Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has direct food distribution programs and we work with nearly 200 nonprofit agencies that feed people in our local communities. The Food Bank is committed to fighting hunger and more than likely you have witnessed our efforts firsthand. There is a good chance that you have seen the food donation barrels around town. And perhaps you have seen a Food Bank banner at a community event or have seen the delivery trucks on the road? You might have even seen us in action if you have come to one of our two warehouses to drop-off donations or volunteer your time. It might be surprising to learn that one of the most important ways the Food Bank helps the hungry individuals in our society doesn’t take place in the public’s eye. Advocating for food and hunger related issues and policies are a crucial part of helping those we serve.
The national organization that we are affiliated with, Feeding America, partners with the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) to bring food banks and advocates together in Washington DC each year. It is a chance for us to communicate with our elected representatives, so they understand the food issues we see in our communities. We are grateful that in Solano and Contra Costa counties, our elected officials have a good understanding of what causes hunger. It is important that we share real-life stories with these policy-makers about the people we see. They, in turn, can help others understand the challenges people face trying to get assistance from federal food programs.
In some instances, we advocate for programs that directly impact our ability to provide food. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) provides the Food Bank with food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We receive millions of pounds of food as well as administrative funds that allow us to provide food to the agencies we serve. We also provide this food directly to people who come to our Food Assistance Program.
The Food Bank realizes we need to help carry the message to elected officials that there are many Californians that legitimately experience food insecurity. The CalFresh program provides benefits to eligible low-income Californians. CalFresh is the first line of defense against hunger, providing food assistance to low-income children, seniors and disabled individuals. Because so many people need food assistance, this program is a significant part of the budget and Congress often looks to cut programs like CalFresh.
The Food Bank recognizes that our distribution programs only address part of the public need and that the behind-the-scenes work we do to influence public policy is vital. There is no doubt that the Food Bank plays a significant role in helping people in need, as we distributed 20-million pounds of food just in the last year. However, people also rely on CalFresh, school lunch, Meals on Wheels and TEFAP. We need to do our part to ensure that all these programs get the appropriate funding, so the most basic of needs, such as providing your body nourishment, can be a reality for all.