According to the Centers for Disease Control, the current flu season is the worst in more than a decade, prompting widespread hospitalizations, outpatient clinic visits, and missed school and workdays. We all know that a key to good health is good nutrition, but as we brace ourselves for several more weeks of flu season, many families will struggle to put food on the table. That’s where the Food Bank comes in. Our goal is to not just feed the 182,000 people who have to turn to us each month; we want to provide them with healthy food.
The Food Bank’s focus on nutritionally-packed produce has grown to new heights. We now distribute fresh fruits and vegetables 7-days a week, year round. In fact, fresh produce now accounts for nearly 60% of the total food we serve the community. Our recipients, including children and seniors, especially benefit from nature’s immune-boosting food as viruses run rampant during the cold and flu season.
When it comes to purchasing shelf-stable pantry items, the Food Bank evaluates the nutritional value and takes into consideration the overall content of sugar, salt, vitamins and minerals in each item. We opt to buy healthier food options that include beans, brown rice, lentils, whole wheat pasta, low-sodium or sodium-free canned goods, and canned fruit in 100% juice (rather than syrup).
With the ongoing support of neighbors like you, we can provide a steady supply of fresh and whole foods that help support good health and immunity for our entire community!
Jyoti and Sundar first communicated online on Valentine’s Day 2017 via a dating app. Two weeks later, after having spent some time talking on the phone, they went on their first date.
As they describe it, “In the weeks and months that followed, those initial sparks of curiosity, attraction & questioning of ‘could this really be real’ blossomed into adventures and a love that is oh so really real.” The two were engaged in July.
Instead of a traditional gift registry, they requested that their well-wishers donate to one of their three selected charities. They contacted the Food Bank and set up a personalized donation page for them. They shared the link with their loved ones via their wedding website with this message:
“Thank you for blessing our marriage. We appreciate having such generous friends and family, and we are fortunate to have all we need. Please donate to help families in our community who do not.”
Their selfless act has raised over $4,300 for the Food Bank so far; that’s enough to serve 8,600 meals!
On behalf of the people we serve, we wish the newlyweds a lifetime of happiness.
Make a gift to the Food Bank in honor of the happy couple before their fundraiser ends on Valentine’s Day.
Our friends at the Napa Valley Food Bank are not only contending with the aftermath of the North Bay fires, but they also suffered the unexpected passing of a key operations staff member (prior to the fires). We have been able to lend a hand so they can continue to serve their community.
Our Food Sorting Coordinator, Dan Tagliareni, initially started conducting bi-monthly visits to Napa. He was able to provide much-needed relief by coordinating the sorting and storing of food donations and he helped them move more than 10,000 pounds of food during his visits.
In coming up with a long-term response to help our neighbors to the north, it was decided that we’d continue to process their food donations. However, it made more sense to do so in our warehouse where we have more space and volunteers. This change has allowed us to increase efficiency significantly. Dan shared, “We are learning from each other new and different ways to work with food donations.”
Four months have passed since the fires. The food banking community is a tight one and we are happy to help in times like these. The headlines might have faded, but we know the need for food has not.
At a time of year associated with holiday cheer and sharing, we know there are too many families and individuals in our community who struggle with proper nutrition; not just with getting enough to eat, but lack of access to good healthy choices. It’s an issue of food insecurity that affects far more people than you might expect, ranging from those who are low income or unemployed to college students.
That is why John Muir Health, the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund and Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano believe it is so important to commit time and resources to both encourage and enable healthy lifestyles centered on proper nutrition. Improving nutritional choices and habits are not only humane endeavors, they improve the overall health of our communities.
This month, John Muir Health made a $35,000 holiday contribution to the Food Bank, and has contributed nearly $300,000 since our partnership began. This commitment stems from the direct relationship between fresh, healthy fruits and vegetables and good health.
Our partnership centers on the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program, which gives local residents in underserved communities the opportunity to incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables into their daily diets. Together, we’re working to replace meals loaded with fat and salt with healthy food that will help counter chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
Through John Muir Health’s funding support, the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund awarded a series of grants, totaling $725,000, to support the Food Bank that allowed for the hiring of a nutrition educator and the purchase of a customized truck that serves as a rolling produce market for the Community Produce Program. This support has helped to expand and improve the Food Bank’s produce distribution to more than 50 sites every month, and has developed greater access to, and acceptance and understanding of the value of eating fresh fruits and vegetables.
