April 11, 2014

High school students visit to SFBFS

Students in the freshman iWorld class from Sacramento New Technology High School stopped by Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) last month to tour our Oak Park campus and learn more about our six programs. Students were led through the Education and Technology Center, where they learned about our Adult Education, Parent Education and Youth Education programs. They were engaged in learning about the technology classes offered in Adult Education and the baby boutique in Parent Education.

Next they headed to the Demonstration Garden to see how SFBFS is teaching people how to eat healthier by demonstrating how to grow and prepare your own produce. The students were really interested in the different plants and the greenhouse.

The last stop on the tour was the Arata Brother’s building, which houses the Food program, Clothing program and Senior program. The students saw a video about SFBFS’ mobile distributions and loved seeing the farmers’ market style in action. 

Read some of the comments below from the students who visited:

“Thank you for giving us the opportunity to come and tour your facility…I am really thankful to be in a community that has this resource.” – Kenneth A.

“While touring, I learned that the food given out at the mobile distributions is mostly all local produce. I am appreciative of the stress on the importance of eating healthy.” – Devon C.

“I was very happy to be able to hear and see your educational programs above all else. We all know that education is very important and it was nice to see how you were helping with this.” – Valena A.

“I appreciate how you’re teaching adults nutritional information, so their children will be better nourished with fruits and vegetables.”  - Stephanie K. 

Submitted by Lauren Razzano, Communications Officer at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

April 10, 2014

"I never knew SFBFS did so much!"

As the new Volunteer Services and Communications Assistant, one of the things I am pleased to hear so often is “Wow, I never knew you guys did so much.”  My response is always “I know, right!?”

When I accepted this year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA working at a food bank in Sacramento, I had no idea what I was getting into. Luckily for me, and the Sacramento community, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) does a whole lot more cool and exciting stuff than just handing out food.

For example, a few weeks ago, I volunteered in After School Academy. Now, I had never tutored middle school-aged children, but I learned so much watching Miss Krystal calmly address each of the thousand questions I’m sure she gets everyday while also joking and laughing with the kids like they were her own family. Then, after study time, the kids had Science Club where they made colorful, exploding volcanoes – so much fun for both the kids and volunteer tutors alike!  I had to wonder, are all food banks like this?

In Adult Education, I am meeting people whose lives have been changed because of the ESL classes and GED tutoring services offered here. I even met one woman who said when she first came here 3 years ago, she couldn’t even say hello in English. Now she is studying to take her GED in English, can you believe it?  And what made it possible was that she was able to bring her daughter to Playcare, SFBFS’ on-site childcare program for children 1-5, while she was attending some of her classes. Surely this isn’t typical of all food banks.

What is possibly the most important element at SFBFS is the staff.  Everyone here genuinely cares about the programs they work in and the people they help.  Whether it’s taking the time to meet individually with every parent who is entering a child into our Youth Education program or throwing community baby showers for expectant families in our Parent Education program, SFBFS’ staff are prepared to help people on an individual level. 


We are not just working to serve The Hungry or The Unemployed population, we are working to serve our fellow beings, each unique in their own set of experiences, hopes and concerns. Here, we are helping individuals and their families to make a plan for self-sufficiency and financial independence, providing them with the tools and encouragement they need along the way. And I couldn’t be happier to be part of such an amazing team!

Submitted by Kira Graves, Volunteer & Communications Assistant - AmeriCorps VISTA at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 27, 2014

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is my favorite time of the year. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s a time when people take a look at what’s cluttering up their closets, cupboards, garages and attics and assess whether they need to hold onto things. Many people gather up the clothes they haven’t worn in years, the books they've read a thousand times, the toys that their kids have grown out of, and don’t hesitate to donate them to places that serve families in need in our community. However, for some of us, letting go of usable or like-new items can be the hardest. We imagine that someday, somewhere at some point someone will want or need these items, we’ll start/complete the project that we bought all of those supplies for, we’ll lose/gain that weight, or we’ll finally try those more exotic foods that are in the back of our pantry. Sound familiar? Then read on!

