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A Family Affair: Family Volunteer Day at the Food Bank

Guest post by Pamela Adelman Ball: We were the apples group. There were also grapes, broccoli, and carrots. This wasn’t Fruit of the Loom, but a recent Family Volunteer Day at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. The fruits were a fun touch though, and certainly set the tone for the day.

Family Volunteer Days are designed for families with young children to visit the Food Bank and learn more about hunger in our country, and what the Food Bank is doing to help those in need. I was impressed at the turnout — both sessions were filled to capacity, with dozens of families coming out on a St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, interested in introducing their kids to these important issues.

I brought my five-year-old daughter, Peyton. While we are looking to instill in her compassion for others and the importance of being an active participant in her community, we’ve been uncertain how to talk to her about potentially frightening topics such as hunger or the disadvantaged. Luckily the staff and volunteers at the Food Bank had a way to introduce this in a manner kids could understand. The 90-minute event included coloring, counting, stickering, tying knots, and checking out some cool sci-fi-ish technology — what could be more fun for a child?

 

The counting and stickers were labeling and packing fruit cans; coloring was a paper lunch bag campaign to convince elected officials not to cut funding for food stamps; tying knots was sorting apples into bags. The sci-fi was touring the massive warehouse and cold storage area. Throughout the event, Food Bank representatives spoke about hunger, ways the organization was helping, and ways we as a community could contribute.

Some of the take-home points were shocking: 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger, and 1 in 4 people receiving emergency food from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano are children. The Food Bank feeds approximately 149,000 people each month, and not just homeless; some of them are just like you and me. Kids are going hungry at school, so in partnership with after school programs in low-income areas the Food Bank provides fresh fruits and vegetables to 9,000 kids in 80 schools. As a result each child receives a 3-5 pound bag of produce to take home every week during the school year.

While it was sad to be reminded of how much need exists right her in our community, it was also heartwarming to hear how much is being done to help. As for my daughter? I was happy to hear her take-home point was right on target: “Mommy, that was really fun.”

 

If you are interested in the next Family Volunteer Day, please let us know.

“Hungry” Plays a Role in Education

Guest post by Food Bank volunteer Leslie Mladinich: When I think of hunger having a voice, I think of TV commercials showing starving children in faraway lands and a celebrity asking for a monthly pledge to feed that child.

But the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s educational play, Hungry, showed me that hunger does have a real voice, and it’s speaking right here in our own community.

Hunger is an actual character who acts as the conscience of Eric, a middle school student who struggles with not having enough food to eat when his father is out of work. The play wraps up its 4-week tour today at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, with more than 4,000 students learning about hunger through this innovative tool each Fall. (Information about booking future performances can be found at the end of the article).

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Commissioned by the Food Bank, the play was written by award-winning playwright Patricia Loughrey to educate the community in a unique way. Throughout the plot, professional actors alternate in roles of students, teachers, a mother, father, fast food server, nutritionist, school nurse, and Food Bank employees to convey that hunger is a strong emotional and physiological force.

And it isn’t isolated to those faraway lands in television commercials.

But with his booming, abrasive rap, the character of Hunger is the loudest: he voices Eric’s dialogue in his head – broadcasting the physical pains, scattered concentration, and low energy that come with having to skip meals regularly.

Thinking back on my time in middle school, I could put myself in the shoes of Reena, a cliquey, insecure girl who doesn’t want to work with Eric, “that weird guy who sleeps all the time,” when they are assigned a joint class presentation on hunger. Eric is also hesitant to work with Reena, afraid she’ll discover his secret of having mayonnaise sandwiches for dinner and being constantly hungry. He doesn’t want her to know that along with falling asleep in class, hunger causes his stomach to hurt and his mind to obsess with embarrassment. When Reena gives Eric a bag of food she carries on the bus to his house, he throws it away because he’s ashamed of taking a handout.

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Eric and Reena tour their local Food Bank for research. For example, as Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director Larry Sly pointed out before the play, the Food Bank helps some 149,000 people each month and distributed approximately 16 million pounds of food last year which is enough food for 13 million meals. Startled by the statistics and not feeling so alone, Eric realizes it is okay for others to know his family is hungry and declares to Reena: “Why is it any different for you to help me with food than for me to help you with math?” Eric decides he is going to ask his parents to get help from the Food Bank because: “I’m sick of being hungry.”

Interest in the topic of hunger is rising and through the play, actors tell community members how they can help. They could donate their time and food. Sandra Scherer, Executive Director of the Monument Crisis Center in Concord, said the play hit on themes that she sees everyday from clients across the economic spectrum.

