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Tag ‘ Food for Children ’

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.

The Different Faces of Hunger

Every day I am more and more surprised by how many people need our help.  Every month the Food Bank helps feed 132,000 people, an immense number by any standards. Who is the face of hunger and what brings each one of our clients to our distributions? When looking at the statistics I was shocked to see that 28% of the clients the Food Bank serves are children. If one parent loses their job this not only affects them but their children and others in the household. While school-aged children often receive lunch at school many times this is their only meal of the day. Talk to teachers and you will find out that they all have at least one student who goes home to an empty dinner table.

Another staggering statistic is how many seniors are in need of food assistance.  As Social Security benefits continue to be cut, many low income seniors are being asked to live on less and less. Meanwhile, prices of housing, food, and utilities keep rising.  For many seniors, a nutritious balanced meal is a luxury.

To serve these populations, the Food Bank has different programs. The Farm 2 Kids program provides produce on a weekly basis to nearly 9,000 children who then take the fruits and vegetables home to their families. For younger children ages 4-5 there is the Food For Children program which provides a monthly box of nutritious, kid-friendly food as well as a bag of perishable items. Low income seniors on a tight budget can join the Senior Food Program and receive a bag of canned and fresh items twice a month.

With the generous help of our supporters, the Food Bank is able to not only help people in need, but to target the special populations who need it most. As you take action this Hunger Action Month, keep in mind the many different individuals you are helping in so many different ways.

Grainger Foundation Helps Hungry Children

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s Food for Children program was recently the beneficiary of a $5000 grant. On July 27, 2011, Board President Stephanie Corona gratefully accepted a check for $5000 from Richard Marquez, a local Branch Manager with the Grainger Foundation. The Food Bank was awarded the grant through the Foundation’s Community Grant Program. The grant requires the money be used to directly provide food assistance to children in need. The Food for Children program provides supplemental nutritional assistance once a month to families with children age 4 to 5 years old who meet the WIC income guideline of 185% of poverty. Since 28% of the Food Bank’s emergency food recipients are children, the Food Bank was delighted to receive this generous support.

The Grainger Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Grainger Inc., one of the leading suppliers of safety and facility maintenance products serving businesses and institutions in North America. They are a strong supporter of local community efforts which address emergency and disaster needs.