I have been facing the same dilemma for four years now: how do I make my home office into, well, an office? Recently, I asked a friend and organizing expert to help me with this task. The problem was that I had lots of great, usable items, and no space to move in my office. Everything from barely used prom dresses to school supplies and books. I hired her specifically to create a system of organization that allowed me to use my office for creative writing, college studies, sewing, scrapbooking and just maybe an impromptu guest room. After three hours, we had moved throughout my house and garage, come up with a general plan and not moved once single item. Why? Because before we could dig into the piles, I had to answer one question: do I need this? It seems simple, but it’s what we ask ourselves all throughout spring cleaning. The most enlightening moment was when my friend said “Ask yourself, ‘Could someone else be loving this?’ Because everything that clutters up your house is taking space from your life, sucking energy from your being.”

I had never considered that the great things that were simply sitting in my spaces were causing me stress just by being there, but they were. And unloved? Yes, they were being neglected, unused, just gathering dust where they could be making someone happy. In fact, if I gathered these items and brought them down to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, they could make a world of difference to families struggling through hard times. Suddenly, the decisions were simple. I wasn’t giving up good things; I was passing along happiness and tools for success. By donating my unloved items, I was giving another family in my community the opportunity to achieve their dreams. So, when you’re clearing out your house this spring, think of the joy you could be spreading through our community and you might just renew your soul.

Submitted by Tarah Frost, Donation Drive Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 26, 2014

Working at SFBFS' Youth Education Program

Working at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) has been a great experience for me. I have gained so many skills in such a short amount of time. My journey with SFBFS began with me becoming a volunteer in the Food program. I needed to fulfill group service hours for a class I was taking and we decided as a group that SFBFS would be perfect. The organization's mission was so meaningful and the main goal was to help those in need, so my group and I decided this would be the best place to give back.

We decided to volunteer in the Food program simply because that was what SFBFS was known for and there wasn't a wait time to volunteer in the food program. We started bagging food items on Friday mornings which was a pleasant experience for us because everyone was so friendly. Later, I attended a couple amazing food distributions which felt nothing like a typical distribution. I could not remember seeing or hearing about such a distribution that was so upbeat and allowed the clients to forget they were at an actual food giveaway. In that moment, I knew Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services was an organization I would be more than glad to work for if the opportunity ever arose.

Several months later one of my counselors at school presented me with an off-campus job opportunity. I had been searching for a job for quite some time so I decide to go ahead and apply regardless of the position. To my surprise it was a position at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, exactly where I said I wanted to be! Within two weeks of applying and going through the interview process I was hired and began on my birthday. It has now been over a year and I must say I am still happy to wake up and go to work each day. I actually look forward to interacting with the youth and getting to know them, as well as their families.

The Youth Education program has three separate components: Playcare Academy, After School Academy and Computer Clubhouse. I work in the After School Academy with youth in grades 1 - 6 that need extra homework support, one-on-one tutoring, or just something to do after school. I am the After School Academy Assistant and help with the organizing and planning of the day-to-day operations of the program. I supervise the youth, as well as wonderful volunteers who make it possible to provide the different services we are able to offer. We are always finding new ways to better serve the youth in the community and I really enjoy it. I look forward for to continuing to be a part of such an amazing organization now and in the years to come. 

Submitted by Krystal Harnell, Youth Education Program Assistant at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 25, 2014

Kate's Korner - April 2014

Kate’s Korner – The Hidden Half

Do you think you know a lot about plants? Can you identify all the crops in our Demonstration Garden and each flower in your pots at home? Maybe you know how to start vegetables from seed and the kind of compost your tomatoes like? This is all very well and important to know if you’re a gardener, but I’m going to tell you that you only know half of everything about plants. People learn about what they can see, but they don’t know much about the “hidden half” of plants – their roots. 

