Tag ‘ schools ’

Changing the Way We Eat, Beginning With Our Children

Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: Change is never easy. We all know people who tout their flexibility and their openness to change, but lock themselves up when change begins. (Other people of course, not us.) At the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano it is interesting to watch this take place around a subject everyone knows needs to be addressed, improving the nutrition of our children.

Obesity has risen dramatically among younger people (and adults too) over the past twenty years meaning that diabetes and other diseases are becoming a major health problem for our society. The astronomical costs of treating those diseases, as well as the other problems we face as an obese society can be prevented by changing what we eat. Most of us recognize we eat too many fats, too much sugar, too many empty calories. In principle we all understand that we should eat more fresh fruit and vegetables and more whole grains.

If we are going to take steps to implement these changes, one of the most effective ways is to start with our children through the school lunch program. By providing students with a healthy lunch, we can give them good food to eat once a day as well as helping to educate them about how good food tastes. Seems simple, right?

In fact, changing school lunches has become a major political issue. The School Nutrition Association, a lobbying group that focuses on school lunches has switched its position from supporting the changes recently implemented in nutrition standards to now asking for relief from those standards. There are anecdotes about the disruption the new standards have caused that raise legitimate concerns. Stories are told of schools in the Southwest having whole grain tortillas thrown away because they are not culturally acceptable. Applesauce is thrown away as are fresh fruit and vegetables. And of course, funding is not adequate for these districts to provide increasingly expensive healthy food.

On the other side, school districts in rural Georgia share stories of how they were able to move from fried chicken (a Southern staple) to herb-baked chicken that kids love. Locally grown grits are one of the most popular items for their school breakfast program. Here in our community, some school districts are purchasing fresh produce from local farms, providing healthy locally-grown food to their students.

But beyond these operational issues, on the political side, a group named the Coalition for Sustainable School Meals Programs has pushed Congress to designate pizza with tomato sauce as a vegetable. The goal of providing healthy food to our children gets complicated because providing school lunches is a multi-billion dollar program.

While a few people may defend the status quo of the school lunch program, most agree that change is necessary for the good of our children. For the sake of our health, we need to see a change in our individual diets, and that will only come about through education. We need to begin with our children.

Food Bank Educates Students

“The Hungry play is top notch in every way — good acting, nicely and cleverly staged, and the message, which all kids need to hear, was clearly and age-appropriately stated through the story of the play. I’m a fan!”

This is just one of the many positive comments we’ve received regarding the Food Bank’s FREE live performances of the play entitled, Hungry at middle schools throughout Contra Costa and Solano counties. Hungry, written by award-winning playwright, Patricia Loughrey debuted in 2004 and tours annually. In 2010, Hungry was performed in front of more than 6,000 students, teachers and parents and typically, schools follow up on the message of the play by organizing holiday food drives or including hunger as a topic in their social science studies. The Food Bank is currently scheduling morning performance dates for Fall 2011.

There is no cost to the school and the gymnasium or multipurpose room can serve as a venue for the play. The play runs about 40 minutes and should fit within a single class period. If you would like to preview that play, a DVD can be provided for you per your request.

Note to Businesses: Your sponsorship is a fantastic opportunity to promote your company, enhance your presence within the local community, and be recognized as a supporter of hunger education.

Please contact Patty McDowell ( or (925) 676-7543 extension 243) for any questions you have or if you would like to preview the play, schedule a performance, or find out about sponsorship opportunities.

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.

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 with your name, phone number, city of residence, Monday – Friday availability, and an explanation of your relevant experience using your Spanish language skills.

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.

Our Leaders of Tomorrow

Guest post by Creekside PTA: While running for Student Council President at Creekside Elementary at the end of her 4th grade year, Maddie Dailey, now 10 years old, thought of several ideas that might be fun and beneficial for the school.  She talked about a smoothie day, keeping the food hot until the 5th graders get to lunch, more balls at recess, and her most prized idea:  a nighttime Halloween Party organized by the students.

Needless to say, that was a hit and soon after Maddie took office in 5th grade it was time to start planning.  She presented her idea to the Creekside PTA, for financial support, all the while budgeting for a “break even” event.  She was really hoping for a fun and affordable party for everyone, and not focus on fundraising.  Maddie put up a student volunteer sign up sheet in the lunch room one day, and within an hour there were signatures on front and back with no room to spare.  The entire Student Council, and loads of other 4th and 5th graders from Creekside Elementary, were thoroughly excited to help setup, decorate, and most of all create a pretty spectacular Haunted House.  Parents and staff helped of course, but this event was primarily a student created and executed event.  With a line out the door at the entrance, food running out, tickets being re-used, and a line around the room to enter the Haunted House, the event turned into one of the most fantastic and successful events to date at Creekside.  All of the success also led to another surprise, it became profitable.

The Student Council held a special session to decide the best way to handle these extra and unexpected funds from the Halloween Party.  They had many options, including parties and karaoke machines, but we should all know by now that kids are smarter than that.  They instead decided to help the community by donating $500 to the  Food Bank, as well as help purchase trees and a new bench for the school.  Here’s hoping these 9 and 10 years old’s become our leaders of tomorrow!

