Pleasanton Weekly

News - November 29, 2013

County employees donate 10,000 pounds of food for the needy

Campaign sees 3-fold increase over last year

by Jeb Bing

Alameda County's first-ever Stone Soup holiday food drive and design competition culminated this week with some inspired displays made entirely with boxes and cans of nonperishable food.

The imaginative creations, which included a Bay Bridge montage, a computer work station and a 3-D depiction of Alameda County replete with landmarks such as Mission Peak and the Altamont windmills, were created with 10,000 pounds, or 5 tons, of edibles donated by county employees in time for the holidays. The total donations marked a more than 3-fold increase over last year's total.

The Stone Soup competition is a new spin on what is an annual rite for Alameda County, a holiday food drive in which county employees pitch in to help families in need through donations of food and cash to the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

But by injecting friendly competition and new levels of inspiration into the tradition, Alameda County more than tripled its usual donations of food and raised about $4,000 in cash as well. The Food Bank will distribute $4 worth of food for every $1 in cash that was donated.

"The level of creativity, determination and community spirit shown by our county employees is thrilling to behold,'' said Susan S. Muranishi, County Administrator. "Not only have they brought in record numbers of donations through this effort, they also have created some powerful displays that drive home the message about hunger right here in our community.''

Each year at this time, county employees are reminded to pitch in by contributing healthy, non-perishable food items to the signature red Food Bank barrels that are set up in most county buildings. The effort usually nets about 3,000 pounds of donated food as well as cash, as does a similar food drive the county conducts in the summer months.

The recent run of tough economic times, as well as a reduction in federal food assistance benefits that took effect on November 1, meant the Food Bank faced a particularly daunting task this year in seeking to ensure that all hungry families and individuals in the community are fed.

These factors prompted county leaders to call for a new level of creativity and community spirit this year. The idea of a Food Drive and Design Competition actually came from the county's General Services Agency, which used a similar format for an internal department Food Drive in 2012.

This was the first time the concept has been taken countywide, however, and the response was quite impressive. Participants now await the word of a panel of judges that will determine which county department created the most interesting and inspiring art pieces with donated cans and boxes of food.

Many of these creations are now on display in county facilities, including a "Scales of Justice" display in the lobby of the County Counsel's office on the fourth floor of 1221 Oak St., and a computer work station in the lunch room of the Information Technology Department at 1106 Madison St., both in Oakland. This work space is composed of computer, computer keyboard, table, chair and filing cabinets constructed entirely of containers of donated food.

"This project demonstrates the strong ties between county departments, county employees, community organizations and the community that we serve,'' said Keith Carson, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

"At a time when many individuals and families are still struggling to put food on the table, county employees have responded by increasing their commitment to combating hunger through the annual Holiday Food Drive," he said.

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