“Hunger hits across all of our communities,” she said.

The play Hungry makes it possible to humanize this.

For nearly 10 years, the Food Bank has been using theatre as an educational tool by sponsoring this free performance. Questions about sponsorship opportunities or booking “Hungry” performances should be directed to Patty McDowell at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543, extension 243. 

How was your day?

Guest post by Ambassador Laura Collins: “How was your day?”  Do you ever get asked that question?  Typically we answer with a simple “fine” or “great”, believing that it is just a courtesy question anyway.

Well on June 5 when asked that question, I did say “great”, but I also felt it was important to follow up with why it was great.  I spent my lunch time at the Concord warehouse of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano with a roomful of dedicated hunger fighters!  As part of the Food Bank’s ambassador program, each of the people there have represented the Food Bank at  community events, helped coordinate food drives, volunteered at distribution sites, done outreach to the community for Calfresh (SNAP, formerly Food Stamp Program), helped with fundraisers, and networked at Chamber of Commerce events.  Our goal is to educate our community on hunger issues, promote awareness and to also dispel myths concerning those receiving food assistance.  By the way, did you know that 1 in 4 emergency food recipients are children?  And over 35% of our clients had to choose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage?  (Once an ambassador you can’t pass up any opportunity to slip in a few quick facts!)

Along with the ambassadors, Food Bank staff was on hand also, to cheer us on and inspire us to continue our outreach.  As we introduced ourselves many ambassadors, like myself, credited outreach coordinator Patty McDowell with spearheading our efforts to get us out there in the public eye.  Coordinating with the community and other staff members Patty leads the ambassador program and is always on the lookout for more recruits!  (Hint, Hint)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Director Larry Sly was there to speak about the future of the Food Bank, and I have to say, he was on fire!  After 36 years with the Food Bank he is still passionate about the mission, if not more.  His goal is to make nutritious food more accessible to the people who need it.  He was very excited to tell us about the new Community Produce Program.  Thanks to generous support from donors in our community, the Food Bank is able to purchase a beverage-style truck complete with canopies and side doors that open up, for the purpose of delivering fresh produce to communities in need.  It’s simple and effective and families go home with fresh produce such as pears, oranges, apples, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage and carrots.  Fresh, nutritious food that they may not have been able to put on their family’s table otherwise.  Larry wants the Food Bank to work as smart and as efficient as possible, and he thanked us for getting our communities involved through volunteering, donating and advocating.

As I looked around the room, I saw vital, busy people, several working full time, that still find time to care about their community and try to make a difference.  Just like them, I came to the Food Bank hoping to lend my skills to help in a meaningful way, and along the way I found that our community is clearly excited and eager to see us succeed.

So, how was your day?

Boy Scouts Go Door-to-Door to Collect Food for Food Banks

One of the nation’s largest single-day food drives takes place this Saturday, Nov. 19, when Boy Scouts will go door-to-door collecting non-perishable food for local food banks.

In the Bay Area, more than 40,000 Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Venturers, Explorers and their supporters will be “Scouting For Food” by picking up boxed or bagged non-perishable food placed on doorsteps by 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 19.

Residences on the Scouts’ collection routes have received a door-hanger promoting the drive on Nov. 12. Residents who did not receive a door-hanger are not on a collection route, but they can still contribute by dropping off donations on November 19 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at either Food Bank warehouse or at any of the locations listed at www.bayareahunger.org.

“Through the Scouting for Food food drive, Bay Area Boy Scouts are helping food banks feed our neighbors in need,” said Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank. “By reaching out to their neighbors, Boy Scouts continue to make a difference in their community. ”

Last year the drive brought in more than 143,000 pounds of food in Contra Costa and Solano counties. In the Bay Area, the Scouts’ goal is to collect 500,000 pounds of food this year.

“We can take substantial steps toward ending hunger by working together,” said Tim Buchen of the San Francisco Bay Area Council of Boy Scouts of America. “But even with 40,000 Scouts on collection routes, we can’t hit every doorstep. So it’s critical that people help us out by dropping off food at their local site.”

Whole Foods Market, Safeway, Lucky, FoodMaxx, Mi Pueblo Food Center and Berkeley Bowl locations throughout the Bay Area have in-store barrels to accept donations for Bay Area food banks throughout the holiday season.

