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Help Your Community, Help Your Food Bank!

Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek have upcoming Community Service Days where residents come together for one day to make a difference. We are fortunate to be a part of both of these days with a neighborhood food drive as one of their community projects. Pleasant Hill is hosting its 7th annual Community Service Day on Saturday September 24th and Walnut Creek is hosting its 1st annual Community Service Day on Saturday October 1st.

The Neighborhood Food Drive Project is fun and will help provide food at a slow time for us. You can do this as an individual or as a group. We provide new paper bags, you create a flyer (we have some samples), you attach your flyers to the bags, and you place the bag/flyer on your neighbors’ doorsteps 3 to 7 days in advance. Then on Community Service Day (9/24 or 10/1), you go back to the houses where you left bags and see all of the bags of food waiting for you. Gather up the bags of food and bring them back to the park where Food Bank staff will be waiting for you. It is as easy as that and very rewarding as you know you are helping others receive the food they need. We will weigh your food at the Food Bank and then send you a thank you letter stating how much you collected. Everything you collect will be more food than we had before and add smiles to many people in our community (and will especially add a smile to you).

This is a great project for youth groups, scouts, and church groups; in fact it is a great project for everyone! To sign up or for more information, visit www.foodbankccs.org/events.

It Is Holiday Food Drive Time!

As we approach the end of August, the volume of food drive food we have to sort/box and distribute is greatly reduced. We always worry that we will have to cancel volunteer groups in September and October. But more importantly, is the question “Will we have the variety and volume of nonperishable food we need to feed our community”?

Along comes mid-September and the requests for holiday barrels. The phones start ringing, the emails and faxes starting arriving and we start working fast and furious. Yes, we do look forward to the holidays every year. When you look at August and see all of our barrels in the racks and then you look at November and December and all of the barrels are full just waiting to be sorted and the food distributed, you know your hard work was all worth it! We receive many thank you notes from those we help and to read the letters and go to a food distribution and see the smiles is the confirmation that we as a community are making a difference and ARE “Working to end hunger”.

August 2011

What we wish for every holiday season

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For everything you need to host your own food drive, visit the food drive section of our site.

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…

Health Conscious Volunteer Hopes to See People Eat Better

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County aims to conquer hunger in our area. While it is important to provide as much food as possible for the hungry, the Food Bank wants to make sure it’s at least nutritional and healthy. Volunteer Ellen Potthoff, a Naturopathic Doctor, has a passion for making sure people are eating the right things.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, she said, “Food and digestion is the core of that.” Thinking back to when she began volunteering with the Food Bank in 2001, she said, “I really had a strong feeling people need to know how to eat. So I was hoping to contribute to that.” Now she’s a Food Bank Ambassador, which is a volunteer who represents the Food Bank at different events and outreach activities by handing out information and  speaking publicly on their behalf.

Ellen worked for the Health Physicians Medical Group and is very knowledgeable about the human body. When Kaiser gave the Food Bank a grant for stress management for employees, she taught classes for them since she teaches these at Kaiser. Being a chiropractor as well, she also gave staff upper body massages.

“What people eat and their level of activity has everything to do with how healthy they are and it’s much easier to keep them healthy than it is treating them when they’re not healthy,” said Ellen. She believes medicines are great if a person needs them, but she rather have people maintain a healthy lifestyle without them, since medicine can have some serious side effects and problems.

Fitness expert and body builder Jack LaLanne and Alice Waters, a chef and author, have inspired her and her passion for food. Being at the Food Bank blends in well with her love for food and cooking. She volunteers every Wednesday for three hours and then another three hours on certain Fridays for the boxing project.

The Youth Homes Auxiliary Store is lucky enough to receive help from Ellen as well. The store supports foster kids who are no longer in the system. She also builds trails for Volunteers of California and ushers at the opera in the city.

She really enjoys volunteering for various organizations, especially the Food Bank. “I really like the idea that I’m helping to feed people. That’s important,” she said.

