Tag ‘ agencies ’

If I Couldn’t Grab a Midnight Snack

Guest post by Jenay Ross, Print and Digital Journalism major//Music Industry minor, University of Southern California: Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you were homeless? What it would be like if you didn’t have the same bed to sleep in every night or if you didn’t have a fridge to go through to search for a snack?

I think about it every time I feed the hungry.

Tonight I volunteered for Mission Solano’s Nomadic Shelter Program hosted by the Rockville Presbyterian Church in Fairfield. It was the most put-together food line I had ever volunteered at.

I don’t mean in terms of how organized it was, but how special everything looked. Instead of paper plates and plastic utensils, they used real plates and silverware placed on nice table cloths with candle center pieces.

The clients, or “guests,” arrived by bus shortly after 6:15PM, clean from their showers back at Mission Solano and ready for a filling meal.

Tonight’s meal consisted of glazed ham, green beans, mashed potatoes. bread, salad and a variety of cakes.

As if their “thank yous weren’t enough to warm my heart, every face had gratefulness written all over it. I even had the pleasure of having a conversation with a few of them about my own experiences at other food lines and my journalism endeavors.

One thing that blew me away was how helpful the clients were. They didn’t just congregate somewhere else while the volunteers cleaned up. They started breaking down tables, putting away chairs and even mopped up the floor while the volunteers did the dishes.

My favorite moment of the night was when a lovely young man was playing the church’s piano and started singing while some of the others laughed and danced.

Now the people are being tucked away at the church for a good night’s rest with a roof over their heads.

No one should ever go hungry and sometimes it’s up to us, the more fortunate souls, to be there for them.

Editor’s Note: Mission Solano is a Food Bank Partner Agency. To learn more about our agencies visit:

Agency Store Gives Help with Dignity

Guest post by Inventory Logistics Coordinator, Charisse Ross. The Vacaville Storehouse is a distribution center for food and clothing to needy families of Vacaville. The food is provided by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Food and clothing are given free of charge to those who are in need. Some members of our operations team stopped in for a visit and shared what they saw.

Filled bags of groceries ready for Storehouse patrons.

Their store front looks like a mini Target. Clients check in at the door and are asked if they have picked up groceries yet this month. The volunteer will verify in their computer whether or not the person came. If not, they go through the FAP (Food Assistance Program) qualifying process. If they have not received their FAP groceries yet, they are given a coupon that they exchange for the proper number of bags based on their family size. Whether they are picking up a FAP bag or not, they still get to shop in their “store”. They are given one empty grocery bag and they can fill it with whatever items they want (i.e. clothes, perishables and/or other non-food items). About 1500 bags of groceries are distributed every month.

Pastor Raymond Beaty is the Executive Director of the program. The white boxes behind him are cereal our purchasing manager helped them get.

They have an internship program with kids between 18 and 23 who have graduated from high school, but not sure of what they want to do next. They come from all over, even different countries and are housed by host families from their church. These kids take various different classes they provide plus they volunteer at the Storehouse every day. The Storehouse also goes out into troubled areas of their community and (using the same qualifying process) give out groceries. For instance, one location is a park where gang members might hang out. They show up with food to give out, the gang members go away and they have noticed kids coming out to play.

54 scarves knitted for the Storehouse by Food Bank employee, Charise, her friends and family.

The Vacaville storehouse is located at:
1146 E. Monte Vista Ave.

Vacaville, CA 95688

For more information please email Stephanie Johnson or visit their website.
Have you been to the Storehouse? Tell us about it in the comments.


Vacaville Storehouse





Holiday Program Highlight

Throughout the year, the Food Bank provides its’ member agencies (soup kitchens, pantries, group homes, etc.) with 480,000 pounds per month of free food. Each holiday season, we are delighted to provide even more assistance.

In order to reach our goal of the 160,000 additional pounds the Food Bank hopes to distribute this holiday season, we have purchased 1,700 cases of food and worked to get extra produce. In addition, food drives, donations, and Merrill Lynch’s holiday boxes will bring us to our goal. This year, we have partnered with around 100 nonprofits located throughout Contra Costa and Solano Counties who are coordinating either holiday meals or holiday basket distributions.

We bolster these special holiday distributions by providing turkeys, gift certificates, produce, and food boxes. In addition, we will be distributing 3,000 $15 gift certificates for the purchase of turkeys. In all, we expect to help provide 6,000 holiday meals and 22,000 holiday food baskets.

None of this would be possible without the generosity of the people in the communities we serve. Thank you to all who support our mission. Happy holidays.

Stories from the Creek, Part 1

Guest post by John VanLandingham, Food Bank volunteer: Every month, approximately 100 people appear at St.Paul’s Episcopal Church in Walnut Creek to receive free food distributions from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties. Many of those are collecting for more than one person. Here are some of their stories.

 “I’m here because of low old-age pension. Every year my costs go up.”

Thaddeus, 90, Pleasant Hill

Thaddeus waited at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s parking lot in Walnut Creek for a friend while holding a couple of bags full of groceries. His bags contained fresh fruit, meat, bread, canned goods and some other staples this month.

