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Hunger Challenge: Can you live on $4.72 per day?

Join Food Bank staff and volunteers as they take the Hunger Challenge to eat on $4.72 per day for five days – the average amount an individual receives in CalFresh (Food Stamp) benefits per day in California. It’s not too late to join! Try it for the rest of the week or event just a day! It’s an exercise in empathy to live in someone else’s shoes. By raising awareness of the barriers to access nutritious food on a CalFresh budget, we hope to mobilize the community to work with us to end hunger.

You can find the “rules” here: /events/hunger-action-month/hunger-challenge.html. Share your stories and challenges on our Hunger Challenge Facebook Group and encourage others to take part as well.

Lauren, a Food Bank staff member, is taking the challenge and has this to say about the first day: “I prepared for this week like I prepare for any other week – checking grocery store ads, making a tentative menu and grocery list. I say tentative menu because I am always open to a surprise bargain. Usually I develop a menu for the week based in part on the advertised specials and partly on what I already have on hand. I’m a frugal shopper. I buy staples on sale as well as meat that can go in the freezer. We eat seasonally and take advantage of lower prices when produce is at its’ peak…”

Lauren continues, “Day #1 is under way and I’m a little hungry because I only had one piece of toast and it isn’t as filling as a serving of high-fiber cereal. I forgot to bring yogurt so I don’t have a snack.”

Read more about Lauren’s experiences and the experiences of other staff and volunteers on our facebook page: www.facebook.com/foodbankcss.

The Hunger Challenge Begins Next Week!

Attention All you Hunger Challengers: Set your $23.60 aside and go shopping this weekend! It might help to pre-plan and write out your menu for the week using the Shopping Log that way you get an idea of how far your weekly allowance will last. Planning ahead will help you to focus on buying foods that you can see yourself eating for a five day challenge and that can also be pared together to make a balanced meal.

The biggest mistake that I made last year was thinking that I would eat carrots every day for a snack. I didn’t care how inexpensive and good for you they were; by the end of the second day I had no desire to eat them again every day for the rest of the week. In preparing my shopping list I can see that it’s going to be the same ol’ things day after day, not a whole lot of excitement for my menu unfortunately.

The Hunger Challenge will take place Monday, September 12th – Friday, September 16th and will give you a feel for how a person receiving CalFresh Benefits (formerly the Food Stamp Program) would deal with daily eating on a budget of about $4 a day. Share your stories and challenges on our Hunger Challenge Facebook Group.

New Study Shows That 22% Of Children Live at Risk of Hunger in Contra Costa and Solano Counties

Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization, released a new study which reveals in 21.7% and 22.4% of children under the age of 18 are struggling with hunger in Contra Costa and Solano counties respectively.

The study, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011”, also reveals that there are children struggling with hunger in every county in America. Nationally, while one in six Americans overall are food insecure, the rate for children is much higher: nearly one in four children are food insecure.

About half of the food insecure children in the Contra Costa and Solano counties are above 185% of the poverty line meaning they do not qualify for most federal nutrition programs including the National School Lunch Program due to the high cost of living in the area.

When discussing the issue with Larry Sly, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director, he said: “It is ironic that many children in our community are ineligible for government assistance programs, but their parents make so little, the children are food insecure. This is why the Food Bank’s work, both providing food and advocating for change, is so important.”

“Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity” provides the following data in an interactive map format:

  • The percentage of the population who is food insecure in your county.
  • The percentage of children in your county that is eligible for assistance from federal nutrition programs like Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), free or reduced-price school meals, and others.
  • The percentage of children in your county that is not eligible for assistance from federal nutrition programs like Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), free or reduced-price school meals, and others.

By providing additional details about the face of child food insecurity at the county level, “Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2011” will enable food banks, the community based agencies they serve and policy makers to redefine approaches in addressing needs of hungry children and their families and develop more effective policy solutions.

You can be a part of the solution. Whether it’s by advocating and raising awareness, making donations, or giving of your time and energy, everyone can play a role in ending hunger during Hunger Action Month this September. Learn more at www.foodbankccs.org/hungeractionmonth.

The New Glenbrook Middle “Farmer’s Market”

At Glenbrook Middle School in Concord they have gotten creative in distributing the produce they receive through the Food Bank’s Farm 2 Kids program. They noticed that some of the kids were not taking it because, especially with middle school-aged kids, taking home produce is not “cool.” Mr. Woods, their teacher leader, purchased some wire baskets and arranged the produce on tables like a farmer’s market would do. Now, the kids and parents “shop” for their produce with bags that are provided and get to choose exactly what they want. A few student volunteers monitor the market each week letting the “customers” know if there is a limit on any item. Before, they used to pre-make bags and it was difficult for them to get the students to take them home. Sometimes a change in presentation is all it takes to change the way people think about fruits and vegetables.

Sadly, because of budget cuts the Mt. Diablo Unified School District will be closing Glenbrook Middle next year. Not only does this change mean that students will no longer be able to walk to their neighborhood school, but it also means the students will not be able to receive their fresh fruits and vegetables each week. As we can see, the budget cuts affecting our schools affect more than their education.

Surplus produce goes to those in need

I spent the first week of May at the Feeding America “Appreciative Inquiry” gathering in Columbus, OH. Several hundred people came together to talk about the work we need to do together to distribute a billion pounds of surplus produce to hungry people throughout the United States. As usual, there is a great deal of work that needs to be done, but we have an incredible opportunity to help the people we serve.

