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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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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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Spring Provides Opportunity To Help Those In Need

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: The spring is often thought to be a time of renewal and a time for “spring cleaning”, but it’s also a season where we can unintentionally add more clutter to our lives.

Many celebrations occur in springtime: Mother’s Day, graduations, weddings and birthdays. These are important occasions that give us a chance to celebrate those who are important to us. With celebrations often come unwanted gifts; sometimes even with a plea for no gifts.

For many of us who have reached the age where our children are moving away, we are trying to get rid of all the extra things we have collected over the decades. We want to do something that celebrates our relationship with those who are important to us, not acquire more things.

Many supporters of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano celebrate their important events by asking friends to bring nonperishable packaged food to their celebrations in lieu of gifts.

Everyone benefits from this act of kindness. The guests don’t have to stress over selecting “just the right” gift, the recipient doesn’t have to add unwanted clutter to their life and best of all, the gift of nutrition is given to the people who really need it. This is a true gift that won’t be thrown out with guilt after sitting in a closet for years.

Another way supporters of the Food Bank incorporate giving into their celebrations is by setting up a personalized online donation page on our website (www.foodbankccs.org/funddrive).

In less than 10 clicks of a computer mouse, they are able to create a unique donation page and receive a personalized URL which they share on their invitations and announcements. This makes it really easy for friends and family to make a donation, even if they don’t live locally and even if they are not able to attend the celebration.

There is no better time to create a fundraising page than right now because with the $40 for 40 matching campaign, friends and family members can double their donation dollars.

In honor of our 40th anniversary, donations made through this special fundraising event will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Friends of the Fortieth Fund, providing 160 meals (instead of 80 meals) for every $40 they give (www.foodbankccs.org/40for40).

With the financial donations, we are able to purchase healthy food for the people we serve including low-sodium, reduced-sugar, and high-protein options. With our industry buying power, we can buy these items at a much lower cost compared to retail pricing.

Financial donations also give us the flexibility of buying what we need, when we need it.

For people who live comfortably and want to reduce clutter in their life, hosting a food drive or virtual fundraiser, in lieu of receiving gifts, is a good solution.

Everyone benefits when those who have too much, think of those who don’t have enough.

 

Larry Sly: Earth Day a reminder to use resources responsibly — including food

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: This week we celebrate Earth Day, which focuses on responsibly using the resources of the planet.

Being “green” means we use what we need while we minimize the waste we produce. When I began working at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, I didn’t realize that we were also an environmental organization. Our primary mission is providing food to people in need and one of the main ways we are able to do that is by acquiring food surplus that would otherwise go to waste.

California grows enormous amounts of fresh produce which has a limited shelf life. Refrigeration and other technology extend the life of the fresh food, but millions of pounds of produce would go to waste if food banks did not exist.

Today more than half the food that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano distributes is fresh produce. Because we have contacts in the agriculture industry, we receive donations of produce by the trailer load.

Local residents are also saving perfectly good food from being wasted in residential backyards.

Often people have fruit trees and gardens that produce much more than their family and neighbors can consume. An orange tree, for example, can produce hundreds of pounds of fruit; far exceeding the needs of a few individuals. We are thankful that groups like Urban Farmers, Food Rescue and the Concord Diablo Rotary club have volunteers who are willing to gather and donate fruit from backyard trees. Instead of the fruit falling to the ground and perishing, these volunteers ensure that it goes to the people in need within our community.

We try to make sure that we conduct our business of feeding people in need, in the most environmentally responsible way possible. This includes working to conserve natural resources.

We installed solar panels on the roof of the 30,000 square-foot warehouse that we own in Concord. Those panels produce nearly all the energy we need for our commercial refrigerators and freezers, as well as for our computers, lights, etc.

In both of our Fairfield and Concord warehouses, we had an analysis of our energy use done by PG&E so we could take steps to limit our energy consumption. We have screens in our refrigerator doors to help keep the cold air inside as our forklifts transport food in and out of the refrigerators. We installed energy-efficient lighting throughout our warehouse and offices.

We also use a software program called Roadnet that helps us track our drivers as they drive their routes, allowing us to divert them so they can immediately pick up items, saving gas in the process.

The people we serve benefit from us working with the agricultural community and backyard gardeners to save over ten million pounds of food from waste.

The environment benefits from us using solar technology and adhering to other “green” ways of doing business.

Our society, as a whole, benefits when we all try to honor Earth Day every day.

Healthy Eating Habits Best Thing For Children

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Whether the information comes to you from statistical studies or just from taking a look around, it is obvious that the United States is facing an obesity epidemic.

The facts are overwhelming; we have the second-highest obesity rate in the world and spend more than $190 billion a year treating obesity-related illnesses. If you think the battle over healthcare is a major issue today, imagine what is going to happen as obesity and other diet-related illnesses increase the need for high-cost medical services.