Creekside Elementary

Larry accepting the donation from student Maddie.

Creekside Elementary

Executive Director Larry Sly at Creekside Elementary receiving the $500 donation to the Food Bank from the students.

Creekside Elementary

Larry telling the Creekside Elementary students about the Food Bank and the impact their donation will make.

Students Visit Food Bank

On Wednesday, October 13 students from Ygnacio Valley and Meadow Homes Elementary came on a field trip to the Food Bank.  These two schools are both served by Farm 2 Kids, a program that provides fresh fruits and vegetables to low-income schools.  Students on each school’s Youth Advisory committee got to come and see how the Food Bank receives, packs, and delivers the produce that they receive each week.  The children were excited to see the trucks, forklifts, and other equipment in action but the highlight of the trip was getting to go inside the walk-in refrigerator and freezer.

Students tour the Food Bank

The kids were full of questions and learned everything about the Food Bank, from the types of food in our warehouse to the safety procedures our staff follow.  The trip came full circle when the students were able to see the apples in our warehouse that would be sorted and boxed by volunteers and then delivered to their school that Friday.  Not only are they receiving healthy produce each week, but they now know where it comes from.

Students asking questions and seeing the BIG Food Bank trucks.

Youth Ag Day 2010

Over 3,000 fourth graders from all over Solano County came to the Fairgrounds in Vallejo on March 17 to learn about health, nutrition, agriculture, and the world they live in for the annual Youth Ag Day 2010.

The Food Bank ran an activity to teach kids about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables while incorporating a component of physical activity.  By looking at the rainbow of fruits and vegetables on the wall, the student s learned the importance of eating a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables every day.  They then played a game tossing around a beach ball to encourage some movement and exercise.  Each child had to name a fruit or vegetable in a different category.  For instance, “red fruits and veggies” or “fruits and veggies you would put in a salad.”

After a long and exciting day, the children (and the Food Bank staff and volunteers) left tired, healthy, and happy.

Las Lomas Lends a Helping Hand in Food Drive

Although the current economic crisis has lead to more donations to local charities and food banks, there are more people who need the donated food more than ever. “We are serving over 108,000 people, 30 percent more than two years ago,” said Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s community relations manager Lisa Sherrill. “People are coming to us because they have been laid off and can’t find work or they just don’t make enough to make ends meet. In Contra Costa County, it would take four full-time minimum wage jobs to earn enough for the basic necessities.” Approximately 33 percent of the people served at the local Contra Costa and Solano county Food Bank are children.

Las Lomas helped the cause with its annual Food Drive, which ran from Nov. 9 through Nov. 20. According to Community Service Commissioner Natalie Herndon, the school raised 2200 pounds of food this year. “With the shape of the economy, this year we were not expecting a very big food drive, but we were pleasantly surprised,” said Herndon. “The student body really helped out at a time when the food banks need it most. And I wish everyone could understand how grateful the Contra Costa Food Bank is for all donations.”

Junior Anna Jameson spent long hours along with the Community Service Board to help make this year’s Food Drive the best it could be. “Planning the food drive was a lot of fun and hard work,” said Jameson. “We visited the food bank for ideas and were able to put a lot of those ideas in action.”

Leadership separately rewarded the two classes that brought in the most cans and the most money for the Food Drive with a pizza party.

James Morgan’s Chemistry class raised over 1,700 cans, winning the pizza party. “I was very proud of how my class raised to the challenge. They were truly Knights,” said Morgan. “I have a history of winning the can food drive in my previous teaching assignment. It was for a great cause and I was able to crush Mr. Schreiber class like a bug.”

Sophomore Miranda Fulks donated 40 cans, contributing to the class’s win. According to a text, Fulks said, “We were proud we won. We brought in so many cans. Most of us brought like 40 cans each. And it felt good to donate and help a lot of people out.”

Japanese teacher Andrew Schreiber’s Japanese 3 class also won a pizza party for bringing in the most money among all of the classes. “My classes in the past have chosen to donate; however, this year was very special,” said Schreiber. “With many parents and families being hit by the financial downturn, to donate to people in need is wonderful”.

By Erin Weckel, guest blogger and Los Lomas student

Trick or Treating for Cans

California High School’s Interact Club annually runs a “Trick or Treating for Cans” food drive and donates the food to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. This year, the food drive was completed with the help of three clubs from Cal High: Interact, Key Club, and the National Honor Society. A goal of this food drive was also to cover an even larger area than the previous years in order to obtain more food.

The food drive started out with the bag assembly. With the help of the Food Bank, Cal High was given around 5,000 plain, brown paper bags. The volunteers of the clubs grabbed a couple of staplers and began stapling flyers onto the paper bags. The flyer announced the food drive and what foods were needed. Next week, all the bags were handed around San Ramon and the households were given one week to fill up the bag. After that week was up, the clubs drove around San Ramon, picking up the bags of food. Once all this was done, the Food Bank drove the truck to Cal High and picked up all the food.

The total amount of food collected was 5,216 pounds! Christina, representing Cal High, was recognized on CBS5 (photo above), for the work that she and the three clubs did to help our neighbors in need!