Since 1985 Alameda County Community Food Bank has worked to end local hunger. The nonprofit gathers and sends food to 200+ affiliated groups that, in turn, share food with those in need. In the Tri-Valley area those members include Open Heart Kitchen, which offers fresh, free meals on a rotating basis in Dublin, Pleasanton, and Livermore, as well as Livermore's Tri-Valley Haven Shelter and Food Pantry, which offers free groceries to low-income Tri-Valley residents.
"Food insecurity affects one in seven nationally, and one in five in Alameda County," says Katherine Avila, Food Drive Coordinator. "The biggest driver of hunger locally is the high cost of living."
When people are struggling financially, they tend to skip meals because they cannot skip the rent, according to Avila, who says hunger has many faces, from the elderly, to the working poor, to children, and, increasingly, to college students.
To provide for those in need, Alameda County Community Food Bank distributes food for more than 580,000 meals every week to 116,000 people monthly. While much of the food is donated, Alameda County Community Food Bank needs to buy more than 60% of what it distributes.
"We are entirely reliant on community resources," notes Michael Altfest, Associate Director of Communications. Remarkably the organization is able to squeeze a retail value of $6 dollars worth of food out of every $1 donated from the community. Moreover, 95% of all financial donations are dedicated to food programming.
Fresh fruits and vegetables make up more than half of the food Alameda County Community Food Bank distributes. Volunteers pack the produce during a three-hour morning or afternoon shift in the food bank's warehouse near the Oakland airport. Volunteers are especially important during the harvest season and are urgently needed now.
"Most companies come in just once a year. We would love it if companies did it more often, and not just during the holidays," says Altfest.
Businesses are key to filling volunteers shifts so that tens of thousands of pounds of fresh produce can be delivered to those in need. Many companies allow employees to volunteer as a team during the workweek. For some companies, a volunteer shift becomes a powerful team-building exercise that benefits the company as well as the community, says Avila.
There are other ways to help the nonprofit as well. Every fall and winter for the past 22 years, for example, Hacienda has sponsored a tenant-wide food drive that makes it easy to help reduce local hunger. Last year generous Hacienda tenants donated more than 11,000 pounds of food to the nonprofit and this year Hacienda will once again be offering a $5,000.00 challenge grant during the drive to help incentivise contributions. "Food drives are really important to us for the quality and variety of food we are able to get," notes Altfest.
One especially tasty way to support the food bank is by attending its annual "Savor the Season" fundraiser. On Sunday, September 17, you can enjoy delicious California-grown wine and food at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, along with live music by the Silverwood Jazz Quartet. 100% of the proceeds from the fundraiser go directly toward hunger relief efforts in Alameda County. It's worth supporting, says Avila, because "when community helps community, good things happen." For more information about Alameda Community Food Bank, visit http://www.accfb.org .