To learn more about the Food Bank Ambassador program, email pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org.

Students Use Their Free Time to Volunteer

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Lazy, rude and immature are words describing a stereotype that has been placed upon today’s younger generation. Of course those words don’t apply to the entire population of young adults.

jacob

Jacob

Many of the kids breaking that stereotype can be found at the Food Bank on various days throughout the week. While some stop in to volunteer every couple of months, some go in to help two or more days a week.

This past summer, in addition to writing articles for this blog, I have been one of those kids seen sorting and boxing food, putting bread on trays or even sweeping up the floor a few times a week. It’s been great to see other people around my age doing the same to give back to their community.

15 year-old Jacob Reynolds, a junior at Clayton Valley High and varsity swimmer, finds time during his school breaks and swim practices to volunteer. “I started volunteering over Thanksgiving break,” he said, “I’ve actually done everything, but stacking.” He finds working at the Food Bank fun and exciting. He said he likes to volunteer because of the people he comes across and the “fact that we’re helping.” Jacob would like to get more of his friends to volunteer at the Food Bank because he thinks they would enjoy it.

The positivity at the Food Bank is one of the attributes that grabs the attention of people. Jeff Schroeder, a 22 year-old

jeff

Jeff

junior at San Francisco State, said “It’s a positive atmosphere.” Since he wasn’t able to find a job this summer, he decided it would be a great idea to volunteer to stay busy.

The Food Bank was his first choice when deciding where to volunteer. When he’s not sorting or boxing food a couple times a week, he’s skateboarding and drumming for his

band Gavilan, who have recently recorded new music.

While most volunteers can be found in the sorting room or on various sites for food distributions, some are found behind a desk in the office. Amelia Spencer has been volunteering since January 2008. “I usually work in the front office with Barbara, answering the phones and helping out in the office with anything,” the 23 year-old said. In the fall and winter, she goes into the Concord office on Mondays and Fridays. In the summer, she helps out on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays, she goes with Julie Redmond to her food distribution.

She currently attends Loma Vista, an adult-ed program, but Amelia was unsure of what she wanted to do after high

Amelia

school, so she thought going to the Food Bank would be a great experience that would give her a good sense of work ethic. She finds it rewarding to be involved with the Food Bank because she knows that she’s helping individuals or families. “You kind of think about that after awhile when you get to sit down and have dinner,” she said, “Not everybody gets to do that.”

The Food Bank has continued to be an inviting place for young adults to go and contribute their time. Whether they’re there on their own or for mandatory community service, the help is always appreciated.

Local Supporters Stepped Up to the Challenge!

As we work harder every day to assist individuals and families right here in Contra Costa and Solano counties during these tough economic times, we couldn’t do it alone. Hunger in our community is a daily challenge, and we are always looking for partners in our hunger relief efforts.

That’s why we were excited to participate in the Pound For Pound Challenge which brought together NBC’s “The Biggest Loser: Couples,” General Mills, Subway, and the Feeding America network of food banks. The Pound For Pound Challenge invited individuals to pledge their weight loss goals and or every pound pledged the Pound For Pound Challenge donated the monetary equivalent of a pound of groceries to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.

The response we had from our community was inspiring! A grand total of 29,448 pounds were pledged which means our food bank will be receiving a donation of $3,239.28. On behalf of all of us at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and the 132,000 people in Contra Costa and Solano counties who we serve each day, thank you for taking the Pound For Pound Challenge.

