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The Letter Carriers’ Food Drive is coming up on Saturday, May 9th

The Letter Carriers' Food Drive is coming up on Saturday, May 9th. The NALC Branch 1111 Food Drive coordinator and a Food Bank representative went out … Read more

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Clayton Valley Concord Sunrise Rotary Lives up to Service Above Self Motto

Guest post by Rotary Member Hugh Toloui: A group of volunteers from the Rotary Club of Clayton Valley Concord Sunrise have been rolling out of bed in … Read more

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Your support makes the holidays better for families like Marla’s

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 … Read more

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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 … Read more

Marla and her family

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 … Read more

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Summer Programs An Opportunity To Help

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: After wishing the school year away, students and parents can sometimes find themselves in a rut once summer arrives. It often doesn’t take long before parents hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored.”

In an effort to limit their children’s time in front of electronic devices, many parents come up with lists of things their children can do over summer. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has got some ideas to add to that list.

In July the Food Bank will host two special events that allow young children to volunteer. On July 18, in our Fairfield warehouse, we will host our monthly Family Food Sort. Family Food Sorts are volunteer opportunities designated for families with young children. They occur on the third Saturday of every month. Families work together to bag produce that will be distributed through our Community Produce Program. The children attending will learn that the food that they are sorting will be given to people who don’t have enough to eat.

On July 19, at our Concord warehouse, we will host our (not quite) quarterly Family Volunteer Day. This is a popular event that also allows parents or grandparents to introduce their young children to volunteerism. The children work side-by-side with their family members to do a fun sorting project. They get to experience the joy of helping others in need firsthand. Families also get to go on a guided tour of the warehouse.

What makes these events unique is that the food bank’s normal minimum age requirement is 11 years old. With both Family Volunteer Days and Family Food Sorts, we welcome children as young as 5 years old to attend.

Shifts fill up quickly; to reserve a shift at either function, visit www.facebookccs.org/events.

If your family can’t make these upcoming events, there are other ways that your child can help the Food Bank on their own time.

If your child likes to cook, encourage them to host a bake sale or lemonade stand. If your child is crafty, suggest that they sell their creations to others. They will get a taste of what is involved in running a business and they can opt to donate all or a portion of the proceeds to the Food Bank.

In honor of our 40th anniversary, their financial donations can be matched dollar-for-dollar. Visit www.foodbankccs.org/40th for more information.

Another way children can help the Food Bank is by holding a traditional food drive. Your child can coordinate a food drive in conjunction with your annual block party, a Fourth of July gathering or any kind of function this summer. They can make flyers and notify friends, family and neighbors that they are collecting food on behalf of the Food Bank.

Whether your child collects food or funds, they will receive a thank you letter from the food bank for their efforts and donation. More information about holding a food drive can be found at www.foodbankccs.org/fooddrive.

This is the time of year when donation levels at the Food Bank drop considerably. Having children think of people in need and encouraging them to take action can simultaneously alleviate their boredom and stock our shelves. It’s one thing to tell children about people who are less fortunate. It’s another thing to actually empower them to do something about it.

When children start to do volunteer work, they become vested in their community and realize that they can make a difference, no matter their age.

Working To Reach All Children With Nutritional Meals

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: As some families are packing for their summer vacations, others are worried about how they are going to put enough food on the table for their children. During the school year, over 65,000 low-income children in Contra Costa and Solano counties receive free or subsidized lunches.

Students receive their mid-day meals through the National School Lunch Program. It is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many schools have breakfast and snack programs as well.

These programs benefit children, parents and even teachers, as it is difficult to teach hungry students.  Children (and adults) lack focus and energy when their bodies are not being fueled properly, making it hard to learn and retain information.

The USDA also runs the Summer Lunch Program, which provides funding and food so schools can continue providing lunch over the summer break.   Unfortunately, in most districts, while there may be a Summer Lunch Program, there aren’t summer school programs in session to draw children to the school grounds.