Watch this video to see what I have to say about it: http://youtu.be/vNZNVGYd0zQ.

More than just produce

While the kids get produce every week through Farm 2 Kids, we include flyers so their parents to know that we have programs that can provide them with non-perishable items as well.  One student brought the flyer home to her grandmother and a short time later she called me.  Although I thought that she probably had a question about the program it turned out she was interested in volunteering.  The very next week she was out with me in Richmond helping at our Food For Children distribution and even though it was blustery, cold day, she really enjoyed it.  Her Spanish skills really helped as well as having an extra set of hands.

If you are interested in learning more about our programs please visit the “Get Help” section of our website.  We are currently looking for Spanish speaking volunteers to help at some of our distribution sites throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties.  If you are interested, please email VolunteerHelpDesk@foodbankccs.org with your name, phone number, city of residence, Monday – Friday availability, and an explanation of your relevant experience using your Spanish language skills.

Child Hunger Ends Here™

ConAgra Foods and Feeding America (national network of food banks) are joining forces to fight child hunger this spring. Nearly one in four children in the United States does not know where his next meal is coming from. This means that more than 17 million children are at risk of hunger. But there is hope and there are ways to help.

When you purchase select ConAgra Foods products and enter a code online at www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com, a monetary donation will be made enabling one meal to be provided to Feeding America (up to 2.5 million meals). Participating brands include Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Fresh Mixers, Kid Cuisine, Marie Callender’s and Peter Pan. Every code entered through 8/31/11 is another meal that ConAgra Foods will donate to Feeding America on behalf of local food banks to help feed a child in need.

Also, on March 19th “Child Hunger Ends Here: A Special Report”, a 30 minute special hosted by Al Roker and Natalie Morales, will premiere on select NBC stations. The special highlights the personal stories of families struggling with hunger and showcases how Americans can work together to tackle this important issue. Check local listings for viewing times. To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/ConAgraFoods.

Did you know March is National Nutrition Month®?

This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month®, an annual nutrition education and information campaign sponsored by the American Dietetic Association, is “Eat Right with Color” and that is one of our favorite topics here at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

Child Eating AppleEat Right with Color is part of our daily work. In many low-income neighborhoods, access to affordable, nutritious food is sparse at best, often leading to higher than average occurrences of diet-related diseases such as diabetes and obesity. At the Food Bank, we aim to help everyone Eat Right with Color by ensuring access to fresh, healthy food, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. Of the more than 12.6 million pounds of food we distributed last year, an amazing 3.5 million pounds were fresh fruits and vegetables.

Our Senior Food Program is certainly doing its part of making sure seniors eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. The ‘Colors of the Senior Food Program’ at our last five distributions brought a greater nutritional value to the bags of food. Green was represented by cabbage and apples. White was represented by onions and potatoes. Orange was represented by oranges, carrots and yams.

Last week our Farm 2 Kids Coordinator visited a few Vallejo schools that receive produce on a weekly basis. Everyone was ecstatic because for the first time they all received a shipment of red and yellow mangoes from the Food Bank. Frequently when she asks the children what they would like to see in Farm 2 Kids they inevitably say enthusiastically “mangoes!” Read more about the mangoes we distributed to hundreds of children on our Food Bank Blog.

Where does the produce come from? As part of our statewide association of Food Banks we are able to purchase surplus produce for pennies on the pound. Fruits and vegetables grown by farmers in the Central Valley are often “not perfect enough” to be sold in grocery stores. Often, they are just too big or too small to be sold and that is why our clients sometimes receive giant oranges or tiny potatoes. The Food Bank buys the produce in large bins and then we have volunteers sort out any items that may have spoiled in transit. They then package the fruits and vegetables in boxes and a driver delivers them to the school site.

These are just a few examples of what Eat Right with Color means here at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano as we strive to provide healthy food for hungry people.

Do you tweet?

If you have a twitter account, can you please help us out and ask your friends to as well? Help us by tweeting “My #USATODAY #KindnessChallenge is to help @foodbankccs ” + how you’d like to help! The challenge ends on 6 p.m. ET on Friday, February 18, 2011 and the top three charities will be featured in an upcoming story in USA TODAY.

twitterExamples:

My #USATODAY #KindnessChallenge goal is to help @foodbankccs end domestic hunger.

My #USATODAY #KindnessChallenge goal is to help @foodbankccs fight hunger.

My #USATODAY #KindnessChallenge goal is to help @foodbankccs feed the hungry in my community.

If you have any questions contact me at lsherrill@foodbankccs.org or @lisa_sherrill.

Cooking Class

Last week I visited Sullivan Middle, a Farm 2 Kids school in Fairfield. They had cooking class where they made baked potatoes and snacked on apples and peanut butter.  They loved that the produce they get from the Food Bank enables them to do activities like this.  Their teacher, Ms. Denise told me that many kids come to the after school program hungry and she is really glad that she is able to offer them a healthy snack.

Through the Farm 2 Kids program, the Food Bank provides fresh fruits and vegetables to children whose families cannot afford to keep food on the table. As produce is perishable and expensive, many families have trouble feeding their kids the nutrients that are essential for developing children. Every week, Farm 2 Kids provides 3-5 pounds of fresh produce to more than 7,800 children in nearly 70 after school programs in Contra Costa and Solano counties. Over 50% of the students in these schools receive free or reduced cost school lunches, meaning at least half of the households in the school are considered low-income by the federal government.