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Tag ‘ community produce program ’

March’s Focus On Nutrition Is A Chance To Educate People On Food Choices

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: March is National Nutrition Month, which focuses on educating people to make informed food choices and creating comprehensive dietary habits. Struggling families in Contra Costa and Solano counties often aren’t able to select healthy options. Many turn to less expensive foods that are higher in fat, salt, calories and sugar, which can contribute to chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is committed to providing nutrition to local families that otherwise might be out of reach.

We all know that eating fresh fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, but not everyone is able to afford nature’s nutritionally-packed food. This is why the Food Bank distributes a million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each month. In fact, our second biggest distribution program is our Community Produce Program, which focuses solely on produce.

Twice a month through the Community Produce Program, the Food Bank’s customized trucks serve as mobile farmers’ markets. The difference between Community Produce Program and a farmers’ market? The produce is free and up to 20 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables are given to each qualifying household at each distribution.

In order to help low-income children have access to fresh fruits and vegetables and establish healthy eating habits at an early age, the Food Bank created the Farm 2 Kids program. We partner with after-school programs in low-income areas in eligible school districts.  Every week during the school year 9,000 children receive a three to five pound bag of produce to take home. Sometimes it is the only food they have for dinner.

For the 1 out of 4 children who struggle with hunger every day, school can serve as a place where they can count on receiving the food they need to learn and thrive. The School Pantry Program provides nutritious, nonperishable food to students attending qualified low-income schools. The School Pantries are located on school grounds and run by a school staff member.  This way food can be given out discreetly to avoid any embarrassment that many students already experience during high school years.

The office manager of one high school realized a girl at school was not eating anything except for the free lunch she received at school.  When she spoke with this girl, the student explained that her dad has diabetes and they spend all of their money on buying him special foods.  Sometimes there is just not enough for her brothers and sisters.  She is now able to pick out the foods her family can eat like brown rice, canned vegetables without salt and low-sugar cereals.  This is a nutrition need that the Food Bank would not be able to identify on our own.  Through these strategic partnerships the Food Bank is able to help students of all ages in a way that provides the nutrition they need and helps them to be ready to learn.

In addition to these specific programs that address the nutritional needs of people in our community, the Food Bank also offers nutrition support in the form of recipes and education. We strive to educate clients and volunteers at partnering agencies about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, small servings and nutritionally balanced meals. Budget-friendly recipes and cooking tips are provided at distributions, in newsletters and on our website. These resources help individuals turn the ingredients they receive from the Food Bank into delicious and nutritious meals.

Although March marks National Nutrition Month, our mission here at the Food Bank is to supply families with healthy food year round.

Changes Helped To Grow, Improve Food Program

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Most of the changes that have taken place at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano have come about in a natural evolutionary process.  We have grown into an organization that wants to provide our clients with not just food, but healthy and nutritious food.

Our initial focus on providing healthier food started with selecting better nutritional options when purchasing food from our suppliers. We started purchasing fruit packed in juice without added sugar, reduced-sodium canned vegetables, peanut butter without added sugar and canned tuna packed in water, rather than oil. The cost of food is always a concern to us and the agencies we serve, but we also realize that short-term savings decisions we make can have long-term health impacts on those who eat the food we provide.

Our nutritional efforts further expanded when we started working with the California Association of Food Banks to obtain donations of unmarketable but wholesome fresh produce.  We started receiving oranges, apples, broccoli, cabbage, sweet potatoes, onions and more.  This produce is not marketable for a number of reasons, but it is full of nutrients and is a valuable resource to the individuals we serve.  This supply of fresh produce became vital as we built distribution programs like Food for Children, Farm 2 Kids and the Community Produce Program. We have found that people do want to eat well, as they know it will improve their overall health.

Unfortunately, low-income people often have trouble getting the fresh produce they need, as it can often be expensive and difficult to obtain. We know we are making a difference when we send a truck load of fresh produce to low-income schools and local health clinics. Now over half of the food we distribute annually is fresh produce. To add more value to the produce we provide, we started offering recipe ideas and nutrition information at distributions and in newsletters. With this information, our clients can turn the ingredients we provide into healthy meals.

To get a general nutritional overview of the food we were distributing, we began evaluating the percentage of food that we would consider “good” (cookies, soda and sweets are not considered “good”). We developed a standard that had some subjective judgments, but we have stayed consistent to the standard we set, giving us a good evaluation tool.  Over the years, we have seen our standard of “poor food” decline from 7% of the total food we distribute to now be approximately 2%.  With the Food Bank purchasing healthier nonperishable food and the increase in fresh produce that we distribute, it is clear that the focus is not just on the quantity of food, but the quality of food as well. When individuals eat healthier, our entire society wins.

Food Bank Welcomes Assemblywoman Yamada Hunger Awareness Event – Learn If You Are Eligible to Receive Healthy Food Benefits

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano – the county’s trailblazer in hunger relief – is excited to welcome Assemblymember Mariko Yamada to Community Produce Program in Dixon on Wednesday, July 16.  Assemblymember Yamada will be volunteering at the site, helping to ensure that each person in need receives fresh fruits and vegetables to take home.

