FAQ

Questions about receiving help:

How do I get food?
How does the Emergency Food Helpline work?
Why is it necessary to call the Emergency Food Helpline after I’ve registered in the databank?
If I don’t need food myself, can I call for a family member or friend who does?
Does the Food Bank distribute food directly to individuals?
How is the Food Bank involved in the Food Stamps Program?

 

Questions about helping out:

What are the Food Bank's funding sources?
How far do my donations go?
How do I volunteer at the Food Bank?
How do I start a food drive?
Where can I drop off nonperishable food donations?
Does the Food Bank accept prepared or perishable food?
Why is the Food Bank involved in advocacy?

 

How do I get food?

It all starts with a call to the Emergency Food Helpline at (800) 870-FOOD (3663). Follow the menu options to “get food today.” If your call is not answered by one of our operators, leave a message clearly stating your name and phone number and the call will be returned — usually within an hour, but always on the same day. Calls placed after 4 p.m. will be returned the next business day.

The Emergency Food Helpline operates from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, except holidays.

Note: Customers of Metro PCS and some other regional mobile phone networks may not be able to place 800 and other toll-free calls. Those subscribers can reach the Helpline by calling (510) 635-FOOD (3663).

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How does the Emergency Food Helpline work?

The first time you call the Helpline, we’ll register you in our database. The process takes about 5 minutes.

Be prepared to give us your address and a contact number (so that we can match you to the nearest sources of food), information about those living in your household (so that we can connect you with enough food) and your primary sources of income (a full- or part-time job, Supplemental Security Income [SSI], etc.). We won’t ask you for specific income numbers — we understand that even those working multiple jobs in Alameda County sometimes need help putting food on the table.

Once you’ve been registered or verified, we’ll identify Food Bank member agencies in your neighborhood that distribute food on the day and time that you need it. Our operators will place a “referral” — or hold — on a bag of food (or, in the case of a soup kitchen, add you and/or household members to the meal list).

Helpline operators do much more than provide referrals for same- and next-day food. They also provide information about other local food distributions programs and sites — i.e., USDA, Mercy Brown Bag (for seniors) and the Summer Lunch Program (for children and teens) — and can help clients identify government nutrition programs, such as CalFresh (commonly known as food stamps), for which they may be eligible.

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Why is it necessary to call the Emergency Food Helpline after I’ve registered in the databank?

Our member agencies rely on the Food Bank to provide them with an adequate food supply to meet community demand — and to distribute food equitably among those in need. As such, they require referrals from the Food Bank for all commodities distributed through the Emergency Food Program. The Helpline has the resources to refer each client to an array of local agencies.

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If I don’t need food myself, can I call for a family member or friend who does?

Yes. Please be able to provide basic details – name, address, phone number, household size and source of income – for the person(s) for whom you wish to provide a food referral.

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Does the Food Bank distribute food directly to individuals?

No. The Food Bank’s location near the Oakland Airport serves as a clearinghouse for donated, surplus and purchased food for nonprofit agencies. We distribute food to 240 member agency partners – food pantries, soup kitchens (hot meals), child-care centers, senior centers, after-school programs and other community-based organizations – more than 50% of it in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you need food, call our Emergency Food Helpline at (800) 870-FOOD (3663) – (510) 635-3663 for Metro PCS subscribers.

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How is the Food Bank involved in CalFresh?

CalFresh, which used to be called food stamps, is an integral part of the Food Bank’s strategic solution to eradicating hunger. Our daily food distributions respond to an urgent need in this community; CalFresh serves as a longer-term solution to the hunger crisis in Alameda County. The program alleviates demand at the Food Bank and injects federal funds into our local economy. Unfortunately, only about half of those eligible for CalFresh in Alameda County participate in the program (leaving approximately $100 million of federal funds on the table each year that could be flowing into our county).

The Food Bank’s multilingual CalFresh Outreach Program – which serves as the blueprint for food banks across the nation – screens clients for CalFresh eligibility from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each weekday.

Call the Food Bank’s CalFresh Outreach Team at (510) 635-3663 to find out if you may be eligible for CalFresh and for application assistance. Clients deemed potentially eligible will have their applications expedited to the Alameda County Social Services Agency. For more information about the Food Bank’s screening service, click here.

You may also apply for CalFresh at your local Alameda County Social Services office.

Note: Although the Food Stamps Program is known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Program, California has adopted the name CalFresh. All three names refer to the same nutrition assistance program.

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What are the Food Bank's funding sources?

The Alameda County Community Food Bank's funding comes from individuals, corporations, foundations, special events and federal, state and county government agencies. The Food Bank is unique among non-profits – even among food banks – in that we receive most of our support (about 60%) from individuals. For more details, see our latest Annual Report.

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How far do my donations go?

The Food Bank has received Charity Navigator’s highest rating – Four Stars – for nine consecutive years, an honor matched by just 1% of nonprofits nationwide. Our bulk purchasing power and ultra-efficient distribution network allows us to distribute $6 worth of food (retail value) for every $1 donation. See our latest Charity Navigator report.

Despite recent increases in food allotments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and steady community support via food drives, the Food Bank must purchase 59% of the food it distributes to keep up with current demand. We rely on financial donations more than ever.

There are three ways for individuals to make a direct, tax-deductible financial donation to the Food Bank:

  • By making an online donation.
  • By mailing a check to: Alameda County Community Food Bank (or ACCFB), P.O. Box 2599, Oakland, CA 94614
  • By starting a Virtual Food Drive, where donors can grab a virtual shopping cart and see how our bulk purchasing power compares to retail prices – and/or sign up as a group to promote the cause.

For other ways to donate, click here.

For corporate donations or sponsorships, click here.

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How do I volunteer at the Food Bank?

Volunteers are the heartbeat of the Food Bank. In the past year, 15,000 volunteers helped connect people in need with food by:

  • Sorting and boxing food
  • Serving as Emergency Food Helpline operators.
  • Educating the community and lawmakers about hunger and poverty.
  • Assisting with special events.
  • Providing marketing help and technical assistance.
  • Keeping the Food Bank’s office and warehouse running smoothly.

All volunteers must be scheduled. Because most volunteers choose to sort, screen, box and shelve food items in our warehouse, those opportunities often fill up well in advance. Individual volunteers must attend a one-hour orientation, held at 12:45 p.m. on Wednesdays. Volunteers coming with a group – corporate, business, church, youth, etc. – are not required to attend a Wednesday orientation.

To learn more about all volunteer opportunities, click here.

For all volunteer inquiries, email volunteer@accfb.org or call (510) 635-3663, ext. 308.

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How do I start a food drive?

Food drives are the Food Bank’s primary source of high quality, name-brand non-perishable food. The Food Bank makes it easy to organize a food drive at your work, school, place of worship or elsewhere in your community. We provide barrels or, for smaller drives, boxes – along with display posters (for your worksite, school hallways, etc.) and tips on how to conduct a successful drive. Our trucks will pick up full barrels.

For more information and helpful tips, click here.

To sign up online (recommended), click here. You can also schedule barrel pickups online.

A resource-light alternative to a traditional food drive is our Virtual Food Drive, where donors can grab a virtual shopping cart and see how our bulk purchasing power compares to retail prices – and/or sign up as a group to promote the cause.

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Where can I drop off non-perishable food donations?

Please bring donations larger than one bag/box of food to the Food Bank – located at 7900 Edgewater Drive near the Oakland Airport. For smaller donations, click here to see drop-off sites throughout Alameda County.

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Does the Food Bank accept prepared or perishable food?

Because the Food Bank must comply to U.S. Department of Agriculture distribution regulations, we do not accept prepared food (from restaurants or individuals).

However, we will attempt to connect any donors to an appropriate Alameda County hunger-relief agency in their community. For assistance, please email us or call (510) 635-3663 ext. 326.

Some of the member agencies through which we distribute food have the facilities to accept prepared food and privately harvested fresh produce. Feel free to contact these organizations directly. They are:

Emeryville
Emeryville Community Action Project, 3610 San Pablo Ave. in Emeryville, accepts donations Monday – Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday – Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please call (510) 652-8422 before dropping off donations.

Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore
Open Heart Kitchen has revolving locations in Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore. Email operationsmanager@openheartkitchen.org or call (925) 580-6793. Open Heart Kitchen accepts donations Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Other organizations that help fight hunger by distributing fresh produce in Alameda County:
If you need help harvesting your personal fruit trees for donation in or around Oakland, contact People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO) at (510) 535-2525 or pueblo@peopleunited.org. PUEBLO staff and volunteers will harvest your trees and donate the fruit to low-income seniors in Oakland.

Ample Harvest is a nationwide program that helps diminish hunger by enabling backyard gardeners to share their excess bounty with a local food pantry. Sign up at AmpleHarvest.org.

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Why is the Food Bank involved in advocacy?

The Food Bank is committed to promoting public policies that address hunger and its root causes. Working with policymakers and elected officials to improve access to government food programs – such as the CalFresh Program and the Summer Food Program for children and teens – helps ensure that all Alameda County residents have safe, nutritious, and adequate food at all times. Such programs also alleviate demand at the Food Bank.

Every four years, the Alameda County Community Food Bank’s Advocacy & Policy Team publishes one of the most comprehensive local studies of hunger in the entire Feeding America network.

To learn more about joining our advocacy efforts, click here.

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