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Economic Justice Committee Does the Food Bank

by Karen Rachels, Lisa Saxe, and Richard Speiglman

Dec - EJC photoTest your knowledge:

  1. What percentage of Alameda County residents receives food from the Alameda County Community Food Bank?  a. 35% b. 20% c. 10% d. 5%

20%, or one in five people, receives food from the Food Bank, a higher percentage than the national ratio of 1 in 7. Much of this can be attributed to the very high cost of living in the Bay Area. For example, a family of four must earn an annual income of $24,250 to be above the federal poverty line, which doesn’t take into account actual housing and other costs in the Bay Area. Many Food Bank clients have annual incomes as low as $10,000.

  1. How many MILLIONS OF POUNDS of food are distributed annually by the Food Bank?                a. 10 million b. 8 million   c. 30 million   d. 15 million

The answer is C. In 2014, the Food Bank distributed 30 MILLION pounds of food – over half of it fresh fruits and vegetables in keeping with its goal of providing healthy and nutritious food. Other foods distributed included good sources of protein like tuna fish, canned chicken, beans, fresh eggs, peanut butter and much more.

  1. What percentage of the food distributed by the Food Bank comes from donations collected in the Food Bank bins?   a. 3%  b. 22%   c. 50%   d. 35%

3% of the food comes from food donations put in the collection bins. The Food Bank purchases most of its food with economies of scale that enable it to distribute $6 of food for every $1 donated. For this reason, donating money is actually more helpful to the Food Bank than donating food.

In September, Economic Justice Committee (EJC) member Lisa Saxe, Food Bank’s Manager of Donor Relations, engaged us to volunteer to sort and bag the incoming food for the fall harvest season. Per Lisa, the Food Bank relies on volunteers to assist with the important task of fresh produce sorting. Last year, the Food Bank received help in the form of 13,000 dedicated Food Bank volunteer hours.

Over half of the committee volunteered to do two shifts at the Food Bank. During our first shift, October 8,  EJC members Alex, Mandy, Norma and Richard bagged apples from 5 feet square and 4 feet high containers. By the end of our shift, we had emptied one container and bagged about one-third of the apples in a second container

On October 22 EJC members Karen, Laura, Mandy, and Richard worked with 50 other volunteers from Bank of America, Family Radio, The MI Group, HFS Consultants, and Playworks to bag potatoes. Our task was to remove large baking potatoes from 50-pound bags and re-bag them in 3-pound bags.  While on October 8 the EJC worked largely alone, on October 22 we shared a sorting table with volunteers from the accounting department of a Christian radio network.  Between showing off our finds of the largest potato and the funniest shape, we had lots to discuss.

That day, the group of volunteers bagged 24,000 pounds of potatoes!

We were inspired by the operations, breadth and philosophy of the Food Bank. Lisa gave us a tour of the 118,000 square-foot facility, describing how food is acquired and distributed through 240 nonprofit organizations and agencies to Food Bank clients. She also informed us about the high standards of healthy and nutritious food that the Food Bank promotes.

Lisa told us that the Food Bank’s volunteer shifts are full through the end of the year but that volunteers are in great need after the holidays. To learn more about volunteering, please visit the Food Bank website or contact Lisa.

Lisa Saxe, Manager of Donor Relations and Stewardship, 510-635-3664, x379


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