Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Training Days

We had a great turn out for both the Concord and Fairfield trainings.  The vibrancy and diversity of the group struck me:  there were Food Bank staff members; retired folks; military personnel; seasoned Food Bank volunteers, college students. . . .

When preparation began for the training, it seemed quite daunting.  I had to cram this much information:

 . . . .  into a four hour training.  There was great excitement as the Solano County group gathered. 

The table was set, and we began.  There were so many questions.  I let everyone know that there are many details, however, when we get in the field, it will all come together.

For me, one of the most interesting aspects of the training was that each trainee wanted to go through the entire survey.  I quickly picked up on this as I tried to move on to other topics.  I quickly learned that the group wanted to finish this survey.  This is good in a way, because, there will be some familiarity of what is being asked of the clients in the field.

There were many questions, so this was a learning experience for me as well.  I let the group know that they can view the training modules online for future review.  There were many questions in Concord as well, and of course, everyone, including the "dream team" below wanted to go through each question.


 Thanks to everyone that made it.  Even Spring Break did not keep some college students from making it.

The study begins next week.  Are we ready?  Yes, I think so.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Today is a special day: 100 people have signed up to be volunteers.  It is simply wonderful to know that so many in the community are willing to take hands-on action to gain knowledge of hunger in our counties.  Contra Costa and Solano, you are awesome!

Let's keep the volunteers coming in.  We will need an army to reach the 80-110 agencies that could be on our list. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Places You'll Go

One thing is for certain:  The Bay Area is beautiful.  This has been quite apparent in my journeys to different locations.

Los Medanos College (LMC), in Pittsburg, California struck me with its balance of contemporary beauty. . . .

and beautiful lake views. . . .

I spoke at a faculty leadership meeting and the inter-club council meetings.  The faculty noted that this would be a perfect opportunity for service leaning projects and Spanish classes.  During the inter-club council meeting students told me they were just thinking about such an opportunity.

 Another beautiful location is Santa Maria Parish, in Orinda, California.  They have a strong social justice committee.  I was able to give a brief presentation to their committee, and will keep my fingers crossed about volunteers.

My next adventure was to John F. Kennedy University, in Concord. I hiked to three different departments, including their School of Law, Undergraduate Studies, and their Psychology department.  Again, I felt so welcomed in each department.  I placed a flyer in their student lounge, and left keeping my fingers crossed.

It is simply amazing how this volunteer opportunity streams across so many disciplines:  Psychology students will learn the mechanics of doing surveys using human subjects; Spanish students can put their language skills to the test; churches can put their money where their mouth is, working among those most in need; Service Learning students can satisfy community service hours while knowing they are truly making a difference. . . .

This study is a simple lesson in the fact that when we give service to others, we are somehow blessed in many ways.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Diablo Valley College

Diablo Valley College extended the red carpet to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano today.  Actually, they rolled out the red carpet to many businesses and organizations offering summer internships and volunteer opportunities.

From the moment I arrived on campus, the red carpet was rolled out: there was reserved parking; an event representative waiting for me as I exited the Food Bank vehicle; a map was given to me, showing the exact location of the fair. . . .  The list could go on and on.  I must say that I am quite impressed by the DVC hospitality. 

Once I set up the information table for the Hunger Study 2014 students immediately came by.  It is wonderful to belong to an organization that has such a recognizable and positive influence in the community. 

While I described the volunteer opportunity to the students, DVC representatives quietly placed bottles of water on the table for me.  It was the same during the lunch hour.  Students streamed by, while representatives placed a delicious lunch on the table.

Scores of students signed up to volunteer.  Many said that they would pass the word on to their family members and clubs that they belong to.

One highlight of the day was meeting a student who received Food Bank services in the past.  She is moving towards her dreams, and it is a comfort to see that she is "paying it forward" by giving of her time to assist in the survey.

Many thanks to Diablo Valley College for their hospitality.  I very much look forward to working with these wonderful students during Hunger Study 2014.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Denver Conference

Debbie Fabriquer, the Director of Programs for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano and myself just returned from the Hunger Study 2014 conference in Denver.  The day we arrived, a strong storm hit.  It was such a shock to my system to travel from sunny San Francisco to the cold snow fall of Denver.

The snow did not stop scores of dedicated Food Bank representatives from around the nation in attending the conference.  It was exciting to meet these individuals and to learn with them at the conference.

One of the highlights of the conference was learning about the tablets that will be used to administer the survey. The study is now "high tech," and the use of these tablets will help in streamlining the process of getting data to Westat, the agency that will be compiling the information.

We were able to get a feel of the tablets and a feel of what the gathering of information will look like.  This will assist us in training volunteers to help data collection run smoothly.

One evening, after the conference was over,  I was able to take a taxi to downtown Denver in search of the "Unsinkable Molly Brown's" house.  The Titanic has always fascinated me, and since the weather did not permit me to see it during the day, I got to drive by and snap a photo.

As we entered the downtown area we passed a shelter.  Outside of this shelter were about 20 individuals, that I assume were homeless.  They were gathered in a plaza talking.  I was horrified at the thought of any of them having to sleep outside in the snow.  Even further downtown, I saw a homeless woman walking barefoot on the icy sidewalks.

I did not imagine that my journey to Molly Brown's house would serve as a lesson.  Seeing the sights of those in need in downtown Denver highlighted the importance of the Hunger Study.  We need this data in order to sustain and increase funding to help the hungry among us.

It was also interesting to get a glimpse into what hunger looks like in different areas of the nation.  While speaking about income levels during the conference, on representative from San Francisco noted that in the Bay Area, $50,000 does not go very far.  The income levels in the Bay Area may be high, however, the cost of rent, food, and other needs are high as well.  Again, this shows the importance of the study: when we know what hunger looks like in a certain area we can address it effectively.

Now that we are back from the conference, we will begin volunteer recruitment.  If you would like to  volunteer, please contact Robert Brown at rbrown@foodbankccs.org or 925-677-7016.  You can also text your interest to 925-695-7388.

A Call for Volunteers

 Please allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Robert Brown.  I am the Agency Relations and Capacity Coordinator for the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano.  It is an honor to be a part of an organization that is making a difference in so many lives.

We are taking part in the Hunger Study 2014.  This study is conducted biannually by Hunger in America.  This is the largest study of its kind in the USA, and the information gained will be invaluable:  It will be used to assist Hunger in America, local Food Banks, and individuals in advocating for the funding of hunger programs.

The Food Bank is gearing up for the second phase of the Hunger Study 2014. This phase will involve visiting local food pantries and giving surveys to clients that receive food. 

As you may imagine, this will be a great undertaking.  We are in need of volunteers that will hit the field with us and help administer the survey.  Would you like to volunteer?  As a volunteer, you will be hitting the field, meeting clients, and helping them in taking the survey. 

We will be having a volunteer training session on a date to be determined in April. 
Please contact me at rbrown@foodbankccs.org or 925-677-7016 to receive information.  You can also send me a text at 925-695-7388.