“California is on the mend, but far too many people are still struggling to make ends meet,” said Assemblymember Mariko Yamada, Chair of the Assembly Aging and Long Term Care Committee.  “Through no fault of their own, working families, students and seniors face skyrocketing food prices because of the drought and the price tag for staying cool in scorching temperatures.

“I wish to thank the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for providing critical food programs that support the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Food insecurity is a daily reality for millions of Californians.  Children, the elderly, the disabled, and students are the faces of hunger amidst plenty.  The drought and summer bring added challenges to ensuring that our community’s nutritional needs are met.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano works to end hunger and increase access to nutritious food for low-income individuals and families. The Community Produce Program is just one of the ways that the Food Bank distributes food directly to people in need. Refrigerated trucks have been customized for the exclusive purpose of distributing fresh produce to communities in need. Clients will be able to pick-up an average of 20 pounds of produce, twice per month.

In addition to the strong leadership Assemblymember Yamada provides in the legislature, we are grateful for the hands-on help she is bringing to the people we serve,” said Larry Sly, Executive Director of the Food Bank.

Help the Hunger Awareness efforts and learn how to apply for food assistance by Clicking Here. Join the Yamada Volunteer Crew and post your hard work on social media with the #HashTags: #YamadaVolunteer #Yamada4HungerAction #[YourCounty]Volunteer on your social media accounts.

Kraft Rolls Out a ‘Farmers’-Market-On-Wheels’ for the Food Bank

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is fighting hunger one mile at a time with the gift of a new Kraft Mobile Pantry truck.  The refrigerated vehicle will hit the road to bring a fresh produce to low-income areas in the community, expanding the reach of the Food Bank while delivering fresh fruit and vegetables.

 This truck is part of a nationwide fleet being rolled out by Kraft Foods Foundation (now known as Mondelēz International Foundation) and Feeding America, to reach those hardest hit with food insecurity. The mobile pantry will be used as part of the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program to expand the service area to West Contra Costa and Solano county to bring approximately 20 pounds per person of four to seven types of produce to three distribution sites per day serving 50-200 people, depending upon the site and location, at a time when the need has never been greater.

 Here in Contra Costa and Solano counties, 1 in 4 of our neighbors face food insecurity.  We’re seeing more residents reaching out for food assistance than ever before.   The Kraft Mobile Pantry could not come at a better time to help us increase the number of clients and areas we are able to reach.

 Fighting hunger is not new for Kraft.  The company has partnered with Feeding America for decades to do just that.  The mobile pantry program is one of many programs making a difference in communities where the company’s employees live and work.

The Community Produce Program is People Friendly

Guest post by ambassador Cecelia Williams: As a Food Bank Ambassador, I distributed information for the new Community Produce Program being offered at Antioch High School.  During the high school registration days we reached out to people to publicize free healthy fruits and vegetables on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month.  This program is particularly attractive because of the simplicity of qualification.  There are no applications or forms to fill out, and no documentation of any sort needed.  It is run on the honor system and an income chart.  Only two questions are asked: 1) How many people are in your household? and 2) Is your income below this level?  If the person qualifies, he/she signs her name and proceeds down the line to fill his/her bags with fresh healthy fruits and vegetables.  This program is definitely people friendly.

Saturday, August 11 was a great day.  It was the first distribution day at Antioch High School and I had the opportunity to help out.  It was nice meeting Cassie, Will, Matt, and Corinne.  The site is right across from the high school.  I enjoyed “meeting and greeting” everyone as they came to pick up food.  I tried to make it a happy day and a welcome experience for the people that came out on this hot morning.  There were several familiar faces from the Antioch High School registration day, and I gave them an extra big hello and glad to see them.

An informational white board with pictures of food available that day, as well as the upcoming dates was displayed to people while they waited in line to sign in.  I thought it was a nice touch that the item was named in both Spanish and English on the picture, as many of the people were Spanish speaking.

I had met a high school staff volunteer that week named Irma.  She was interested in disseminating information and in volunteering.  It was a wonderful surprise to see that Irma came to help that Saturday morning.

I helped people fill their bags in order to keep the line moving.  I also invited people to help themselves to a little more because we were told there was plenty of fresh produce for everyone.  Not having worked the program before, I was a bit worried about running out of food, which absolutely did not happen.  Everyone went home with bags full.  What a great feeling.

One lady said to me (in Spanish), “Thank you for helping us.”  I responded, “Each of us needs a little help now and then.”

My goal as an ambassador or in any of my volunteer work is to make a small, but positive difference for at least one person.  This world is made up of many people…one person at a time.  I am just one individual, so improving the world is a daunting thought, but helping one person, and then another, and then another….that I CAN do.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano staff really had the site organized and ready to go.  The ease with which the program flowed was awesome.  It was a good day and it was certainly my pleasure to help.

To learn about volunteer opportunities with the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program, email volunteerhelpdesk@foodbankccs.org or call Sharon at (925) 676-7543 extension 209.