Blog

Tag ‘ youth ’

A Family Affair: Family Volunteer Day at the Food Bank

Guest post by Pamela Adelman Ball: We were the apples group. There were also grapes, broccoli, and carrots. This wasn’t Fruit of the Loom, but a recent Family Volunteer Day at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. The fruits were a fun touch though, and certainly set the tone for the day.

Family Volunteer Days are designed for families with young children to visit the Food Bank and learn more about hunger in our country, and what the Food Bank is doing to help those in need. I was impressed at the turnout — both sessions were filled to capacity, with dozens of families coming out on a St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, interested in introducing their kids to these important issues.

I brought my five-year-old daughter, Peyton. While we are looking to instill in her compassion for others and the importance of being an active participant in her community, we’ve been uncertain how to talk to her about potentially frightening topics such as hunger or the disadvantaged. Luckily the staff and volunteers at the Food Bank had a way to introduce this in a manner kids could understand. The 90-minute event included coloring, counting, stickering, tying knots, and checking out some cool sci-fi-ish technology — what could be more fun for a child?

 

The counting and stickers were labeling and packing fruit cans; coloring was a paper lunch bag campaign to convince elected officials not to cut funding for food stamps; tying knots was sorting apples into bags. The sci-fi was touring the massive warehouse and cold storage area. Throughout the event, Food Bank representatives spoke about hunger, ways the organization was helping, and ways we as a community could contribute.

Some of the take-home points were shocking: 1 in 6 Americans struggle with hunger, and 1 in 4 people receiving emergency food from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano are children. The Food Bank feeds approximately 149,000 people each month, and not just homeless; some of them are just like you and me. Kids are going hungry at school, so in partnership with after school programs in low-income areas the Food Bank provides fresh fruits and vegetables to 9,000 kids in 80 schools. As a result each child receives a 3-5 pound bag of produce to take home every week during the school year.

While it was sad to be reminded of how much need exists right her in our community, it was also heartwarming to hear how much is being done to help. As for my daughter? I was happy to hear her take-home point was right on target: “Mommy, that was really fun.”

 

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

“Hungry” Plays a Role in Education

Guest post by Food Bank volunteer Leslie Mladinich: When I think of hunger having a voice, I think of TV commercials showing starving children in faraway lands and a celebrity asking for a monthly pledge to feed that child.

But the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s educational play, Hungry, showed me that hunger does have a real voice, and it’s speaking right here in our own community.

Hunger is an actual character who acts as the conscience of Eric, a middle school student who struggles with not having enough food to eat when his father is out of work. The play wraps up its 4-week tour today at Foothill Middle School in Walnut Creek, with more than 4,000 students learning about hunger through this innovative tool each Fall. (Information about booking future performances can be found at the end of the article).

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Commissioned by the Food Bank, the play was written by award-winning playwright Patricia Loughrey to educate the community in a unique way. Throughout the plot, professional actors alternate in roles of students, teachers, a mother, father, fast food server, nutritionist, school nurse, and Food Bank employees to convey that hunger is a strong emotional and physiological force.

And it isn’t isolated to those faraway lands in television commercials.

But with his booming, abrasive rap, the character of Hunger is the loudest: he voices Eric’s dialogue in his head – broadcasting the physical pains, scattered concentration, and low energy that come with having to skip meals regularly.

Thinking back on my time in middle school, I could put myself in the shoes of Reena, a cliquey, insecure girl who doesn’t want to work with Eric, “that weird guy who sleeps all the time,” when they are assigned a joint class presentation on hunger. Eric is also hesitant to work with Reena, afraid she’ll discover his secret of having mayonnaise sandwiches for dinner and being constantly hungry. He doesn’t want her to know that along with falling asleep in class, hunger causes his stomach to hurt and his mind to obsess with embarrassment. When Reena gives Eric a bag of food she carries on the bus to his house, he throws it away because he’s ashamed of taking a handout.

photo by 1000 Words Photography

Eric and Reena tour their local Food Bank for research. For example, as Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Executive Director Larry Sly pointed out before the play, the Food Bank helps some 149,000 people each month and distributed approximately 16 million pounds of food last year which is enough food for 13 million meals. Startled by the statistics and not feeling so alone, Eric realizes it is okay for others to know his family is hungry and declares to Reena: “Why is it any different for you to help me with food than for me to help you with math?” Eric decides he is going to ask his parents to get help from the Food Bank because: “I’m sick of being hungry.”

