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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

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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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Grocery Outlet Independence from Hunger

UPDATE: As of 7/10, the Concord Grocery Outlet collected 4,644 pounds and they has 6 full barrels! The Grocery Outlet store at 1840 Willow Pass … Read more

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Food Bank Supplements Where Social Security Doesn’t Provide

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Whenever I think about the 3,000 people the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provides food to through our Senior Food Program, I know that part of the reason they need food is because they depend on the Social Security program.  We now understand that Social Security is not supposed to be the sole source of income for a retired person, but many retirees thought it was their retirement plan.  If you look at the total number of retirees receiving Social Security, it is only 38% of the total income those people receive.  Of the entire group, 52% of married couples and 74% of unmarried individuals have over 50% of their income coming from Social Security.  When you consider that group of people, 22% of the married people and 47% of the individuals get 90% of their income from Social Security.  There is a wide range in how much people depend on Social Security with some depending on the program a great deal.

The reason people need to come to the Senior Food Program is because the average Social Security payment is $1,294 per month.  If an individual was getting 90% of their income from Social Security they would have a total income of less than $17,000 a year and a married couple would earn just over $31,000.  Where can they find an apartment they can afford?  Where do they cut their cost when medical issues hit them with copay costs?

Even people who live in subsidized housing face these challenges.  Even people who pay on a sliding scale can pay $800 a month.  In talking to someone we partner with at a subsidized senior residence, she reminded me that most of the people they serve are unmarried (more widows than widowers).  She spoke about one person who only had $20 for her food budget after she met all her living expenses.  Several of the people who live in their residence had made retirement plans but lost most of what they had set aside when the market crashed.  People who had lived in the community their whole lives saw their income fall so that they were no longer able to pay taxes and maintenance costs on their home.  The plans they made failed because of circumstances beyond their control.  Now they are trying to live on what Social Security provides.

The area people can cut costs is the food they buy, so the Senior Food Program makes a real difference in their lives.  We do not provide all the food a person needs, but seniors receive bread, fruit, vegetables and canned food.  Twice a month we are able to help people get just a little bit more.  Senior citizens are proud people who do not want to take charity.  People have worked their whole lives to be independent, but their world has changed.  Social Security does not give people enough income to buy the healthy food a senior deserves.

Giving, Volunteering Honors Legacy Of MLK

When the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was declared I don’t think people realized it would evolve into a day that is focused on volunteer service.  It’s very appropriate the day has become dedicated to community service, as it highlights the role giving back plays as part of American life.  For those of us old enough to remember, when the federal holiday was declared many states and localities did not observe the day.  Recent events demonstrate that the struggles of the civil rights era are still not resolved and when the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was enacted by the federal government, there was resistance to honoring the day.  But as time has passed, the holiday has become more universally observed, and that is because the holiday honors the work Martin Luther King Jr. did to help make a better community.

Today many people celebrate the holiday by participating in a volunteer activity that helps make a stronger community.  Volunteering is an American tradition that goes back generations.  It is a tradition that when people identify a problem they come together to try to help.  Service clubs like Rotary, Kiwanis, Soroptomists or Lions clubs exist so members can act as volunteers to make a stronger community.  Faith communities often have a social mission committee that focuses on the role they should play in dealing with community issues.  Non-profit organizations have a distinct role in our society because we realize there are some things that are done better by organizations that effectively use volunteers in their work.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano depends on volunteers.  We have more than 88,000 hours of volunteer time given to us each year.  That includes people answering our phones, sorting the food donations we receive and helping with the food distributions we do in the community.  Our Board of Directors are all volunteers, the people who help us prepare thank you letters for donors are volunteers, and the people who help bag produce for distribution are volunteers.  We depend on people being willing to give their time and talent in order to make our work possible.