You see roots during transplanting or while tearing out a noxious weed but you never see them in action, underground.  It’s hard to even imagine that more than half the plant is below the surface because it’s rarely visible.  Scientists have been studying plant roots for over 100 years but they still remain mysterious – there are many unanswered questions about how they grow and move in the soil. 

Roots serve four major functions – they absorb nutrients and water, store nutrients, anchor the plant, and create plant clones. Gardeners know to keep the soil moist and full of nutrients (fertilizer, etc) so the roots can continuously absorb these things and stay alive.  Also, if you have ever grown crops on a slope you know how important strong roots are to keeping these plants upright. And in terms of reproduction, most people have seen how big a strawberry patch can get when the roots send up new starters everywhere!

In addition to marveling at the many functions roots perform, I am also in awe of their strength.  I have often struggled over a huge root attached to tiny, pathetic plant.  Sometimes I’ve just given up and hacked the plant off leaving the stubborn root in the ground.  The power of roots is evident in pushed up sidewalks, cracked foundations, and snapped water lines.  So consider this before you plant on oak tree up against your house!

Roots also like to chase water.  In very hot places, they will grow very long to reach groundwater.  The longest living root ever seen was almost 200 feet long along the wall of an open-pit mine in Arizona.  Some trees and shrubs often grow roots that are 100 feet long.  Can you imagine how long it must take for water to get from the roots up to the leaves? That’s something to think about!

Roots are also important for another reason – some of them are edible! Why do you think it’s called a root vegetable? (Note: Some root crops are actually buried stems). Carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes, and more! These roots are delicious and have earned an important place in our kitchens and stomachs. 

So when you start pulling up your kale or you munch into your next carrot – think about roots and their mysterious lives deep in the soil!

Submitted by Kate Wilkins, AmeriCorps VISTA at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

March 24, 2014

Meet Computer Clubhouse members, Maria & Beatrice


Meet Maria and Beatrice. They are members of our Youth Education program’s Computer Clubhouse.

Maria has been a member since she was 8 years old. Next year she will be graduating high school and will no longer be a part of the program. Maria’s plans are to attend college and study engineering.
Beatrice joined the Clubhouse last summer.She is a freshman in high school and has hopes of being an engineer when she graduates and goes on to college. 

I am very proud of them both.

I selected both of these girls to attend Teen Summit 2014 in Boston this summer. I chose them because of their participation in the Clubhouse, above average grades in school, upbeat and friendly personalities and enthusiasm to learn, explore and create with the use of technology. They are prime role models to the younger youth in the program.

This will be Maria and Beatrice first time in Boston and the very first time Maria has been on a plane. This will be my first time attending Teen Summit as well. As a bunch of newbies, we are excited, anxious, and can hardly wait for this new adventure!

Beatrice
Hello. My name is Beatrice. I am participating in Teen Summit 2014, I am one of the two members in SFBFS’ Computer Clubhouse chosen to go. I am eager to meet new people and motivated to try new things. Boston, here I come!

Maria
Hello. My name is Maria. I have the privilege to go to Boston and attend Teen Summit 2014. I am very happy to have this opportunity, work with other youth from Clubhouse all around the world and learn new  idea to bring back our Clubhouse.

Submitted by Kelly Ann Adams, Computer Clubhouse Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 17, 2014

Sherrie's Story

A few weeks ago I sat down for lunch with a friend at a local cafĂ©. We took turns sharing updates about our lives; I talked about my recent work projects, he shared his family’s recent trip to Disneyland, I told him about a new run route I liked to go on then he interjected and said, “I should go running.” A simple thought, but it stuck with me because it highlighted the awareness that we have about things we should be doing and the disconnect with making it happen. Now, I’m not judging him for exercising or not and I believe everyone has the right to make their own decisions, but the point is that we as humans should feel fortunate that we are able to distinguish our options and choose one path or the other. For some people there isn't always a second option. Such was the case last year for Sherrie Kelley.