Interest in the topic of hunger is rising and through the play, actors tell community members how they can help. They could donate their time and food. Sandra Scherer, Executive Director of the Monument Crisis Center in Concord, said the play hit on themes that she sees everyday from clients across the economic spectrum.

“Hunger hits across all of our communities,” she said.

The play Hungry makes it possible to humanize this.

For nearly 10 years, the Food Bank has been using theatre as an educational tool by sponsoring this free performance. Questions about sponsorship opportunities or booking “Hungry” performances should be directed to Patty McDowell at pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org or (925) 676-7543, extension 243. 

Giving Back is Elementary in Lafayette

Guest post from Nancy Beliveau, Lafayette Elementary School 4th Grade Teacher: Lafayette Elementary School’s PTA has been sponsoring an annual Food Drive for over 20 years, collecting over 2,200 pounds each year. The classes collect food in their rooms all week. On Friday, a quiet group of parents arrive with wagons and rolling carts to transfer the food to the red Food Bank barrels outside our main office.

Three years ago, my class was awarded a trip to the Food Bank warehouse for donating the most food over a three-week period. The students loved seeing where the food went and how big the facility was.

When the students were told how the food got sorted and shipped out, they asked if they could help. Unfortunately, our class size was too large to participate in sorting at the warehouse. So that left us with how to involve the children.

A few years ago, our local middle school actually sorted of all their donated food after school with student volunteers. I remembered this as my daughter was at the school then. I asked Joan Tomasini (Food Drive Coordinator) from the Food Bank if this would be an option for my 4th graders. She looked in to it and our plan was set!

Since we collect food for three weeks, the numbers worked out as we have three 4th grade classrooms. The first week Joan worked with my class and explained how to organize the food into the categories they use at the warehouse. The next two weeks my class would work with our other two 4th grade classes. My students partner with someone from the other class and they work as a team.

Before we started sorting this year, my class looked through magazines and made up cards based on the Food Bank categories. We discussed vegetables, fruits, juices, tomato products, ready-to-eat foods, beans, soups, and other food items. This gave them an idea of how the sorting would go, besides realizing what some of the food actually was! It was a real eye-opener for some students!

The children start the sorting process by carrying all of the food from the red barrels and carrying it to our multi-use room. They line the items up on one side of the room. Joan and Marianne Brent, our PTA chairman, have already put out boxes that have category labels on them. We are set!

Each child selects two items and goes to find the correct boxes. They have also been taught how to stack the items in the boxes so the box can hold the greatest amount of food. At this time, I have discovered that some of the students become packers, while others continue to fill the boxes. When a box is full, Joan and Marianne show the children how to fold the flaps of the box down to secure it.

This year we decided that if a student brought a jar of peanut butter, that they could wear their PJs on Friday, for PB and J Day! I am going to have my students brainstorm later this year about some special days for next year, targeting food groups that are needed the most! I can’t wait to see what ideas they come up with!

Working with the Food Bank has been great for all of us. Our 4th graders know what community service is and how to get involved. Joan Tomasini shares her enthusiasm about including the children in this great service every time she is here. It has been a wonderful experience for our entire 4th grade community here at Lafayette Elementary.

Watch Nancy Beliveau and our Executive Director Larry Sly on CBS5 on Tuesday, December 22 during the 12pm newscast.

Concord Teen Helps Fill Bilingual Need

Guest post by John VanLandingham, Food Bank volunteer: Toward the month’s end, many area families’ pantries start emptying. And because payday won’t come soon enough to restock, many families turn to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for assistance.

