Follow fun updates as well as interesting stories about clients, volunteers and supporters of SFBFS

December 23, 2009

Joy, By Helen Plenert

By Helen Plenert

Seven years ago, as I lay in a hospital bed, amazed to be alive, depression knocking on the door, I made a commitment to find joy everyday. It’s that commitment to joy that led me to work at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services years ago.

I am the Manager of an art program for women who are going through hard times. "Hard times" is much more complicated than that very broad term. We tend to visualize the women working the streets or men panhandling at the intersections, and shopping carts with worldly belongings. I don’t expect an explanation from the women who come to this program but eventually their story comes out. Stories of illness, lost jobs, lost love, lost dignity, expensive medication and eventually, lost hope. I was surprised to find out that we have women who had worked in the legal field, military, medical field, and yes, state workers. Their illness, whether mental or physical, or income has sapped the joy out of their lives. They’ve come to this place to look for it among the art supplies.

This has been one of those days that I can only explain as pure Christmas joy. Monday morning I pack up 2 vans with women to go on a tour of the EPA building’s fabulous collection of art. One of my students, Judy, came running up last minute and apologizing for her late arrival. Our tour guides were waiting and took us up and down the 25 story building to view the amazing fabric art of Merle Serlin and glass art of Dale Chihuly. The women just stood in amazement at every turn.

Two hours later we were in the wonderful Ten22 restaurant in Old Sacramento. We were seated at a long conference type table to accommodate all 15 of us for lunch. The women were all buzzing about the art they had just experienced when the waiter brought bread to the table. The conversation went softer and soon to a dead silence. There is a sacredness to breaking bread among friends.

I was seated across from Judy and watched her slather the butter 1/2 inch thick on her slice. All I could think of was how much fat was on her bread. She took a bite and with pure joy in her voice said,” I haven’t had real butter in years.” Suddenly the whole fat in butter thing went out the window. We were all trying the butter and smiling the biggest smiles. We were instantly transformed into giggling little girls at a birthday party. When the soup arrived Judy spoke up again and started to explain that her sense of taste was coming back. She could actually taste the subtle flavors of the butternut soup. She had spent 20 years addicted to medication and eventually crack which ruined her sense of taste. For years her idea of a good meal was McDonalds. Judy is now clean with a new outlook on life and a new job. It’s a humbling job and I’ve never seen her happier.

The conversations at the table started up again and I really took to heart what Judy had said about the sense of taste. The women sitting at the table all around me have such different stories. We had 2 women in wheel chairs who didn’t want to miss our adventure. Neither one of them started out in the world in this condition. One worked as a civilian on the air base where she was severely and permanently injured. The other woman has Multiple Sclerosis. Each woman has a story and was eagerly spreading the joy to the others. The women in the group include injured military veterans, a medical doctor who gave up her practice because of her own illness, and mothers who spent 30 years raising children, in this group. One woman had a traffic accident that left her with no job, medical bills and no insurance.

How did this motley group get to a place where we could enjoy a tour of some of the best art in Sacramento and enjoy a beautiful meal where we are treated like princesses? Short answer is that the women earned it. While I was busy finalizing details for an art show, the women had created a cottage industry to raise money for their program, our program, Women’s Wisdom Art. When all was said and done and they handed me the money jar, I insisted we use it to have a fun-filled field trip.

Spreading the joy has become contagious in our classroom. Soon we will gather again for our annual Holiday Tea Party/gift exchange. This year I suspect we will be overflowing with joy and giggles as we all talk about our favorite moments in 2009.

Spread JOY daily, at least ½ inch thick, on everything you do and watch it blossom.

Merry Christmas.

For more information about Women’s Wisdom Art, a program of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, please visit

December 11, 2009

Adopt a Family and Holiday Meal Baskets

December 11, 2009

What better way to celebrate the holidays this season than to get in the spirit of giving! Here at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services there are two great ways that families and individuals can contribute to making the season brighter for others in our community.

Adopt-a-Family allows us to get into the spirit of giving by donating gifts specifically selected for a family in need. Contributors recieve the names, genders, ages, clothing sizes and any specific needs of family members and gather gifts for the family or individuals. Families then receive these gifts just in time for the holidays. This project benefits than 500 local families right here in our community who otherwise could not afford to shop for holiday gifts.

Holiday meal baskets are another great way to share in the spirit of giving. SFBFS is accepting donations of holiday meal gift baskets. The composition of the baskets is up to the donor, from hams to rolls, canned goods and pies. This project will benefit an additional 500 families this season!

Make the season brighter for a local family and share in these projects. Consider collaborating with friends, family or co-workers to adopt-a-family or create a holiday meal basket! If you are intereseted, contact Genevieve Deignan at or by phone at (916) 648-8736.

A Big Thank You for your continued support this holiday season!

Happy Holidays from SFBFS!

November 24, 2009

Turkey Time!

November 24, 2009

Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services collected 6,600 turkeys last Friday during our "Turkey Drive 3000" event! Thanks to generous donations from so many, there is plenty to go around this holiday. Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services staff and volunteers were joined by Americorp NCCC Green Team crew and Army volunteers to help direct traffic, collect turkeys, and keep enthusiasm going throughout the day. In spite of the rain, everyone had a good time and danced the day away as we collected turkeys for the hungry. For some great media coverage of the turkey drive and distribution run a search on

This Monday and Tuesday, November 23rd and 24th, our holiday distribution served thousands of clients- 2,500 the first day alone. After waiting in a line so long it wrapped around the block, individuals received a turkey and a holiday box made up of stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, potatoes, onions, apples, bread, and a bag of mixed canned goods.

With so many turkeys, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services was able to donate almost 2,000 turkeys to 18 other charities in the area. The generosity of so many who gave this year and throughout the year ensures that SFBFS continues to fulfill our essential goals of feeding the hungry and maintaining all nine of our education and distribution programs.

Thank you to everyone for your continued support. Happy Thanksgiving!

Women's Wisdom Holiday Show

November 15, 2009

Women from the Women's Wisdom Art Program here at SFBFS held a reception on November 14th for the Holiday Show. Women's Wisdom offers free art classes and a network of support to women overcoming any kind of difficulty in their lives. At the reception, women displayed many of their pieces and sold quite a few. All proceeds go directly to the women. