Hungry for Help: Bad Economy Pushes Up the Number of East Bay Residents Needing a Free Meal or Other Food Assistance

More people than ever sought a free Thanksgiving meal at Bay Area soup kitchens, according to news reports. The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano adds that 98,000 people a month receive help from the organization, a 20 percent increase over 2006.

Meanwhile, the folks at Fresh Start Walnut Creek, a respite and service center for the working poor, homeless, and those at risk of homeless, recently told me they have been dealing with an increased demand for services. The new groups of people seeking help at this center, which is open two days a week at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, include those whose homes have been foreclosed or who were renting homes and apartments that were subject to foreclosure.

There are big and small ways to help during this holiday season, and the Volunteer Center of the East Bay has an easy-to-navigate list that offers all sorts of suggestions. Not to sound too Pollyanna-ish, but it seems that the recent shocks we’ve all suffered from the economic crisis could bring us together more as a community. There’s not a lot we can do about the volatile stock market, our plummeting 401Ks, or even the prospect of losing our jobs. But some mental health specialists and wellness experts I’ve spoken to recently—people who are smarter and wiser than me about managing personal crises—say it’s important to shift your perspective from one of doom and fear. One way to do that is to volunteer. It gets you out of your own head and your own troubles to what’s going on with others and the world around you.

Anyway, here is the contact information for the organizations I’ve already mentioned. If anyone out there can think of others that deserve to be on the list, email your recommendations.

2401 Shadelands Dr., Suite 112, Walnut Creek, 94598, (925) 472-5760, (925) 778-0165, (510) 232-0163, Email:

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Fellowship House, 1924 Trinity Ave., Walnut Creek, 94596, (925) 935-8446, email: NOTE: To write or donate money to Fresh Start, use the following address: Fresh Start Trust Accounting, P.O. Box 681, El Cerrito, 94530.

P.O. Box 6324, Concord CA 94524, (925) 676-7543, .
You can also drop off food donations at the Food Bank’s Concord warehouse on these days and times: Monday, Friday, Saturday, 7 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 7 a.m.–7 p.m. The warehouse is located at 4010 Nelson Ave., Concord, 94520, (925) 676-7543.

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