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Summer Programs An Opportunity To Help

Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: After wishing the school year away, students and parents can sometimes find themselves in a rut once summer arrives. It often doesn’t take long before parents hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored.”

In an effort to limit their children’s time in front of electronic devices, many parents come up with lists of things their children can do over summer. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has got some ideas to add to that list.

In July the Food Bank will host two special events that allow young children to volunteer. On July 18, in our Fairfield warehouse, we will host our monthly Family Food Sort. Family Food Sorts are volunteer opportunities designated for families with young children. They occur on the third Saturday of every month. Families work together to bag produce that will be distributed through our Community Produce Program. The children attending will learn that the food that they are sorting will be given to people who don’t have enough to eat.

On July 19, at our Concord warehouse, we will host our (not quite) quarterly Family Volunteer Day. This is a popular event that also allows parents or grandparents to introduce their young children to volunteerism. The children work side-by-side with their family members to do a fun sorting project. They get to experience the joy of helping others in need firsthand. Families also get to go on a guided tour of the warehouse.

What makes these events unique is that the food bank’s normal minimum age requirement is 11 years old. With both Family Volunteer Days and Family Food Sorts, we welcome children as young as 5 years old to attend.

Shifts fill up quickly; to reserve a shift at either function, visit www.facebookccs.org/events.

If your family can’t make these upcoming events, there are other ways that your child can help the Food Bank on their own time.

If your child likes to cook, encourage them to host a bake sale or lemonade stand. If your child is crafty, suggest that they sell their creations to others. They will get a taste of what is involved in running a business and they can opt to donate all or a portion of the proceeds to the Food Bank.

In honor of our 40th anniversary, their financial donations can be matched dollar-for-dollar. Visit www.foodbankccs.org/40th for more information.

Another way children can help the Food Bank is by holding a traditional food drive. Your child can coordinate a food drive in conjunction with your annual block party, a Fourth of July gathering or any kind of function this summer. They can make flyers and notify friends, family and neighbors that they are collecting food on behalf of the Food Bank.

Whether your child collects food or funds, they will receive a thank you letter from the food bank for their efforts and donation. More information about holding a food drive can be found at www.foodbankccs.org/fooddrive.

This is the time of year when donation levels at the Food Bank drop considerably. Having children think of people in need and encouraging them to take action can simultaneously alleviate their boredom and stock our shelves. It’s one thing to tell children about people who are less fortunate. It’s another thing to actually empower them to do something about it.

When children start to do volunteer work, they become vested in their community and realize that they can make a difference, no matter their age.

Trevor and the Giant Pear Bin

Guest post by Trevor’s mommy, Cindy: As a child, my family was very active volunteering in our local community.  We visited with convalescent patients, joined clean-up events, participated in walk-a-thons, assisted with weekly bingo games at the VA hospital, and much more.  But my favorite of all was sorting food donations and filling baskets to give to those in need.  Now that I am a mother, it is important to me that my son Trevor learn the value of volunteering in our community.  I want him to know the joy that comes from helping others and making a difference.

Trevor by a crate of pears When Trevor was 2, I started researching volunteer opportunities with the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.  I learned that they hold Family Volunteer Day events several times a year… but children must be 5 years old to participate.  For three years, I have repeatedly checked the website to make sure the minimum age was still 5.  The week my son turned 5, I contacted Lauren Strouse and asked to be notified when the next Family Volunteer Day was scheduled.  Finally, after waiting for years, we attended our first Family Volunteer Day.

I was very impressed with how well the event was run.  After a brief orientation, we were split into four groups and rotated through the different activities.  We started with a tour of the warehouse, where we learned all about the Food Bank, who they serve, and how they have grown and changed over the years.  We were amazed to hear how many millions of pounds of food the Food Bank distributes each year.

Trevor’s favorite part of the tour was looking in the giant refrigerator that holds the perishable food.

Our next station was art.  We learned about the “Have a Heart” budget advocacy campaign.  Then we each made valentines to send members of the Assembly and Senate.  These will be hand-delivered to Sacramento.

Next, we donned gloves and approached giant container of pears.  Our job was to count out 12 pears and bag them for easy distribution to the recipients.  This was Trevor’s favorite part of the day.  (Mine too!)  It was very satisfying to watch our stack of bagged pears growing and growing as we worked.  The pears looked delicious- I was very happy to know that they would be going to people who might otherwise not have access to the fresh produce that some people take for granted.

At our final station, the children worked together to create an imaginary family.  (Ours had a mom, dad, son, daughter and cat.)  The kids took turns spinning the “Wheel of Life” to see what would happen to our fictional family and what financial implications each event might have.  The first spin landed on ”Refrigerator breaks.”  This really hit home, as our refrigerator stopped working right after my husband was laid off and we found ourselves living on unemployment that covered our mortgage and nothing more.  Fortunately for us, we had savings and were still able to afford food, but I could truly understand how devastating a broken appliance could be to a family that was barely surviving financially.  The next spin was “Christmas.”

Our fictional family could not afford gifts or a nice meal.  Thank goodness for the Food Bank and other organizations that help those in need.

Family Volunteer Day is an outstanding event.  We all learned so much and had a great time.  On the drive home, Trevor asked when we could return to bag more produce.  Very soon, I hope!

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