Like every other non-profit organization in our community, we need your help.  Whether you want to help the Food Bank, a homeless shelter or an education program at your local school, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is an excellent reminder of how much your help is needed.   Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is one of the most moving statements ever made about the society we hope we will all see one day.   Everyone should be judged on the content of their character, not the color of their skin or any other factor.  By volunteering and giving back to our society, we help move ourselves closer to that goal.  When we give, we enrich ourselves because we understand the problems others face and what we can do to make a difference.  When we give back, we honor Dr. King’s memory.

Circumstances Can Change In An Instant

Originally posted on thereporter.com: Recently, I received a letter from a financial donor who apologized for her family’s minimal donations during the last year. She told me her story and I realized how easily circumstances can change. Her husband was laid off in December 2010 after 35 years in his job as his company closed down the entire division where he worked.  He has been looking for work with little success for three years, leading her to believe businesses prefer hiring younger people rather than those who bring hands-on experience to a position.  As an optimistic person, she is happy they are getting by and recognizes that there are many others in worse positions than her family.  Because of that optimism and her concern for other people in need, she recommended that her credit union direct part of their charitable giving to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

I also had a conversation with one of the senior citizens we serve through our Senior Food Program.  He retired when he was 62 from a job he hated yet held for nearly forty years to support his family. He had a small retirement package from his employer and had saved enough money so that he could get by.  As a retired man, he spent a good deal of time hanging out with his friends at a small restaurant, drinking coffee and sharing stories of their service in World War II.  He became friends with the restaurant owner so it felt like a good idea when he was offered an opportunity to invest in the business.  He and his friends were always there and the place seemed really busy.  He didn’t realize that the owner was covering cash flow issues by not paying payroll tax.  When the IRS closed the business down, the gentleman had to demonstrate his lack of financial resources and his lack of hands-on management in order to avoid further penalties.  He lost his savings and had to sell his condo in order to make things right.  He was lucky enough to get into subsidized housing after spending several years in the terrible places that qualify as low-income housing in our community.  He is now just getting by on Social Security, a $300 a month pension and the food he receives from the Food Bank’s Senior Food Program.

The power of circumstance and coincidence speak with force.  People have bad things happen, or sometimes make a mistake in judgment.  It can be a fine line between a comfortable life and needing help from the Food Bank. Hearing stories like these, I more fully understand how necessary it is to have a safety net because it could be any of us needing help at some point in our lives.

We Are Better When We Care For Those In Need

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano faces an enormous task every year distributing 20 million pounds of food to people in need.

We want to do our work effectively, so we need well-trained professional staff.

We need a warehouse that meets food-safety standards, inventory systems and trucks. We need boxes, shrink wrap, pallets and forklifts.

We pay handling and transportation fees for the fresh produce we distribute. While the average cost of produce is only ten cents a pound it becomes a significant amount when you multiply it by the 10 million pounds of produce we distribute.

We are committed to being effective in the work we do, and provide four dollars of food for every dollar we spend.

Our management and fund development costs are 4 percent. We know we are an organization that is well run and meets an important need.

In order to keep providing healthy food to people in need, we must ask community members to invest in the work we do. Asking people to help pay our operating costs is something we continue to do because people generally do not give unless they are asked.

The Food Bank receives less than 10 percent of our operating revenue from the government, but a bigger percentage of our support comes from corporations, foundations, service clubs and faith communities. But most of the money that supports our work comes from individuals.

Nearly half our operating revenue comes from people in the community who believe it is not acceptable for people to be hungry. They understand that money given to the Food Bank provides fresh produce to low-income senior citizens through our Senior Food Program.

They see fresh produce distributed from our trucks at our Community Produce Program sites throughout Solano and Contra Costa counties. They see us distribute food to nearly 200 non-profit organizations that provide food to those in need.

People know they can make a difference in their community by making a tax deductible donation to the Food Bank’s work.

As the year comes to a close and people consider the taxes they will pay, I hope they consider the good they can do with donations to causes that matter to them.

There is a strong non-profit community in Solano and Contra Costa counties that provides food, shelter, counseling, education, and other services to our neighbors in need.