In March of 2013 Sherrie Kelley was over 100 pounds overweight. She felt sluggish, tired all the time and didn't have any energy. “I felt terrible,” she said. Following the advice of a friend, Sherrie went to the doctor to get some blood work done and was told her cholesterol was out of whack, her thyroid wasn't working properly and she was real close to being diabetic. If that wasn't scary enough, the doctor went on to explain potential outcomes of diabetes-hair loss, heart disease, early death. “That right there got me going,” she said. There were no more options for Sherrie. She had to lose the weight.

Sherrie didn't need to hear anymore. She promptly heeded her doctor’s advice and began doing all she could to lose weight. She started exercising and joined Weight Watchers, whom she credits for greatly aiding her fight against obesity, and learned the importance of eating in moderation and drinking water. For those who think it isn't that easy to transform your life, Sherrie would like to say that you’re right. “Before I’d grab a bag of chips and eat the whole bag. That would be my dinner. You can’t do that if trying to lose weight. You have to moderate your portions, exercise and drink water for a healthy lifestyle. It’s a lot of hard work but what you’re working towards is a life-changing attitude.”  


I met Sherrie last year when she began attending the gardening classes at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. By this point she had already lost 100 pounds and had her eyes set on an additional ten. She started taking the classes because she wanted to learn how to grow her own food in an effort to save some money.

It wasn't until nearly eight months after her first class that she shared with me her story, an act which is a testament to her modesty and humble spirit. She told me all about her kale smoothies, reduced protein portions, her love of butternut squash and how her new garden is now producing enough food to share with her neighbors. “I made them some squash and they loved it too!” What I understand now is how dedicated Sherrie is to improving the lives of others. In fact, when I asked her about writing this article she said agreed without hesitation and offered her assistance to anyone else who may be dealing with a similar struggle. “If I can help one person to lose weight or avoid diabetes, I’d feel blessed. But you have to want to take the weight off. There has to be a want there. If you have the commitment, it’s absolutely possible.”





Submitted by Greg Norrish, Garden Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.        

March 13, 2014

Working at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

Working at Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services isn't just a job or something to do...it's a way of life. It is life. The employees here care deeply for their client's successes.  

Anytime there is a client who has accomplished a passing score on a prep test, we celebrate with the client like it was our own success. It is great to see client's form their own bonds with each other like a team. When one of their own team members is feeling down, they will rally around that team member and truly help where it is needed.  


The people at Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services never pretend to care, they do care. They really are a family who shares and learns together. I can honestly say that I am proud to be a part of this family and share in the success of clients. 


Submitted by Shaylene Drayer, Parent Education Program Assistant

March 7, 2014

My Grandmother's Jacket

My grandmother grew up on a farm in North Dakota, the second youngest of eleven children. She worked hard her entire life and moved to Sacramento in the 1940s where she married my grandfather and raised three children.

She ranked church and family as her priorities in life and her 4 grandchildren brought her great joy. My grandmother and I enjoyed a close relationship from the moment I was born. She attended every school play, recital and horse show, always encouraging and always supportive.

A devout Catholic, my grandmother became excited when learning I landed a job with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) in 2007. She appreciated Father Dan Madigan’s work as the founder of the organization and often would clean out her sparse, but fashionable, closet to donate shoes or a pair of pants to support SFBFS’ Clothing program. My grandmother attended the groundbreaking ceremony of SFBFS’ Education & Technology Center in 2010 and always asked about the families we served in Sacramento. Praying daily we could end the suffering of those without food and clothing, hoping through the education and support SFBFS provides, families could change their own lives for the better.

My grandmother’s passing in December, at age 93, was an incredibly crushing experience. While I felt relief she would no longer be suffering, I spent weeks feeling a part of my core would be forever gone.  

Sharing her clothing with the less fortunate seemed the obvious choice when it came time to clean out her closet. My mom and I carefully bagged each article of clothing, including a jacket my dad bought her during a trip to China. A fan of all things that sparkled, she adored this one-of-a-kind gold coat, covered in sequins.