With one in eight Contra Costa and Solano County residents relying on emergency and supplemental meals from the Food Bank, we must do even more. About half of the individuals who are eligible for CalFresh, a federal nutrition assistance program that effectively pulls families out of poverty, do not apply for benefits. Thus, we are working with Contra Costa County and other agencies to help increase enrollment in CalFresh. Together, we are increasing both the number of applications and approval of those applications, which is significantly increasing access to basic food supplies for those who need it.
We’re also acutely aware that many college students, especially those who must provide for their families, face food insecurity. That’s why we are actively collaborating to expand and improve food pantries that operate on the California State University, East Bay campus in Concord and on the Los Medanos Community College campus in Pittsburg. With high housing costs and the cost of education, there are far too many reports of students going hungry. We need this to change, and this pilot initiative is making a difference.
The holiday season is a time to gather with family and friends. It’s also a time of great generosity and giving to those most in need. The Community Produce Program, the College Food Pantry Initiative and many other Food Bank programs contribute to a healthy community not just during the holidays, but year-round. Together, we are encouraging healthier eating habits and better overall health. Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!
Larry Sly, executive director of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano
Stephanie, Merrell, director of Community Health Improvement, John Muir Health
Lillian Roselin, executive director of the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund
We are very grateful for the Thomas J. Long Foundation’s support that has given the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano the opportunity to increase the number of Community Produce Program distribution sites throughout Contra Costa County.
The Food Bank’s Community Produce Program was originally created five years ago because many of our neighbors do not have the financial or transportation resources to be able to get enough fresh produce in their diet. This new funding is allowing the Food Bank to go from twice-a-month distributions at 56 sites, 5 days a week to 68 sites, 7 days a week. By now having distributions on Sundays, more working families will be able to attend. The dozen new sites are projected to be fully operational by the end of October.
A recent World Health Organization report on diet recommends an increased intake of fruits and vegetables to help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. That seems simple enough, but the reality for many local families is they do not have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Many of the new sites will be at County Health Centers, furthering the connection between eating healthy and diet-related disease prevention. The Food Bank believes the healthier our community members are, the better off our entire society will be.
For more information about where to access fresh produce visit www.foodbankccs.org/getfood.
Do you want to make a difference within your community? We need volunteers to assist in bagging produce for the Community Produce Program and to help at distribution sites. Please sign up at foodbankccs.org/volunteer.
This summer the Food Bank was presented with the Green Business Award from the City of Fairfield. We were recognized for our reuse and recycling practices and for successfully implementing waste reduction. Our waste numbers continue to decrease thanks to our Grocery Recovery Program, AIB recycling procedures, FIFO inventory system and the commitment by our staff and volunteers.
We are also pleased to announce we now have an organics/compost bin at our Concord warehouse. Thanks to Mt Diablo Resource Recovery (formerly known as Concord Disposal Service), bread and fruit that is not fit for consumption is being diverted from the landfills to become healthy garden soil.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is proud to be collaborating with Food As Medicine, a group of physicians in the Contra Costa County medical system, to make nutritious food more accessible to the low-income patients they serve.
As their name implies, the physicians linked to Food As Medicine believe proper nutrition can help the country’s obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic. Both organizations understand that one’s economic status often has a direct correlation with the level of nourishment they receive. Empty calories commonly cost less than whole foods packed with essential nutrients and vitamins.
The Food Bank is now running a farmers’ market style food give-away twice a month in San Pablo and Pittsburg.
San Pablo’s distributions occur at the West County Health Center on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month between 2:00pm and 3:00 pm.
Pittsburg distributions occur at the Pittsburg Health center WIC on the first and third Thursdays of the month between 1:30pm and 3:00pm.
Qualified households can pick up approximately 20 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and recipients are encouraged to bring one or two bags with handles.
“It’s a positive experience to see the physicians be excited by what we can contribute to their efforts to improve people’s health,” said Larry Sly of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.
The Food Bank is happy to work more closely with health care providers as the trend of doctors “prescribing” fruits and vegetables increases. Together we can combat costly, preventable diseases and improve the overall health and wellbeing of our society.
