California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

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The Holidays Are Here: It’s Time To Volunteer

The holidays are rapidly approaching. As we start making plans for spending time and having fun with our families, we should also keep in mind those who are less fortunate.

One in six people living in Contra Costa and Solano counties struggle with hunger, and 28 percent of the people receiving emergency food are children.

Over 42,000 children in Contra Costa and Solano counties live in poverty and are at risk of hunger.

The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provides food for more than 132,000 hungry people each month through direct service programs and a network of 180 partner agencies.

They distributed over 12.6 million pounds of food in fiscal year 2009-10, which is equivalent to over 10 million meals.

Over eighty-six percent of their clients served had an income below 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

“I love my job,” said Lindsay Johnson, program director. “I love working with volunteers, they give off such positive energy.

Between that, working with schools and other food bank agencies, I feel that we are building a strong community. That’s what it’s all about.”

Johnson happens to be a Cal State East Bay Alumni. She received her master’s degree in public administration in 1997.

She started volunteering at the food bank in 1994, making food bags for children.

After doing a couple kitchen projects and leading a hunger survey, she was hired as an agency relations programmer. She has been there ever since.

This holiday season there will be plenty of volunteering opportunities at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and other food banks as well.

“During the holidays, those who are struggling must feel even more alienated,” said resident Rhonda Smith. “While most people are spending time, meals and gifts with family, those in need are often alone.”

At this particular food bank, the entire food pantry is run by volunteers. The organization relies solely on the annual help of volunteers.

“I’ve done food drives, participated in toy drives and volunteered to feed the homeless at shelters,” said student Paul Cramer. “The face, the look and feeling you see in someone
when you make a difference is amazing. It’s always good to help those less fortunate, not just around the holiday season, but always.”

According to the program director, since Obama became President and began stressing the importance of food banks, the turnout of volunteers has dramatically increased. Last Thanksgiving, there were more volunteers than available volunteer positions.

A few years ago the food bank started a “Farm 2 Kids” program. Through the program, they provide additional food to children whose families cannot afford to keep food in the house.

Every week during the school year, the food bank supplies 3-5 lbs. of fresh produce to 60 after school programs held at low-income schools in Contra Costa and Solano counties.

“We currently deliver to 60 schools and will be adding nine more in January,” said Johnson.

“There are about 15 more schools within the entire county and we plan to eventually be delivering to them all.”

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The Holidays Are Here: It’s Time To Volunteer