NBC Bay Area Teams Up With Safeway to Stock Bay Area Food Bank Shelves One-Day Food Drive

NBC Bay Area, in partnership with Safeway, is hosting a one-day food drive on Saturday, November 19, to benefit hungry people throughout the Bay Area. More than 600,000 Bay Area residents require the assistance of their local Bay Area food bank every month. The food drive takes place at 165 Safeway locations throughout the Bay Area, so it is easy for community members to participate and help feed their neighbors in need.

NBC Bay Area and the Bay Area food banks will mobilize for one day of food collections at Safeway stores to collect thousands of pounds of much-needed food.

“In addition to providing on-air promotion, we are organizing hundreds of volunteers throughout the Bay Area to encourage shoppers to donate,” said Lance Lew, NBC Bay Area Community Marketing Director. “It is easy to pick up a pre-packed $10 grocery bag that is filled with the foods local families need most. Our goal is to increase awareness about local hunger while also giving community members a convenient way to help out at a critical time.”

Displays at all Safeway stores will be filled with $10 bags that shoppers can purchase and donate to their local food bank. These bags include items such as rice, stuffing, canned vegetables and cranberry sauce. Once collected, the bags will be delivered to food banks before the Thanksgiving holiday.

“I really appreciate all that NBC Bay Area and Safeway have done to give people the ability to help their neighbors in need,” said Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank. “ The Bay Area is a caring community and food banks are helping hundreds of thousands of people every month.  Thanks to NBC Bay Area and Safeway, we are making a difference.”

Additionally, Food Banks across the nation have the chance to earn a financial donation from Kraft Foods. The food banks with the most donated bags per 100 shopper transactions will receive a donation, which can be used to purchase additional food.

If you cannot participate on November 19, bags will be available for purchase from November 15 through the end of December.

Capitol Goes Orange

Let’s go orange for Hunger Action Month!  Join anti-hunger advocates from across the state, Food Bank staff, the offices of Assemblymembers Yamada, Fuentes, Beall, Skinner and others to participate in “The Capitol Goes Orange for Hunger Awareness”  day TODAY (Wednesday, September 21st) in Sacramento.  They are asking that staff members wear orange – the official color of hunger awareness – to bring attention to hunger issues across the state and highlight anti-hunger bills currently before the Governor (AB 6, AB 69, AB 152, AB402, AB581, and SB 43).  There will be a Capitol Community photo op at 12:15p.m. on the West Steps of the State Capitol.  We ask that you also please bring a canned food donation with you to the photo-shoot.

Learn more about the bills mentioned above on the California Association of Food Banks website.

capitol orange flyer

It’s All About Orange!

Although we committed to wearing orange on Wednesday, some of us started a little early. Last Sunday, Winterhawk Winery invited us to spend the day sharing with their guests about our Food Bank while they enjoyed the wine and music. On this gorgeous day, we showed up wearing our orange, ready to talk. The winery was filled with people who came out to support us. The band (Coast to Coast) had the crowd off their feet and dancing to their favorite songs. The guests were able to visit a few vendors to check out plants and jewelry from local vendors such as Boucher Plants, Alptowne Accents and Pat’s Purple Geranium. Our raffle which included a signed Brian (Bearded) Wilson baseball was a huge success! All in all, everyone had an amazing time and the staff of Winterhawk Winery are the nicest people you will ever meet. This place is a must to stop at if you are ever in the area.

Staff and volunteers at Winterhawk Winery sharing about the Food Bank with guests.

While we are talking about orange and events, we have a few more coming up this month. Between golf, music or talk radio, there is something for everyone. We have an event for everyone to take action against hunger!

Starting with KGO Newstalk 810 which is joining forces with Bay Area Food Banks to fight hunger in 2011. KGO Fights Hunger Day is Friday, September 16 and will consist of a live radio event dedicated to raising awareness and much needed funds for local food banks in all nine Bay Area counties. They will actually be out at our Food Bank on Monday, September 12th interviewing our clients and agencies about the need in our community. Make sure you tune in all week!

Next Contra Costa Builders Exchange will be hosting their Annual Golf Tournament benefitting our Food Bank as their charity. The event will be held on Friday, September 23rd at Shadow Lakes Golf Club in Brentwood. Shotgun Start at noon. Dinner, Raffle and Awards at 6:00pm. We are still in need of sponsors and golfers, so give us a call!

Now if music is more your style, you don’t want to miss this on September 24th at the Willows Theater in Concord. Willows Theatre Company in conjunction with Esses Productions presents J’LaChic’s Tribute to MOTOWN…AND MORE!  It’s the second of the Sing for Your Supper Concert Series Benefiting the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Willows Mainstage, 1975 Diamond Blvd., Concord.  (In The Willows Shopping Center.)  One show only, Saturday September 24 at 8:00 pm. Esses Productions host these musicals each year and they are definitely a must see!