For more information regarding food distribution qualifications, visit foodbankccs.org or call 1-855-309-FOOD.
OUR TOP 10 MOST NEEDED FOODS…
- Canned Meat, Fish & Soups
- Canned Ready to Eat Meals
- Canned Vegetables & Tomato Products
- Peanut Butter (plastic container)
- Iron-Rich Cereal (45% or more of daily value)
- 100% Fruit Juice (48 oz. or less plastic bottles)
- Canned Fruit (in juice)
- Dry Beans (any type)
- Enriched Rice or Pasta
- Powdered Milk
Each December, Diablo Magazine’s annual Threads of Hope Awards recognize an amazing group of volunteers who go above and beyond to make the East Bay a better place.
We are thrilled the Food Bank’s long-time volunteers, Vic and Fran Smith were honored in their 2016 ceremony. We are thankful for their many years of service and the joy they bring to our warehouse workers, volunteers and of course, the children they help serve.
The article below was originally posted in Diablo Magazine’s December 2016 edition:
Looking back, it’s the Easter baskets that Fran and Vic Smith remember most.
“We do them for the children,” says Fran, 90, a former pediatric nurse who later served as the preschool director at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Orinda for 30 years. “We do all this for the children.”
After a lifetime of volunteerism that has included such activities as sorting through donated books at the Orinda Library, building houses and playgrounds in remote Mexican villages, and boxing food for children at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, the Smiths light up when they talk about their Easter basket program. This year—their 10th making the colorful baskets for children in need—the Smiths assembled 100 baskets.
“The baskets are useful, too,” says Vic, 94. “The kids always get school supplies, and a toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as a chocolate bunny.”
This project is just a drop in the proverbial basket compared to the contribution the Smiths have made to the food bank during the past 15 years. Two to three Fridays each month, in a 32,000-square-foot warehouse in Concord, the Smiths have served as the heart and soul of the Food for Children “boxing team,” which assembles more than 700 boxes of food a month for children ages four to six.
“When it’s a choice between paying rent or buying food, families will go hungry to keep a roof over their heads,” says Sharon Zeppegno, manager of volunteer services at the food bank. “This program makes sure the children have something to eat. The Smiths understand that.”
Using an assembly-line process, the boxing team fills large cardboard boxes with nutritious, kid-friendly food—cereal, peanut butter, canned tuna, pasta and sauce, rice and beans—then the food bank staff distributes them at nine sites across two counties.
The Smiths have seen families receive their boxes. “I am so impressed with how the mothers share,” says Fran. “If there’s a food item their children are allergic to, like peanut butter, they’ll give their jar to someone else.”
A commitment to sharing has been the thread running through the Smiths’ 67 years of marriage. (They met on a blind date.) “For my 80th birthday, I gave myself a little present,” explains Fran. “My father passed away and left me some money. Vic and I used it to build a playground in Mexico.”
Recently, the Smiths wondered if they should slow down just a bit and talked about not volunteering at the food bank anymore. The members of their boxing team wouldn’t hear of it, declaring a “Fran and Vic Day” to discourage them from leaving. The Smiths decided to stay with it.
“That’s one of the reasons we continue,” says Fran. “We do it for the hugs.”
How you can help: Donations can be made to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano at foodbankccs.org.
For 15 years, some of the Bay Area refineries including Tesoro Martinez Refinery, Shell Martinez Refinery, Valero Benicia Refinery and Phillips 66 Rodeo Refinery & Carbon Plant have come together to raise awareness and money for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano with their annual Refinery Run event. In September employees, contract employees and contractors of the mentioned refineries fueled their “need to feed” by driving motorcycles and custom cars in support of our mission to end hunger. The month-long effort raised over $29,000 and 2,600 lbs of food. Thank you to all the coordinators and participants of the 15th annual Refinery Run.
A special thank you to our sponsors:
Air Science Technologies, Inc.| Benicia Fabrication and Machine Inc.| Brinderson| Conhagen| Contra Costa Electric| CS Marine Constructors, Inc.| EthosEnergy Field Services| Industrial Lumber| Integrated Turbo Machinery, Inc.| Maxim Crane| Newtron| PSC Industrial| S and S Supplies & Solutions