The creative minds in each district’s food service program have come up with ways to continue providing food to hungry kids over the summer.  Some schools have mobile food trucks that go to parks in low-income areas where children gather and they provide them with meals.  Other schools provide meals at public libraries, where children often spend their summer days.  School districts want to reach students at these common summertime gathering areas, so they can provide the children with healthy lunches. These methods help, but they aren’t reaching all the children in need.

One of the challenges that schools face is that, in some neighborhoods, parents do not want their children walking alone to a summer meal site.  Because of USDA regulations, a parent that accompanies a child to a distribution site is not able to eat a meal.  In many cases, if the child has a little sibling that is too young to attend school, they also have to go without food. In some cases, parents and siblings are not even allowed to sit with the student while the student eats their lunch. Obviously these regulations discourage, rather than encourage, participation in the Summer Lunch Program.

We all know how important it is for children to receive proper nutrition on a consistent basis. Their bodies and brains are developing and food is essential.  Skipping meals on a regular basis can have long-term detrimental effects.

To encourage an increase in participation in the Summer Lunch Program, the Food Bank is working on a demonstration project this summer. It is funded by the Y&H Soda Foundation, an organization that supports nonprofit organizations committed to the well-being of the underserved. This project will allow us to pay for meals that parents and siblings eat when they bring their school-age child to a Summer Lunch Program site.  If we can show that the Summer Lunch Program can be a positive family meal, we hope to initiate a broader discussion about the benefits Summer Lunch can give when we help provide food to families in need.

Honoring 40 years of nourishing our community

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano celebrated a significant milestone in May with our first annual Nourish gala honoring our 40th anniversary.  The evening was a true retrospective because Linda Locke, the founder of the organization, was able to attend.  The evening also represented our future by bringing together those who make our continuing work possible.  Our presenting sponsor, Chevron, shared the evening with us along with seventeen other companies that represent the corporate support we receive. Current and past Board Members were also in attendance, along with private donors who make our work possible. Roberta Gonzales from KPIX CBS 5 did a fabulous job hosting the event, reflecting the media support we receive. The evening was truly a celebration of the community effort that makes the Food Bank thrive.

The event also showcased the community support we need to continue growing our work with the debut of the Kris Lesher-Aring Giving Circle.  The Lesher family was kind enough to allow us to honor Kris’s belief that there is no reason anyone should be hungry in a land as prosperous as ours.  We hope donors will help us in our work by honoring Kris Lesher-Aring’s lifelong concern for people in need.
For more information, contact Randy Street at 925-677-7002.

Please enjoy the video retrospective and photos by Lily Dong Photography at www.foodbankccs.org/40th.

Food Bank’s Mission Statement Helps Set Priorities

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day operations of any organization. That’s why time needs to be set aside to examine the big picture. Goals cannot be achieved if they are never set.

The Board of Directors for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is responsible for creating a strategic plan. They recently met with some the Food Bank staff members and they worked on setting the Food Bank’s priorities through the year 2018.

The board began this process by evaluating the Food Bank’s mission. Our mission statement should accurately explain what the Food Bank aspires to do as an organization. Using their strategic planning skills, the board amended our organization’s mission statement to be: Leading the fight to end hunger, in partnership with our community and in service to our neighbors in need.

“Leading the fight” acknowledges the leadership role that we have come to play in the community. The Food Bank has become the hub for local hunger relief efforts. We directly assist individuals affected by hunger, as well as the nonprofit organizations that also serve the hungry members of our community.

In the revised mission, we are making the bold statement that we believe that it is possible “to end hunger.” We feel that enough resources exist in our society to assure that no one goes hungry.

The phrase “in partnership with our community” was included in the mission statement because we recognize that we cannot do this alone. The role the Food Bank plays in distributing food is important, but it is only one part of the larger effort to end hunger.

One aspect of partnering with our local community is working with local government agencies. Together, we help ensure that the people we serve receive the benefits for which they qualify.The School Breakfast Program and School Lunch Program provide food to low-income children. Senior citizens can receive help from the Senior Lunch Program and Meals on Wheels. The CalFresh program provides low-income people the money they need to obtain food for their families. We want the people we serve to know that these resources exist, so they can get the food they need to thrive.