As with so many of the issues we face as a society, the answer is fairly straightforward, but is difficult to implement because it requires us to think and plan long term. It will require us to change patterns that have developed over decades.

For more than a generation, our diet has deteriorated as we’ve replaced fresh food with prepared ready-to-serve meals and fast food.We have saved time and created convenience, but our diets are now filled with processed and sugar-laden foods. The associated health issues we see today are taking a toll on our society.

We have saved time and created convenience, but our diets are now filled with processed and sugar-laden foods. The associated health issues we see today are taking a toll on our society.

This situation will not turn around overnight, but the conversation around the importance of improving our diets has at least begun and some progress has been made in our children’s school cafeterias.

The nutrition standards of school meals were updated in 2012 under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kid Act. These improved standards require more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains and less sodium, fat and sugar in school lunches.

A survey done by the Pew Charitable Trust and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 72 percent of parents support strong nutritional standards for school meals. Another study published in Childhood Obesity, found that 70 percent of middle school students and 63 percent of high school students like the more nutritious school meals.

Kids are being exposed to healthier food in their school lunches and they are gaining first-hand knowledge that healthy food can taste good.

Most of the children we serve at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano receive free or reduced costs lunches; making the meals they receive at school an important part of their diet.

By providing students healthier food on a regular basis, they are learning that fruits, vegetables and whole grains are an important part of a wholesome diet.

Furthermore, they are developing patterns that will fight obesity and other health-related illnesses.

We are doing the right thing when we feed our children well; we are setting them up to be healthy and successful.

A healthy school lunch is one of the best investments we make in the future of our society.

The author is executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, based in Concord. Email: info@foodbankccs.org

Congratulations to Christina Lopez, Food Bank Volunteer!

Christina Lopez received the 2015 Youth Hall of Fame “Valiant Volunteer” award in a ceremony at the County Board of Supervisors Cesar E. Chavez Celebration on March 31st. Christina was recognized for her work for the last three years at the Food Bank and also for her service to Building Blocks Children’s Center in Concord. Christina, a senior at Carondelet High School, dedicates 3-4 nights a month to the Food Bank where she sorts and boxes donated food with other volunteers. Christina demonstrates her leadership abilities by always helping new volunteers. She never seeks recognition, but the Food Bank was honored to nominate her for this award.

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Christina pictured on the far left front

Marking Four Decades Of Making A Difference

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: This year the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is celebrating its 40th anniversary of providing food to people in the community.

Our work began with two employees and a pickup truck. We borrowed a trailer to store the food and assisted 19 local emergency food agencies. Forty years later, we have grown to an organization of 70 employees (full-time and part-time) and a fleet of 16 vehicles. We now operate out of two warehouses, totaling about 60,000 square feet, and we serve one in eight residents within Contra Costa and Solano counties.

Much has changed, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication of our employees.

Last week I celebrated my 39th anniversary with the Food Bank (I was the truck driver in the two-person operation). People are often astounded (myself, included) that anyone could work in a job for nearly 40 years, since, in today’s world, the average employee stays in a job for under five years.

At the Food Bank, my tenure is not that exceptional. Three other employees have been working tirelessly for more than 30 years. One of them is our Warehouse Manager, who was originally hired as a truck driver when he was just 18 years old. Another employee has reached the 20-year milestone and eight others have exceeded the 15 year mark. Soon, six more employees will be celebrating their tenth anniversary with the Food Bank.

What causes this level of commitment to a career? The Food Bank is a good employer; we pay decent wages and offer benefits, but we are not a high-tech software startup with all the goodies.

The people who work for us are driven by the mission of the organization. They see the need in the community on a daily basis. They understand the roles that volunteers and non-profit agencies play in providing food to people who need help.

They understand that the jobs that they perform, such as providing financial oversight, raising money, educating the community about hunger and running an efficient food distribution system, all serve as integral functions of the organization. Simply put, Food Bank employees know that the work they do makes a difference in people’s lives.

Food banks throughout the nation are filled with people who have spent 20 to 30 years dedicating their lives to anti-hunger work.

We are proud that we also have served as the “farm team” for other food banks. Three Executive Directors of Feeding America food banks began their career at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

Our 40-year growth curve demonstrates incredible change. We are not the same organization we were in 1975 and we are not the same organization we were in 2010.

The need is great, so we must grow. Having spent 39 years doing this, I acknowledge it has also been a fun experience. Even on one of the days that is not so good because of “stuff,” I go home knowing that we distributed nearly 80,000 pounds of food, contributing to more than 65,000 meals for our neighbors in need. I wish I could do another 40 years.