Last but not least, our local refineries (Tesoro, Shell, Valero and ConocoPhillips) as well as S&S are still holding their food drives until September 15th.

As you can see, many of your friends and mine are doing what they can to take action! Please help us by supporting our events.

GO ORANGE!!!

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is Taking Action!

September is Hunger Action Month. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano joins with Feeding America food banks across the country and our partner hunger relief agencies to ask everyone to play a role in fighting domestic hunger.

Hunger Action MonthHunger affects communities all across the country-rural, urban, and suburban. Right here in Contra Costa and Solano counties, 1 in 6 of our neighbors struggle with hunger. The problem is closer than you think, but so is the solution.

Throughout the campaign, the Food Bank will call on you to take action. In addition, we’ve teamed up with celebrities to tell the real stories of those struggling with hunger.

Watch Matt Damon tell his story at www.foodbankccs.org/hungeractionmonth. Share the video with your friends and family. Get involved by learning local hunger statistics and downloading the Food Bank’s 30 Ways in 30 Days calendar, to find daily ways to make a difference. One of the ways you can help is by organize a neighborhood food drive, but be sure to check in with the Food Bank to determine what their needs truly are! Email Joan at jtomasini@foodbankccs.org. You can also invite us to speak to the next meeting of your service club, or work group. This raises awareness and educates friends and colleagues about hunger in Contra Costa and Solano counties–and what we can do together to end it. To contact us about a speaker, please contact Patty at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org.

We’re working harder every day to assist individuals and their families right here in our community in these tough economic times. 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.

To learn more about Hunger Action Month, and the work that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano do all year long, visit www.foodbankccs.org.

Join us this Hunger Action Month! Together we create a voice for those struggling with hunger in Contra Costa and Solano counties.

Backyard Bounty

Pears, Pears, Pears and YES more Pears! When the rain fell in early June, we all worried about the pears in the Alhambra Valley in Martinez and in Moraga. Many people in these two communities have an abundance of pears and love to have volunteers such as the National Charity League pick the pears for us. While the pears may be smaller this year, it seems to be a bountiful year. Thank goodness someone created the pole with the wire cage on the end to help pick the pears. It always seems the best fruit is just out of reach at the top of the tree. My favorite way to eat a pear is sliced in a salad – the pear adds just a little something different to it.

So in the last 5 days, volunteers have picked over 15,000 pounds of pears. That provides a lot of fresh fruit as snacks! I know there are over 230 men, women, teens and children with sore muscles who helped picked all of these beautiful pears. Hours volunteered totaled over 600 hours. WOW! I am exhausted thinking about this all. I think I will have my lunch – hope there is not a pear in my bag…

Supporting the Food Bank Pays Off!

Meet the lucky winners of the 2011 Roger Weiss Memorial “Beat the Recession” Drawing held at the Food Bank’s Tropical Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden fundraising event on June 26th. Congratulations to our winners and thank you to all who purchased drawing tickets! The drawing raised over $15,000 for the Food Bank. Special thanks to our major drawing donors: California Pacific Federal Credit Union, Target, Walmart, Tesoro Golden Eagle Refinery, Aliene Adamson and Meyer Corporation.

Grand prize $2,500 cash  -  Darlene Bruno
$1,000 Target gift card  -  Karen & Jeff Vesely
$1,000 Walmart gift card  -  T. Lam
$750 American Express gift card  -  Lola Blomquist
500 $1 gold coins  -  Michael Bartlett
$300 American Express  gift card  -  William Hinson
Paula Deen Cookware  -  Don Nathlich
Baking Basket  -  Celinda Bustos
Ravenswood Wine  -  Ron Grant
$50 Visa gift card  -  Dan Rubio
$50 Safeway gift card  -  Robert Blain
Jump Sky High tickets  -  Elizabeth Karplus
Concord Chevrolet oil change  -  Rosalie Rowsey
$25 Safeway gift card  -  Letitia Robbins
$25 Safeway gift card  -  G. R. Smith

Those of you who completed our online survey by July 17 were entered into a drawing to win a $25 Safeway gift card and the winner is… (drum roll)… Brenda Mooney of Vallejo. Congratulations Brenda!

Again, thank you to everyone who helped make the 11th anniversary of An Afternoon in the Admiral’s Garden such a huge success! With your support, we were able to raise over $100,000 to help fight hunger in our community!