Our staff members work very hard handling the daily demands of running our organization. Our Board of Directors is made up of people who are busy with their own jobs and are active members of our community. Yet, we all realize that it’s important to periodically take the time out to step back and focus on the priorities of the Food Bank. Our community counts on us to make good decisions.

A good strategic plan doesn’t happen overnight. We hope to have a final plan by the end of the year. We are taking a methodical approach to ensure that the decisions we make reflect our dedication to “leading the fight to end hunger, in partnership with our community and in service to our neighbors in need”.

Celebrating 40 Years Of Service To The Community

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano appreciates the many relationships that we have with the community. We depend on these alliances to help us achieve our mission.

The Food Bank relies on the individuals and organizations that donate food, so we can get it to those who need it the most. We value our partnerships with local nonprofit agencies, as they provide food to people who we don’t reach through direct distribution.

Because of the rapport we have with our volunteers, more than 80,000 hours of work is donated to our cause each year. And the connections we have with our financial donors allow us to effectively distribute more than 20 million pounds of food to those in need every year.

This year marks a milestone to celebrate these relationships as we acknowledge the 40th anniversary of the Food Bank’s work. We held our first annual Nourish gala on May 16 and this year we recognized 40 years of service. The event was held at Round Hill Country Club and we were joined by nearly 200 supporters. Donors were there from our lead corporate sponsor, Chevron, along with seventeen other corporate supporters. Roberta Gonzales, from KPIX CBS 5, was our emcee and raised the spirits of everyone in the room with her infectious energy. The enthusiasm Roberta generated was a great help when our fund raising auction began.

We began the live auction with my homemade lemon bars that I am “required” to make for every staff potluck at the Food Bank. They sold for $1,100, which made for an incredible beginning! We then auctioned off naming rights for one year to the sorting area in our Fairfield and Concord warehouses, generating $11,000.

The highlight of the live auction was when we came to the final item, “Feed the Need”. The Food Bank made the request for a new trailer to use to transport food. We asked attendees to contribute to the purchase of the trailer (building on the money generously donated the previous day in Valero’s skeet shoot fundraiser). Their response was amazing, and we raised more than $40,000! People gave because they wanted to make a difference; they wanted to help the Food Bank provide more food to those in need in our community. Through the generosity of those who supported our Nourish event, we raised more than $125,000 to help fight hunger in our community.

We also took a step forward in creating the Kris Lesher-Aring Giving Circle. These major donors will honor the memory of Kris Lesher-Aring who was involved in many philanthropic efforts before she passed away. Kris attended our 25th anniversary and spoke of her belief that there should not be hunger in a community as prosperous as ours. We know that many of our donors share her belief and this is a way to acknowledge those who give significant support to our efforts.

The gala was a time to acknowledge all that we have accomplished over the last 40 years and a time to look toward the future.

Drought A Source Of Concern For Food Bank Clients

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Since the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provides over ten million pounds of fresh produce each year to people in need, we are extremely concerned about the impact the drought is having, and will have, on our mission.

Not only is California’s water supply decreasing, but the cost of fuel is increasing. These two factors make for the perfect storm for a hike in the cost of providing healthy produce to people in need.

As members of the California Association of Food Banks, we have access to an enormous supply of fresh produce from the agricultural community.

Over the years, we have increased the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that we provide to the point where it now accounts for more than half of our total annual pounds of food distributed.

Our Farm to Kids program brings produce to after-school programs in low-income schools.

Our Community Produce Program brings fresh produce to clinics, schools and churches in low-income communities throughout Solano and Contra Costa counties.

Produce is also available to the nearly 200 nonprofit agencies we partner with, so they can provide nutritional assistance to the people they serve.

On the positive side, we are still able to receive the fresh produce that we need. The California Association of Food Banks is able to offer us 10 to 12 different produce items on a consistent basis. But we constantly have to make choices about the food we receive, based on increasing costs that are often related to the drought.