People should be deliberate about where they give (Charity Navigator is a great tool that evaluates non-profit organizations) but they should give to causes that matter to them.

In a time when resources for non-profits continue to shrink, it is critical that the community step forward to help make a difference.

We are a society that cares for each other and we can make a difference for our neighbors who need help.

We are better when we care for those who need our help.

To donate to the food bank online, visit http://www.foodbankccs.org/give-help/donate.html. You can also learn how to become a pledge donor at the website. Or you may consider making a gift to the Food Bank as a tribute or memorial to a loved one. You can donate online or mail a check to Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, P.O. Box 6324 Concord, CA 94524. And you can have your gifts matched as many companies match employee donations made to organizations like the Food Bank. This doubles the donation and doubles the impact. Or you could start a unique donation page in less than 10 clicks to raise much-needed funds with the help of your family and friends. Include the personalized link in your emails, social media and event invitations for a fun and easy way to invite others to support the Food Bank and make a big difference. You can even start teams to have a friendly competition with friends and coworkers. Learn More about Custom Fund Drives at: http://www.foodbankccs.org/holidays.

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

Holiday Dinner Drive raises $1 million to support Bay Area Food Banks

 Guest post from Michael Altfest of the Alameda County Community Food Bank: One of the Bay Area’s most remarkable fundraising efforts to support local Food Banks has achieved a significant milestone. This season, the Holiday Dinner Drive – an effort among congregants at local synagogues and churches – raised its millionth dollar to help families in need.  As of December 22, 2014, the drive has raised more than $1,042,000 in 17 years to support Alameda County Community Food Bank, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, and San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.

The milestone will be commemorated in a ceremony at Alameda County Community Food Bank on December 23 – the day leading up to the eighth and final night of Chanukah.

The Holiday Dinner Drive was started in 1998 by Dan McClosky, a congregant at Oakland’s Temple Sanai synagogue, after reading a report that Alameda County Community Food Bank did not have enough turkeys for the upcoming holiday season. That year, McClosky raised $550 among family and friends. Temple Sanai congregants joined in the efforts the following year, raising $13,000 for the Food Bank. The drive has continued to grow every year since – in the number of congregations as well as faiths; in the number of Food Banks supported; and the amount raised.

The Holiday Dinner Drive personifies the importance of community to hunger-relief causes. This started as a simple idea resulting from one man’s passion and dedication to ending hunger – passion and dedication that proved to be contagious. The enthusiasm for this drive is palpable – and it has resulted in one of the most outstanding efforts to help those struggling with the burden of hunger.

The drive raises funds that help food banks purchase and provide holiday-specific food to families in need, including chickens and turkeys, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and fresh and canned vegetables.

In 2014, 22 synagogues and churches participated in the Holiday Dinner Drive to support the three food banks.  Fundraising for the drive continues through December 31.

Food Bank Marks 40th Year Of Battling Hunger

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: The end of the calendar year is always a time to reflect on what has been accomplished in the year that is coming to a close and plan for the coming year.

The year 2015 is special for those of us at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano because it is the 40th anniversary of the year we were incorporated, so we look back to when we began as we plan for where we hope to go.

In 1975 the Food Bank started as two employees trying to provide more food to emergency food pantries.

The pantries provided short-term help to people who were waiting to obtain assistance from government aid programs. In our first year we provided more than 30,000 pounds of food through the agencies we served.

Now, 40 years later, through direct distribution and partner agencies like emergency food pantries, soup kitchens and other nonprofit partners the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provided more than 20 million pounds of food, the most food we have ever distributed.

We had another significant milestone last year with half the food we distributed being fresh produce.

Because of our partnership with the California Association of Food Banks, we have access to millions of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables that are not marketable to the mainstream, but are still nutritious. In order to get this fresh food to those in need, we have established direct service programs like the Community Produce Program and Farm 2 Kids.

We celebrate the fact we have such a positive impact on low-income people’s lives, both economically and nutritionally.