For established Food Bank clients, the process of receiving food at various distribution sites is not a problem. But for many first-time families who speak only Spanish, the process can be daunting.

Will they be asked to prove their income, the size of their families, their immigration status? How can they answer these questions in a language they don’t understand and how do they navigate the registration process?

Knowing it can be challenging for some clients, it is important to the Food Bank to communicate with every applicant and to help make the process of getting food as easy as possible. With an increasing number of people who receive food at our distribution sites within the Hispanic/Latino community, staffers and volunteers without Spanish language skills become more reliant on the assistance of bilingual volunteers such as Jesus Avalos.

Jesus, a 17-year-old senior at De La Salle High School, donates his services at the Food Bank’s Vallejo distribution site, assisting first-time applicants register and obtain food. He was recruited after responding to a volunteer announcement for bilingual volunteers who speak Spanish.

“I had been looking for opportunities to help. Somebody told me about the Food Bank,” he says.

Jesus volunteers anywhere from eight to 10 hours every month, sometimes more or less depending on his school work.

On distribution dates, Jesus travels to the distribution site and joins other volunteers in preparing for the day’s distribution. Once in Vallejo, he helps unload the food from the trucks, set up tables and chairs, bagging fresh produce, bread, and USDA commodities and then goes over to the registration table where his skills are needed most.

“I ask them if this is their first time. If so, I ask questions about their need, what food you have to have, family size and other questions. Some get scared. They fear we are going to check out how much money they have. I say we don’t check anything, just your verbal confirmation. No forms, no background checks,” the North Concord resident states in Spanish.

Sometimes the clients are nervous about immigration. “I think at times when we’re discussing their current household income, they get a little bit nervous. But they learn soon I’m not asking about immigration,” Jesus says.

He remembers one lady who nervously kept hovering near the door leading into the distribution site. Finally she came over, asking in Spanish, what she needed to do to register for food. “I told her she didn’t need to do anything except come in and register and sure enough she did. Later she came back and told me I was a great help. It was a good feeling.”

Jesus’ efforts on behalf of the Food Bank have impressed the staff. “I think this young man is great.  He is so mature for his age and interacts with the clients as though he’s been doing this for a very long time. I really admire him and am amazed by his skill level. Having him on board is definitely a big bonus for us,” says Julie Redmond, Food Assistance Program Coordinator.

But Jesus will graduate and go off to college next fall to study engineering leaving a void the Food Bank desperately wants to fill.

Meanwhile the Food Bank’s need for bilingual volunteers extends beyond Vallejo, says Redmond. “Approximately 80% of our Bay Point clients are Spanish speaking and it would be great if someone like Jesus could help interview and communicate with them.”

Bilingual area residents with Spanish language skills wanting to volunteer may email the Food Bank at volunteerhelpdesk@foodbankccs.org.

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 (pmcdowell@foodbankccs.org 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.

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.

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

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.

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

Child Hunger Ends Here™

ConAgra Foods and Feeding America (national network of food banks) are joining forces to fight child hunger this spring. Nearly one in four children in the United States does not know where his next meal is coming from. This means that more than 17 million children are at risk of hunger. But there is hope and there are ways to help.

When you purchase select ConAgra Foods products and enter a code online at www.ChildHungerEndsHere.com, a monetary donation will be made enabling one meal to be provided to Feeding America (up to 2.5 million meals). Participating brands include Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Fresh Mixers, Kid Cuisine, Marie Callender’s and Peter Pan. Every code entered through 8/31/11 is another meal that ConAgra Foods will donate to Feeding America on behalf of local food banks to help feed a child in need.

Also, on March 19th “Child Hunger Ends Here: A Special Report”, a 30 minute special hosted by Al Roker and Natalie Morales, will premiere on select NBC stations. The special highlights the personal stories of families struggling with hunger and showcases how Americans can work together to tackle this important issue. Check local listings for viewing times. To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/ConAgraFoods.