firms that provide training to our staff. We have a Board of Directors that approves a budget and sets operating goals. We provide them with monthly dashboard reports to track our progress.

We are members of the Chamber of Commerce because we are a locally-based food distribution business. The only thing that makes us different is that our business is providing food to other non-profit organizations or directly to people in need. Because of our mission, we have non-profit status, but we are a local business, filling an important role in our local economy.

On Slow Job Growth and Long Term Unemployment Expiration

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: In looking for signs of economic recovery, current job growth is not encouraging. The national unemployment rate has fallen, but increases in job growth are consistently low and do not indicate a recovering economy. The low job growth numbers back up the stories we hear of people losing a corporate job and not being able to find work for years, if at all. People have lost their job when the recession began and have not been able to find meaningful employment since then. Times are getting worse because the long term unemployment insurance people relied on to pay for housing and food for their families expired at the end of 2013.

Because Congress did not extend the Emergency Unemployment Insurance Program more than 325,000 people will lose their unemployment benefits in the first six months of 2014 according to a report from the Ways and Means Committee. We know these people because they have been coming to the Food Bank’s Food Assistance Program or Community Produce Program. The 25 pounds of food they get at one of these sites helps, but it is not enough food for an entire month. Our help will not pay rent or utility bills, nor will it buy a warm coat for a child. As President Obama read Misty D’s story in his State of the Union speech: “I am confident that in time I will find a job…please give us this chance”

The people the Food Bank serves are incredible at gathering together the bits of community support that can help them hold their lives together. A meal from a soup kitchen, food from the Food Bank, clothes from the Vacaville Storehouse all help. Unemployment insurance is there to help those who can’t find work at a time when jobs are still not readily available. We have the resources to help and it’s important that we do.

Looking Back at 2013

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: As we near the end of 2013, we are concerned about the needs of our hungry neighbors more than ever before. We are seeing record numbers of people at our food distributions, yet federal nutrition programs keep getting cut. In spite of this challenge, we are committed to helping end hunger in Contra Costa and Solano counties, and easing the burden of those in need. But we can’t do it without the help of our amazing community.

Twice per month, an average of 6,000 households in Contra Costa and Solano counties are able to take home 20+ pounds of fresh produce twice a month through the Community Produce Program. The people who support our work help put fresh produce on families’ tables.

One of those families belongs to Mauro A. Mauro used to work full-time but his hours have been cut and he just doesn’t make enough for a whole month of food. He really appreciates the selection of vegetables at the Community Produce Program. The Food Bank is now averaging one million pounds of produce every month going to your neighbors, people like Mauro. Thank you to our amazing community for everything you’ve helped accomplish this year. Together we are working to end hunger in our community.

Sons of Italy – Long Time Food Bank Supporters

Submitted by Lauren Strouse: The Food Bank is blessed to have many long term supporters. The Sons of Italy, Solano Lodge #2534 of Northern CA, is one of those. They have been making a financial contribution at holiday time since 2001. This year they presented a check for $500. They also volunteer at the Food Bank’s Fairfield warehouse on a quarterly basis. They are one of our most energetic and productive regular groups. Fifteen to twenty people typically show up for a Monday morning shift ready to sort and box food. They work together like a well-oiled machine. Our warehouse staff just keeps the food coming and the group does the rest! They usually sort in excess of 3000 pounds of food each time. The person responsible for coordinating this effort and energizing the group to work hard on our behalf is a bundle of energy named Joy Bruno. Joy is the organizations’ Food Bank Chair, responsible for all the scheduling and work done on behalf of the Food Bank. Joy was president of the club from 2005 to 2008 and is currently serving a second term as State Treasurer of the Grand Lodge of California of Sons of Italy. The Solano Sons of Italy lodge was founded in 1983. It currently has 165 members and is part of a nationwide philanthropic organization. We are very grateful for all of their support over the years!

Sons of Italy

Executive Director Larry Sly with members of The Sons of Italy, Solano Lodge #2534 of Northern CA

Realtors Meeting the Need

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has received support from Contra Costa Realtors in Motion and the San Ramon Realtors Marketing Association for years.  Both these organizations are networking groups for the real estate industry and include realtors, banks, title companies, home staging companies, etc.  These people are very supportive of each other and the industry in which they work.

These groups have also seen their industry in its strong and weak phases.  They know their industry is an excellent indicator of the overall economy.  So like the economy as a whole, things are getting better for them, but they know they are not where they want to be.  This has made an already generous group even more supportive of the Food Bank’s work.  In addition to the support these associations provided to local schools, Toys for Tots and Christmas for Everyone, they recently donated over $8,000 to the Food Bank’s work, in addition to barrels full of nonperishable food.

This generosity is one more example of how people in the community come together to make a difference.  People come together in organizations because of a common interest, but they often look outside to the larger community.  The realty associations help us by stepping forward to make a difference in the community.

Girl Scout Goes for the Gold

Hello! My name is Alexa Evans and I am working on my Gold Award project for Girl Scouts. I am preparing the first Climate Action and Sustainability Plan for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. I am working hard to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions which helps to reduce their costs! This way the Food Bank can use the money they saved to help people in need. In the plan I am writing about the measures they have already taken to be “green” and calculate the benefits of those measures. I will also be making future recommendations for the Food Bank so they can continue in the future to lower their greenhouse gas emissions. I will also make recommendations that will help them take the steps towards becoming a green business.

We’ll keep you updated with Alexa’s findings here! Now tell us your tips for “going green”.