In January, SFBFS’ Guest Services Coordinator helped me unload the bags of clothing from my car and comforted me as I shared the story of my loss. Returning to work helped dull the pain, but I continued to find periods of time where I felt lost, time I would have spent visiting with my grandmother each week.

On January 29, running late for a meeting, I turned the corner to enter the Education & Technology Center and something caught my eye. A young girl, older woman in a wheelchair and woman wearing a familiar coat caught my attention. I introduced myself and asked where the woman got the jacket. She said the three had visited SFBFS’ Clothing program that morning and each left with a coat. The young girl, wearing another familiar clothing item, beamed with excitement. She shared that the cold weather had been hard on her aunt and these coats would make a difference. And she also loved her mother’s new sparkly coat.


I shared the story of my grandmother’s coat and all three expressed appreciation for the donation. I asked the trio if I could take a photo to show my family and after one picture, they insisted I take one of all four of us.

The story of my grandmother’s jacket and photo of the family I met gave my mother goose-bumps. It warmed my sister’s heart. It motivated my father to clean out his closet to help those in need.

I encourage everyone to donate when they can. Clothing, food, educational materials and school supplies donated to SFBFS directly help those who need it most. I can’t guarantee you will see the items you donate on a person walking by, but I can guarantee that each item will find a way into the life of someone who would thank you for it.



Submitted by Kelly Siefkin, Communications & Development Director 

February 26, 2014

SMUD EnergyHELP

My name is Deborah and I am the Sacramento Municipal Utility Department (SMUD) EnergyHELP Representative at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS).  I have held this position for a little over five years and have had the opportunity to help thousands of people.

SMUD and SFBFS have been partners in the SMUD EnergyHELP Program for over 13 years. This service helps people who are in jeopardy of having their energy disconnected. A one-time payment ranging from $100 - $200 is credited to the person who qualifies for the program.  The individuals selected for the program are chosen by SMUD through a random lottery selection when the disconnection notices are sent out.  From the date they are selected, the individual has five days to come to SFBFS for an appointment.  At the appointment, they must bring their SMUD bill and proof of income to qualify for this service. 

I look forward to the years to come in helping those less fortunate than myself. The people I help are all kinds of minorities and different ages, which make my job even more interesting. I have heard their stories, cried with them and laughed with them. I am so proud of my job here at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

Photo by SMUD

Submitted by Deborah DeCuir, SMUD EnergyHELP Representative at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

February 24, 2014

Kate's Korner - March 2014

Hello all! I’m Kate Wilkins, the new AmeriCorps VISTA and your all-around garden aide!  I’m very excited to be part of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' team and watch the Demonstration Garden bloom and bear fruit this upcoming year. My primary goal is to share all my knowledge of gardening and healthy cooking with the community and to have fun!

I want Kate’s Korner to be an exploration and celebration of all things related to food and the environment. These concepts are connected: without a healthy environment there would be no food and without food a living organism could not survive in an environment. The Demonstration Garden is ripe with examples of the relationship between these two things and perhaps the best example would be – the soil!


I know what you’re thinking – what’s so great about dirt? I first need to tell you that there is a difference between dirt and soil. I once had a friend who became incredibly angry when anyone referred to the ground as “dirt”.  He would cry, “but it’s so much more than that!” and it’s true, “soil” is the combination of the air, minerals, water and living organisms that accumulate into layers and are squeezed over time by various occurrences (like us walking!). When you dig up the soil, you produce a pile of dirt – it is no longer soil because it has lost its history. Now it is just an unidentifiable pile with no home. All of the soil’s relationships with water, minerals and air have been changed or removed.  Here’s another way to think about it, soil is what you find under your feet and dirt is what you find under your fingers.


