More than 40 years of nourishing our community
In 1975 a group of people recognized that at a time when local families had a critical need for food, items like day-old bread at grocery stores would often go to waste. While the problem seemed so big, they believed it could be solved if the community worked together. This group started what is now the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.
They were pioneers in the world of food assistance when food banks were just coming into existence. Their grassroots beginnings had them distributing food in a parking lot out of a truck and trailer. They provided food to a small group of churches that were helping people fill the void in their groceries until their food stamps benefits took effect. The Food Bank provided a service to these smaller agencies that otherwise would not have the capacity and access to larger quantities of food.
The Food Bank has gone from providing emergency food to a small number of people – to a resource one in eight of our neighbors rely on for help with food.
Linda Locke, Founder
Linda Locke was a graduate student, wife and mother when she got the assignment of a lifetime in 1975. While working for Contra Costa County Social Services, she was tasked with finding a way to prevent central county food pantries from running out of food before the month was over. Her early work developing a food program called the Community Food Coalition grew to become the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano you know today.
Linda was never shy and used her love of public speaking to acquire distribution trucks and large-scale food donations. She was also instrumental in the creation of California legislation to ease the liability of companies who donated food in good faith.
Linda was relocated to other areas of county work in 1976, but her short time in food banking created a lasting legacy. Executive Director Larry Sly recalls, “She created a food bank out of thin air.” The Community Food Coalition went from enough food to provide 30,000 meals in a year to our current organization providing 18 million meals a year.
Linda passed away on Christmas Eve of 2018 after a lifetime dedicated to helping others.
Larry Sly, Executive Director
After graduating from UC-Berkeley, Larry joined the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and soon became the organization’s Executive Director. He has guided the Food Bank’s development from an organization that distributed 36,000 pounds of food in its first year to one that distributed over 20 million pounds of food last year.
Larry has served as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Feeding America, the national food bank network, and on the National Council (NAC), an elected group of food bank leaders who serve as the voice of the network for Feeding America. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the California Association of Food Banks and chairs the Emergency Food and Shelter board that allocates Federal funds to hunger and shelter agencies in Contra Costa County. Larry has served on State advisory committees on hunger and has served on task forces for Feeding America. He is also a member of the Rotary Club of Concord.
40th anniversary retrospective (2015)
The first 40 Years
1975 In order to provide more coordinated service to a greater number of people, 15 local food pantries and agencies incorporate as the Community Food Coalition of Contra Costa County. Two employees work from a cubicle of the Martinez social serves office with a borrowed Safeway Trailer and a chest freezer.
1976 Leadership is passed to Larry Sly, who continues to serve as Executive Director today.
1977 A bill is passed allowing for tax deductions on food donations. Based on this, a 5,000 square foot warehouse is leased in Concord.
1979 The Community Food Coalition begins its first direct distribution program called Brown Bag to provide five or six food staples like bread and canned goods to 50 low-income seniors in Antioch.
1982 Surplus commodities are released by the USDA providing a large increase in donated food.
1982 The Food Coalition joins the Second Harvest national network of food banks (now called Feeding America).
1991 The term “food bank” is becoming widely recognized, so the growing Coalition changes its name to Contra Costa Food Bank.
1992 The Food for Children program is created to serve low-income children ages 4 and 5 when they are too old for WIC, but not yet receiving free school lunches.
1995 The Contra Costa Food Bank incorporates with the Solano Food Bank .
1998 The Food Bank moves to a 30,000 square foot warehouse and office space in Concord and continues to lease a 10,000 square foot warehouse in Fairfield.
2001 Outreach begins to let people know about benefits available to them with the Food Stamp Program (now called CalFresh).
2007 The Food Bank partners with after-school programs in low-income areas to provide fresh produce and nutrition education to elementary and middle-school children (our Farm 2 Kids program).
2010 The Food Bank leases a larger warehouse in Fairfield, increasing the amount of space to 30,000 square feet.
2012 With a desire to distribute more fresh fruits and vegetables to combat health issue like diabetes and obesity, the Community Produce Program is started. Special trucks are driven into areas of high need where 20-30 pounds of produce is given out twice a month. Recipes and nutrition education is provided at many distributions.
2015 The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano currently serves one in eight residents of Contra Costa and Solano counties. Twenty million pounds of food was distributed last year, over half of which was fresh fruits and vegetables. We rely on the support of a generous community to keep our mission to end hunger going.