We are extremely positive about the good work we do and the nutritious food we are able to distribute, but we are concerned that one in eight people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties rely on the Food Bank to get by day to day.

We know it is a positive thing we can provide food every day because people need the help we give. But in the coming years I hope we can work toward the Food Bank again becoming an emergency resource instead of an essential part of the support system for people in need.

It is not acceptable that people should be hungry in an affluent food-rich society like ours.

The Food Bank is proud of what we are able to do every day, providing healthy food to people in need. As long as people are hungry, we still have work to do.

But going forward we need to be part of the conversation about why people need food and what we can do as a society to make sure everyone has the nutrition they need no matter what the economy or life situation.

If you would like to help the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano there are many ways to donate. For every $1 you donate, the Food Bank can distribute two meals to those in need. Donate online at http://www.foodbankccs.org/give-help/donate.html or mail a check to Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, P.O. Box 6324 Concord, CA 94524. All donations to the Food Bank are tax deductible.

You could also become a pledge donor and fight hunger regularly throughout the year by having your donation automatically deducted from your bank account or credit card. Your gift goes directly to the Food Bank, where it is put to work immediately to help feed hungry children and needy adults. Plus it saves time, paper and postage further stretching your donation.

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

Local high schools compete to end hunger at the Solano Town Center

solano centerThe Solano Town Center celebrated the success of its first annual canned food drive as six participating high
schools throughout the area raised 6,801 pounds of food for the Food Bank of Contra and Solano.

Students from Fairfield High School, Rodriguez High School, Public Safety Academy, Sem Yeto Satellite, Matt Garcia Learning Center, and Armijo High School joined the cause-related competition, which began Monday, October 27. To generate donations, the students stood by their designated kiosk, which they decorated with artwork and televised multimedia to attract attention.

The drive ended Monday, November 24, with Armijo High School collecting 4,118 pounds of food, more than any of the other schools. The entire school will receive a catered lunch from Fuddruckers on Monday,
December 15.

“We’re so impressed with the dedication and work that all of the schools and students put into collecting donations and raising awareness for the Food Bank of Contra and Solano,” said Marketing Director Jenny Mallory. “Families and students are a central part of the Solano Town Center culture and we’re happy to work with them in what we hope will become an annual holiday tradition.”

About Solano Town Center
Solano Town Center is located at 1350 Travis Boulevard, Fairfield, California. Center hours are Monday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Restaurants and some stores operate additional hours. For more information, guests may call (707) 425-1164, visit the center’s website ShoppingSolanoTownCenter.com and follow the center on Facebook.

Grateful For Food Drives During The Holidays

Originally posted on The Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is lucky to have the support of CBS 5 KPIX  and Whole Foods in organizing the Food for Bay Area Families food drive.  Whole Foods helps us collect food at their stores which helps us provide food to those in need in our community.  But equally important to us in our efforts to fight hunger, Whole Foods and KPIX help educate the community about why people in our community need food assistance.

KPIX is incredibly generous in giving Bay Area food banks the opportunity to publicize businesses and organizations that help us feed those in need.  During the Food for Bay Area Families effort, KPIX carves a minute or two out of their noon and six o’clock newscasts so Bay Area food banks can bring people on to talk about the good things they have done to help us feed those in need.  We bring international companies like Chevron on to talk about their financial support of our work, or bring on local Rotary clubs to talk about helping us obtain bright orange tee shirts branded “Go Orange to Fight Hunger” for Hunger Action Month.  Eight Rotary clubs in the Diablo Valley helped us get the message out that hunger is a real issue in our community.

We had Pick-N-Pull on the air to talk about the support they provide at their Fairfield and Richmond stores.  They do everything from asking their customers to donate to giving us the change they find in the cars that come to them.  Pick and Pull’s parent company Schnitzer Steel also makes a matching donation, further helping us in our work.

The people from Forma Gym in Walnut Creek talked about the holiday run they staged on Thanksgiving Day that raises money to help the Food Bank’s work.  They put on a phenomenal event which reached a caring community (they got MC Hammer to help sponsor the event!).  We also had a chance to acknowledge the CSAA Insurance Group, a AAA Insurer for the help they give the Food Bank’s efforts to provide food to those in need in our community.

