As a Child Hunger Ends Here blogger correspondent, I went to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano for a tour, and I thought you would be interested in my experience. It was a real eye-opener, and I learned quite a bit, thanks to Lisa. Lisa is the Community Relations Manager, and also the person who showed me around and answered all of my questions. My husband so kindly went with me, as he was also interested in learning more.
We were greeted by Lisa, and headed to the warehouse for our “grand” tour. The facility is much bigger than I expected and everyone who was working there (both staff and volunteers) were moving quickly and working hard. It is no wonder why, as there is so much to do to in order to make sure that the needed food gets ready for its destination.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties provides food for more than 132,000 hungry people each month. The food bank distributes to over 180 agencies who then divide up and the food donations and give to the people who need them most.
We were shown the aisles and aisles of food donations. These donations come from huge companies such as ConAgra (who has partnered with the Food Bank for years), as well as grocery stores, and individuals.
The food that is donated is separated and put on pallets for the different agencies who have requested food. There were pallets lined up, neatly marked and ready to be delivered.
Next, we were led to a room that was really busy! This is where the produce that has been donated was being packed into individual boxes (which would later be placed with individual orders). There was a huge box of carrots – they were placed in smaller boxes, labeled and taped.
We were shown the refrigerator section (which is a lot like the Costco refrigerators!), where the produce is stored. I was surprised to learn that even individuals can donate produce. If you have a garden, or know someone who does, please keep in mind that you can donate your surplus fruits and veggies to the Food Bank! I wish I had known this that year when I grew more zucchini than I knew what to do with!
Throughout the warehouse there are signs that remind us how many kids are suffering from hunger. they murals and signs (many were drawn/painted by children) are very inspiring…
And in the office of the Food Bank, we saw a quilt that touched our hearts. Squares of children’s drawings, thanking the food bank, had been quilted together to make this:
The Food bank organizes Traditional Food Drives to raise more than a million pounds of food each year. There are several local (S.F. Bay Area) drives, including Food for Bay Area Families, Share Your Holiday and national drives as well.
There is a really important food drive coming up that we can all participate in. You don’t even have to leave your house! The National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive takes place on the 2nd Saturday of May (May 14th). Since this is a national program, everyone can help! You simply leave bags of canned and non-perishable foods out for your mail carrier on this day. You can either find items from your pantry (just check for expiration dates, dents, etc. first), or you might even pick up a few extra items on your next grocery trip. Please tell your friends and neighbors about this too – with the help of everyone, this can make a huge difference for those who are in need of food. After the mail carriers collect the food, it will be donated to the food bank for distribution.
Of course, there are also Virtual Food Drives. Through the internet, monetary donations go directly to the purchase and distribution of nutritious food as well as other grocery products that their partner agencies request most (these include toiletries and items that assistance programs may not cover). Virtual Food Drives help the food bank get more meals on the tables of hungry people faster and with less expense because they are able to purchase truckloads of new food. These donations are also tax-deductible.
As I mentioned in my previous Child Hunger Ends Here post, there are several other ways you can help!
When you do your grocery shopping – In March ConAgra Foods embarked on its largest branded initiative to fight child hunger in the United States. From March through May, when you purchase select ConAgra Foods brands, simply enter your codes online when you get home! ConAgra will donate one meal to Feeding America – up to 2.5 million meals. Visit www.childhungerendshere.com and enter the eight-digit purchase code found on specially marked packages.
Brands included in this program are: Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Healthy Choice, Fresh Mixers, Kid Cuisine, Marie Callender’s and Peter Pan.
Every code entered is another meal that ConAgra Foods will enable Feeding America to secure through local food banks. Codes on specially marked packages can be redeemed through August 2011.
Text to Donate – You can make a monetary donation to Feeding America through a mobile giving campaign. Simply text “FEEDKIDS” to 50555 to make a $10 donation directly to Feeding America through June 30, 2011.
You can also help by tweeting one or all the following messages (and/or sharing it on your Facebook page):
RT @EightyMPHMom! Help our hungry children! Text FEEDKIDS to 50555 – it will donate $10 directly to Feeding America. Please help! #ChildHungerEndsHere
RT @EightyMPHMom – #childhungerendshere – look for Red Push Pin icons on ConAgra products, enter codes online to help feed our kids!
RT @EightyMPHMom – Let’s help @ConAgraFoods #childhungerendshere – look 4 Red Push Pin icons on products & enter codes to provide meals!
Thank you so much to Lisa for the tour of the Food Bank – you all are doing an amazing job!
** ConAgra is compensating me for helping to spread the word during the Child Hunger Ends Here campaign.