So is soil really alive? How alive? The answer is yes, the soil is very alive! Most people have grabbed a handful of soil and seen lots of tiny bugs and mysterious strands and that’s just the stuff you can see! There are billions of bacteria, fungi and microscopic insects. A teaspoon of soil alone has anywhere from 100 million to one billion bacteria in it. How many teaspoons of soil do you think are in an empty field?

A lot of these bacteria and tiny bugs are helpful to plants. They move nutrients and minerals to the roots and help the plant survive and be healthy. When bigger bugs like worms wriggle through the soil they create channels that allow air to flow down to plant roots. You always want worms in your garden – that means your soil is healthy! You can make your soil a nicer home for worms by adding compost, which is basically supercharged nutrients that attracts lots of bugs and lots of water.

Next time you’re outside look down at the soil, maybe grab a handful and see what interesting bugs and particles you can find. Just remember when you throw your handful down, you just made dirt!

February 3, 2014

There Are Angels Among Us

I have the honor and privilege to work for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) as the Parent Education Program Manager at our main campus in Oak Park. Eight years ago, I came to our organization looking to improve my life by learning English in the Adult Education program, not imagining that my life would change so much. Now, thanks to the opportunity of being able to work for our organization, I am able to help other families who are struggling like mine was.

Through the assistance of our dedicated and compassionate volunteers, who I call our “Angels”, we are able to provide services free of cost to expectant families, parents and guardians of children 0-5 years of age in need in the Sacramento area.

Our volunteers help us by offering support to mothers, fathers and guardians who are raising children to the best of their ability. Volunteers assist with setting up for classes, teaching courses/classes, working on special projects, receiving and sorting donations, helping clients shop, bagging baby supplies, stocking the Children’s Boutique, taking care of children in our PlayCare area and other client support functions.

I could continue sharing all of the great things our volunteers do in our program, but there are not enough words to describe how amazed and grateful I am for the dedication, compassion and generosity of the great team of volunteers we have. My life has forever been changed because of the time I have spent with them and all of the great advice they have given me to do my job better. I will never be able to fully express my gratitude to them.

Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart to our “Angels” who help us every day making a difference in the lives of so many families.

If you are interested in volunteering your time for one of SFBFS’ programs, please contact our Volunteer Services Manager at volunteer@sacramentofoodbank.org.

Submitted by Lorena Carranza, Parent Education Program Manager at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

Gearing Up for Changes in the GED in 2014

One year ago, the General Education Development (GED) testing service announced a new GED test format beginning January 1, 2014. The test that was being given launched in 2002, had five subject matter tests, and could be taken on paper, or on a computer. The new test would be more difficult for students due to critical thinking skills, analytical writing and changes in the reading test. Plus, the test would only be available on a computer. Students who had passed some portions of the GED had until December 31, 2013 to complete all five tests or they would lose their scores and have to start from the beginning.

This new test format caused GED programs and students all over the country, including SFBFS’ program and students, to make a major push to complete their GED in 2013. The results were staggering as test sites began to no longer have space available for test takers during the month of December. SFBFS referred twenty-two students to take the GED in October, November and December, which is about 15% of our GED clientele. The challenge will be to continue this pace in 2014 as we implement changes in our curriculum to prepare students for the new GED.

One change that is taking place is the dedication of eight computers in the technology center for GED use.  Students will be able to improve their typing skills, take a tutorial on the computer skills necessary for the GED test, receive subject matter instruction, take practice GED tests and schedule their GED tests. Other changes include revision of the reading and writing curriculum to prepare students for the revised reading, social science and science tests and the elimination of the writing test as a standalone test. Analytical writing, both long and short responses, will be included in each of the tests except math. The writing prompts will include two 900 word essays and the student will have to base their response on those readings, testing both their reading and critical thinking skills.

Preparing students for these critical skills and the technology skills will be a challenge for the Adult Education Program as well as for the students. However, the effort will be worthwhile since success on the 2014 test will signal to employers and colleges that the student is indeed ready to enter the work force or handle college level work.

Submitted by Dan Allen, Adult Education Program Manager at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services