A special thanks to the local businesses and volunteers who stepped up to the challenge and helped us spread the word about this campaign so we could earn more funds and feed more individuals and families in need. These include:

Anderson Bros. Movers in Martinez                                                                            pound for pound challenge
Aspire Pilates in Concord
Bally Total Fitness in Pleasant Hill
Benicia Fitness
California Fitness in Martinez
California Health Club in Pleasant Hill
Cambiati Wellness Programs in Walnut Creek
Clayton Fitness Center
Clayton Mind and Body Connections
Clayton Snap Fitness Center
Curves in Martinez
Diablo Rock Gym in Concord
Dr. Lujan Chiropractic Office in Concord
Fitness 19 in San Ramon
Forma Gym in Walnut Creek
In-Shape Sport in Concord
Kelly Ann’s Day Spa in Pleasant Hill
Lafayette Health Club
Lynch Fitness in Walnut Creek
Millennium Sportsclub Vacaville
PATH Performance Training Center in Pleasant Hill
Play It Again Sports® in Pleasant Hill
Spark Fitness in Pleasant Hill
Sports Basement in Walnut Creek
Step It Up Studios in Pleasant Hill
The Big C Athletic Club in Concord
The Dailey Method® in Lafayette
The Living Lean Program in Orinda
The Yoga Company in San Ramon
24 Hour Fitness in Moraga
24 Hour Fitness in Walnut Creek
UFC Gym in Concord
Walnut Creek Sports & Fitness Club
Willow Pass Recreation Center in Concord
YMCA in Pleasant Hill
YogaWorks in Walnut Creek
And our very own Pound For Pound Challenge Champion and Biggest Loser Season 9 Contestant, Patti Anderson. We appreciate your amazing contributions and support Patti!

Last but not least, we thank John Young and Don Potter of 95.3 KUIC Hometown Morning Show and the following Food Bank Ambassadors for their outstanding job in helping us get so many supporters on board: Linda Barron, Barbara Beckert, Pat Ellison, Marcia Fortney, Susan Stillings, Linda Waxman, and Aaron Yuen.

To learn more about our ambassador program, email pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org.

Boy Scout Gets His Community to Give Back

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: An important value and tradition of the Boys Scouts of America is helping the community. Ethan Lipson, a senior at Alhambra High School in Martinez, found himself at the Food Bank when he was in search of places where he could do an Eagle Project, or service project.

His scout master suggested a food drive for Ethan’s project, so he went to the Food Bank where they told him they still needed food for the summer. He led and organized a food drive in his neighborhood, reaching out to 900 homes. With the help of other boy scouts, they dropped bags off at houses and posted the specific day they would pick up the donated food, if they wanted to participate.

A week after they dropped off bags, Ethan and his fellow boy scouts ended up collecting about 1,400 pounds of food. “Some houses left literally 50 pounds of food,” he said, “People who really wanted to give back to the community were the ones that helped out the most.”

With his senior year approaching, his attention is shifting towards getting into college. “I need to focus on colleges and where I want to go. That’s my main priority,” he said. He plans on applying to Saint Mary’s, San Jose State, Santa Barbara State, San Francisco State and more. He’s mainly looking for a school where he can play soccer. Not only has he been playing since the age of four, but he is also on the varsity team in high school for the fourth year.

Although he’ll be plenty busy between applying to colleges and then attending next fall, he still plans on helping those in need. “I probably will help out the community from where I’ll be at,” Ethan said.

Ethan at the Food Bank

One Volunteer’s Persistence Pays Off

Guest post by Jenay Ross, USC journalism student: Julie Ruttenberg has been volunteering at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for about a year and a half now, but it took an entire decade for her to be able to.

When Julie and her husband first had their son, who is autistic and now 21 years old, they were going through some hard times as a young couple. Fortunately, they had enough money to get by. Knowing that her family didn’t have it as bad as others, she frequently thought about other mothers and babies. “Babies should never go hungry,” she said.

Starting off her relationship with the Food Bank in small proportions, every payday she bought an extra box of cereal to donate. “I remember one year just going through the grocery store with a hundred dollars for the Food Bank. I would fill a grocery cart,” Julie said, and when the bagger went to take it to the cart I said, “No, just put it in that barrel.”

When she was ready to become more involved with the Food Bank, she asked if there were any volunteer opportunities in the office. Unfortunately, office help was not needed and she was unable to sort food due to the arthritis in her ankles prohibiting her from standing on cement for a long period of time.