We are grateful to KPIX and Whole Foods for giving us the opportunity to publicly thank the generous individuals, businesses, service clubs and community members who make our work possible.  But I will admit that we are also hoping that when people see what others in the community do, they will decide to take steps to make a difference as well.  We know that no one in our country should go hungry and people will take action to help those who need food.  When we can show that those we put on the news make a difference by giving food, money or time, we are helping to build a community that cares.  That community will make a difference in the lives of their neighbors who need food.

NBC Bay Area’s “Help Us End Hunger” Food Drive Helps Communities This Holiday Season

NBC Bay Area has once again teamed up with Safeway Stores for a month-long effort to fight hunger with food banks in the Bay Area. The “Help Us End Hunger” food drive is taking place at 155 Safeway locations throughout the Bay Area making it easy for community members to participate and help feed their neighbors in need.

In addition to providing on air promotion, NBC Bay Area anchors and reporters helped at their own neighborhood Safeway Stores alongside Kiwanis Club members and Food Bank volunteers on Saturday, November 22 to encourage shoppers to donate food items. On this day, 21,663 pounds of food was collected, meaning that more than 17,000 meals can be provided from one day alone!

To make the donation process easier, a specially produced shopping bag filled with items that food banks need the most will be available for $10 at all local Safeway stores. Items include pasta and sauce, canned vegetables and important protein items like peanut butter and canned tuna. Once collected, the bags are delivered to food banks for distribution to families in need. The bags will be available for Safeway shoppers to purchase now through December 25.

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Neighbor To Neighbor, Community Food Drives Make An Impact

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Nearly twenty five years ago, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano began working with a local television station to set up a holiday food drive in collaboration with the other Feeding America food banks in the Bay Area.  The General Manager of the station was incredibly enthusiastic about the idea and suggested that we approach the homeowners association at Blackhawk, the community where he lived.  Blackhawk was one of the first planned communities with upscale homes built around golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools. Sports personalities and business leaders owned homes in a gated community that had a limited number of entrance and exit gates.  We were lucky enough to find volunteers within the homeowners association who felt this collection effort resonated with social responsibility beliefs that came from their faith community.  We worked with them to take their ideas and grew food collections that make a significant contribution to our work.

Today, ten gated communities (including Rancho Solano in Fairfield) have similar drives where neighbors ask neighbors to help us feed those in need.  Volunteers come to our warehouse in October to staple flyers to grocery bags that are specific to each individual community.  Volunteers from each community go door to door leaving the bag with their neighbors.  On the day of the food collection, we set up our plywood sleighs with food barrels placed inside.  As people drive out the gate, their neighbors happily accept the bag of groceries right from the car.  We also place return envelopes in the bag and many individuals also give us a financial donation as well.  Communities vary in how much they provide, but the larger communities can give as much as 10,000 pounds of food and $25,000, making a significant contribution to feeding those in need.

These gated community drives are making a difference in people’s lives. People like Grace, 73, of Vacaville. Grace was married, owned a house, worked part time and lived comfortably with her husband until she retired at 62. Then everything changed when her husband passed away in 1999.  The house they owned needed repairs her husband used to be able to do and it needed a new roof. She couldn’t afford to fix it up. When she finally sold it to buy a smaller condominium, “I barely broke even,” she said. Now her only income is her Social Security, which leaves her about $400 after utilities, mortgage and homeowners association fees.

It was on a trip to a Food Bank partner agency, Vacaville Storehouse, a year and a half ago that Grace discovered she could get groceries to stretch her pantry and refrigerator. Bread and meat she divides into portions to freeze help stretch her grocery budget. “I could never do as well as I do with proteins without being blessed by the Vacaville Storehouse,” Grace tells us.

The food and funds collected by neighbors in their gated communities support people like Grace every day.