When we began receiving produce, we had to match what alternative markets were paying, generally around five cents a pound. Many of our costs now begin at six to seven cents a pound. Some items can cost us 10 to 14 cents a pound. Celery, for instance, is now priced out of our range at 20 cents a pound.

Our ability to help people in our community is also impacted when fuel prices go up, as they are currently.

We are lucky that our warehouses are so close to agricultural resources, but we need to make choices about how far we are willing to transport certain items.

Apples are available to us for four to five cents a pound, but they must be transported from Yakima, Washington. In order to receive a 34,000-pound load of apples, it costs us nearly $1,300.

A 42,000-pound load of potatoes from Tulelake, Calif., costs more than $1,400 to ship. We have hard-working staff members who always take these factors into consideration when purchasing the produce we need.

We have built an effective system of food distribution that we are committed to maintaining, so we must continue to balance the rising cost of food and transportation.

We are encouraged that healthy produce is still available, but we know that we need to raise more money to offset these price increases. We are thankful for our generous donors who provide financial support.

Like us, they also believe that our entire society benefits when everyone has access to good nutrition.

Food Banks Across Region Prepare For Disasters

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: When we think about disaster response in California, we recognize the threat of fire, drought and tsunamis, but our main concern is earthquakes.

With the 6.0 magnitude Napa earthquake that took place last year, and the small earthquakes that have hit the area more recently, we are constantly being reminded that we need to be prepared. When we watch the news about the earthquakes in Nepal, we are reminded of the devastation these natural disasters can bring to a region.

This is why the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is committed to preparing for the role we will play for any disaster in our community.

The first time local food banks responded to a major disaster was after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. The food banks in the Bay Area banded together to help the food bank that was serving Watsonville. They were overwhelmed by the damage in their community. We had an incredible response from a generous community that enabled us to accept disaster donations from Feeding America, the national food bank network. We stored those donations for the people in Santa Cruz County and helped meter the flow into their food bank.

After Loma Prieta, with the support from the San Francisco Foundation, we worked with consultants to develop a comprehensive disaster plan for the Food Bank. We developed a business continuity plan to assure that the Food Bank can continue to provide service in our local community. But as we looked at this local plan, we realized that we needed to have a regional plan for disaster response in the Bay Area.

We had to think about where would we look for help if a disaster limited our ability to assist our local communities. We also needed to consider what we would do if the food bank in Alameda or San Francisco were not able to operate.

All of the food banks are already dealing with the crisis of hunger in local communities on a daily basis. The need for food will obviously get significantly worse where a disaster occurs, but the food banks in areas that escape harm will still need to meet the daily needs of feeding members in their communities.

The Bay Area food banks developed a memorandum of understanding among one another that outlines what we would do to assist each other when a disaster occurs. We also keep that commitment alive by continuing training for table top exercises to practice how our mutual support will play out.

There is no question that another major earthquake will happen in the Bay Area. Roads will be damaged, electrical and water systems disrupted and property damage will occur. From our experience with Loma Prieta and other disasters, we know that people pull together in time of need.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is prepared to help other Bay Area food banks when a disaster occurs, while we continue to help our local community too.

Food Bank To Hold Black-Tie Optional Fundraiser

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: The year was 1975. Gasoline cost $0.44 a gallon. The average cost of a home was $40,000. You could get a brand new car for $4,000. Even back then, although those prices seem like a bargain today, not everyone had enough food to get by. This is why the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano (then called the Community Food Coalition) formed and incorporated.

We were simply a group of people who were responding to the needs of our community. When someone applied for food stamps or other government assistance programs, there would often be delays in receiving benefits.

For people in that predicament, the eligibility worker would refer them to a local church or community center where they could get three days of food from local volunteer organizations. The Food Bank was created to help those organizations stretch their dollars by buying food in bulk and soliciting donations.

Little did we understand in 1975 the impact that the Food Bank would have in our community and how the need for food would grow.

Last year we provided over twenty million pounds of food to people in need in our local communities.

We work with nearly two hundred nonprofit service agencies and have a variety of direct service programs that bring food directly to low-income senior citizens, children and other people in need. We have a positive health impact on the people we serve because over half the food we distribute is fresh produce.