Ten years later, Julie finally became an office volunteer when help was needed at the new Fairfield warehouse. She has become involved with the food stamp outreach efforts at the Food Bank. When people lose their jobs and find it difficult to make ends meet they usually go to the Food Bank. “They figured out that the food banks tend to find people,” she said. The Food Bank has been working with the state to make sure everyone gets access to food stamps. Instead of calling it food stamps, they now use the name CalFresh.

The CalFresh requirements are based on how many people there are in a household and how much money is coming in from everybody. Working every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Julie does the majority of the documentation for the program including making copies of the paperwork and sorting all of it. She also helps out with different training meetings throughout the year with the Food Bank’s partners.

Julie Ruttenberg

Julie at her workspace in the Fairfield office/warehouse.

With her son becoming a little more independent, she can leave him home alone to wander to and from the nearby library during the day. “It frees me up, so it worked out timing wise. He’s old enough to be left alone and I have somewhere to go,” said Julie.

Julie has completely been enjoying her time at the Food Bank. “They make me feel like one of the group,” she said. She was even invited to a staff potluck. The staff told her she was one of them even though she does everything unpaid.  “I get paid in wonderful good feelings,” she said.

She is a prime example of it never being too late to volunteer. Her persistence to be involved led her to her goal of helping those in need.

Families Strengthening Communities

Join us for Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, August 20 at 2339 Courage Drive, Suite F in our Fairfield facility and Sunday, August 21 at 4010 Nelson Avenue in our Concord facility. It is a great opportunity to see how the Food Bank works while having fun and contributing to your community!

Family Volunteer Day showcases the benefits of families working together, introduces young children who cannot normally volunteer for community service, and encourages those who haven’t yet made a commitment to volunteer as a family. There will be two shifts available to volunteer by reservation only. If your family has not participated in Family Volunteer Day before be sure to reserve for the 11:30am – 1:30pm shift. If your family has participated before and would like to help out again be sure to reserve for the 2:00pm – 4:00pm shift.

To participate, children must be ages 5 and older and must be accompanied by an adult; provide one chaperone per child for children ages 5 – 10 and at least one chaperone for every 2 to 3 children ages 11 and up.

Please email VolunteerHelpDesk@foodbankccs.org or call (925) 676-7543 for Concord or (707) 421-9778 for Fairfield to reserve your spot. We will do our best to accommodate you, but unfortunately there is limited space available so we register families on a first come, first served basis.

We’d like to invite you to stay in touch with us by simply joining our online community of caring citizens who receive occasional e-news related to their area(s) of interest.  Additionally, we hope you will read about the many community events (www.foodbankccs.org/events) taking place which offer a variety of ways to get involved and help support the Food Bank.

Stamp Out Hunger 2011 – Event Recap

Every January, even when the holidays are barely past us, we start planning for our largest food drive of the year, the National Association of Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on the 2nd Saturday in May.

This year we received over 171,000 pounds of food from you and our other supporters in our two counties. This food drive would not be possible without the hard work of the postal clerks and the rural and city letter carriers who publicize the drive and bring back all of the food. These are our heroes! Their efforts will provide thousands of volunteer opportunities through the summer as our volunteers inspect, sort and box all of the donations. More importantly is that the donations will provide food during the summer to those in need in our community.

A special thanks to SaveMart and Safeway for lending us trailers to pick up the food from several of our post offices. A special thanks to all of the volunteers on Saturday, May 14th including employees from Wells Fargo Bank and Valero Refinery, volunteers from the San Ramon Valley Islamic Center and the United States Air Force volunteers from Travis AFB. These volunteers helped unload the letter carrier trucks and loaded the food into totes and barrels bound for our warehouses. We could never do what we do without our volunteers.

Next time you see a letter carrier, tell them THANK YOU for delivering the mail and caring about others in our community. Our Food Bank could not do what we do without the support of the National Association of Letter Carriers and you our supporters! Together we ARE Stamping Out Hunger!