Thaddeus was among the approximately 110 persons receiving food donations from Contra Costa-Solano Food Bank volunteers, many of them elderly, some disabled.

“Thaddeus is my biblical name. I speak French, German, Italian, Russian,” he said with an accent lingering from the five years he says he lived in France.

The 90-year-old former translator (who says he can read many literary classics in their original language) has been coming to the monthly Food Bank distribution for about six months.

“I lost my job at 65,” the Pleasant Hill resident said. “I’m here because of low old-age pension. Every year my costs are going up. Now I don’t have enough money for food and my living expenses. When you get old, they don’t care any more. It’s very cruel,” he said as he gave one of his bags of food to his friend who came to help.

Thaddeus explained that he does live with a family in Pleasant Hill.

For more information on our programs and services, please visit the Give Help page of our website.


When watermelon shows up in the markets around June, I eat as much as I can get my hands on because it just isn’t worth it any other time of year. Last week, the few melons that didn’t make it into my cart ended up in the warehouse at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

Summer means an abundance of fruits and veggies like tomatoes, zucchini and my favorite fruit, watermelon. Sometimes for Food Bank clients, picking up fresh summer produce at the store just isn’t an option with limited food dollars. The Food Bank was thrilled to receive about 2,000 fresh watermelons (11,000 pounds!) that were distributed through our agencies and programs like the Food Assistance Program and Farm 2 Kids.

It was fun for us to see that many watermelons in our warehouse and even better for the families who got to enjoy one of summer’s biggest rewards.

Rachel’s tips for fool-proof watermelon selection:

  • Look for a melon with a deep yellow ground spot (pale or white will only disappoint).
  • Pick it up. The melon should be heavy for its size (of course it’s a heavy watermelon, but some are heavier than others which means juicier).
  • Now with one hand under the melon, give the top a little smack. If it vibrates through to your bottom hand you have picked a winner. Too much jiggle and it’s overripe, too little and it’s just not delicious.

It takes some practice, but after eating a few for comparison you’ll never end up with a bland or mealy melon again.

Striving for a Better Future

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Sometimes when a person is going through a rough time, they need a little mentoring to inspire them to achieve a better life. Two agencies, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the North Bay and Archway Recovery Services both of Fairfield, do exactly that.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters is a youth mentoring service that serves disadvantaged children, particularly those who have parents incarcerated or deployed in the military. Cecilia Ramirez Ruiz said their mission is to “provide children with a positive role model.”

They serve about 1,000 kids in the North Bay and obtain food from Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano regularly to provide snacks for the kids. Bread products, individually packed Little Debbie treats and other snacks are what the workers hope to find at distributions when they go a couple times a month.

With the Food Bank’s help, Archway is able to save money by picking up bread, milk, produce, eggs, frozen foods and other assorted non-perishable items at the weekly distributions. Archway is a drug and rehabilitation program that mostly caters to ex-convicts.

According to Billy Moore of Archway, when the convicts are released from prison, the program tries to “re-socialize them into the community.” Most people learn about Archway through the Board of Prison Terms or SASCA, the Substance Abuse Services Coordinating Agency.

Each person who signs up with Archway must complete a 12 step program, which includes going to outside AA meetings and getting a sponsor. While they work their way through each step, Archway provides its clients with food.

Except for when the agencies have to buy something they can’t find at distribution, the Food Bank has been able to supply good resources and nutritious food for each agency.

Billy Moore from Archway

Efrain Sanchez of Archway shops for assorted non-food items

30 Years and Counting of Commitment

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Around 1975, Duncan Miller pledged himself to the fight against hunger with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. 30 years later, he is still a fighter.

Miller got involved with the Food Bank through the Fairfield Presbyterian Church and now uses the Rockville Presbyterian Fellowship to reach those in need. Rockville distributes food at their church, as well as Mission Solano. At the end of each month, they have usually catered to 1400 families and at one time had over 2,000 clients.

Duncan Miller

Duncan Miller: Fighting hunger for more than 30 years.

“The Food Bank has cooperated beautifully with us,” Miller said, “and has run the show marvelously to take care of the less fortunate.” He believes the Food Bank ensures the food is distributed where it belongs.

While the Food Bank gives Rockville plenty of resources to reach out to their clients, Sunnyside Dairy also contributes a significant amount of products to them. Over the years, Sunnyside has donated about a million dollars worth of milk. “They put up with us two or three times a week going into their facility,” said Miller, “They have treated us just like one of them for 30 years or so.” Rockville’s volunteers meet at Sunnyside with a truck driver from the Food Bank to help load dairy. They usually come out with an average of 4,000 gallons a week!

Miller was inspired to help those in need through his own experience with hardship. During the depression, his family was helped by people more fortunate then they were. “That’s how I learned how important caring for others who are less fortunate is,” he said.

When looking back on his involvement with the Food Bank, Miller said, “We’re all pushing for the same thing. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

With his 90th birthday quickly approaching, the Food Bank would like to wish Duncan a happy birthday!