Everyone connected with the organization is incredibly proud of what we have been able to accomplish, but we struggle with using the term “celebration” to acknowledge our fortieth anniversary.

Some of us feel that it would truly be a cause for celebration if we didn’t have the need for food banks in a country that is as wealthy as the United States.

More importantly than looking back at what we’ve accomplished over the past 40 years, is the need to look forward. We need to focus on what needs to be done to get food in the hands of people who need it.

In addition to food donations, we need to raise money to pay the handling fees for the produce we distribute and for transporting it to our warehouse. We need to raise funds to pay for our trucks and drivers who bring the food to those we serve.

To honor 40 years of nourishing our community, we are holding a black-tie optional gala on Saturday, May 16. Nourish is our 1st annual Gala benefitting the Food Bank.

Money raised at the gala will help us accomplish the work we need to do in the coming years. For every dollar we receive, 0.96 goes directly to food programs.

If you would like to come to this dinner dance and auction fundraiser, visit www.foodbankccs.org/40th. On the web page you can RSVP to the event or make a donation if you want to help, but are unable to attend the gala.

Letter Carriers To Help Local Food Bank This Saturday

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: On Saturday, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano will participate in the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive, the biggest one-day food drive in the nation. This will be the 23rd year that the letter carriers have organized this successful event that provides residents an easy way to donate food to help “Stamp Out Hunger” in their community.

On the day before Mother’s Day, letter carriers will pick up food donations during their normally scheduled mail route. To participate, all you need to do is pick up some extra nonperishable groceries at the store or gather some of the surplus unexpired and unopened food in your pantry.

The food needs to be placed in a sturdy bag next to your mailbox, prior to your regularly scheduled mail delivery.

If you are looking for ideas of what to donate, the recipients of our many food programs can always benefit from canned items such as tuna, chicken, meat, soup, fruit, vegetables and tomato products. Other items that are needed are peanut butter, iron-rich cereal, 100 percent fruit juice, dry beans, powdered milk, rice and pasta.

Last year the Food Bank received 170,000 pounds of food from this one-day event.

It takes a lot of coordination to pull off a food drive of this magnitude. The Food Bank has to do a great deal of work behind the scenes to process the donations efficiently.

However, as always, we couldn’t do it without the help of others. Safeway and Save Mart Supermarkets help by loaning us trailers. We use the trailers to collect the donated food from letter carriers’ trucks at consolidated distribution sites in strategic locations. We rely on hundreds of volunteers to help us gather the food at these collection sites throughout the day.

This year we also received financial support from organized labor to help us purchase the bags we distributed to postal customers.

The biggest heroes of the day are the letter carriers themselves. They are the eyes and ears of their communities and they want to take action to help our neighbors who are struggling.

Residents often donate a bag of groceries as a gesture of support to not only the local food banks, but their letter carriers as well. They appreciate the hard work that letter carriers put in on a daily basis and know that this drive is important to them.

The food we receive from this food drive allows us to stock the shelves to feed children in the summer. Child hunger is more of an issue during summer than any other time of year. This is due to many low-income children not receiving the free or reduced-priced breakfast and lunches that they normally receive at school.

Letter carriers have been encouraging neighbors to help one another for 23 years through their annual food drive.

They know they are going to be extra tired at the end of their shift this Saturday. However, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they, along with the generous residents on their routes, will have made a real difference to so many in need.

The Letter Carriers’ Food Drive is coming up on Saturday, May 9th

The Letter Carriers’ Food Drive is coming up on Saturday, May 9th. The NALC Branch 1111 Food Drive coordinator and a Food Bank representative went out to the post offices to speak to the staff about the food drive and how important this drive is for those in need. Our first talk was at the Moraga Post Office. Help your letter carrier feed our community members living with hunger by leaving a bag of food out by your mailbox the Saturday before Mother’s Day. Your letter carrier will pick up the bag of food and bring it back to our trucks waiting at each of the post offices. Last year they collected over 170,000 pounds of food in our two counties. Let’s help them surpass that number this year!

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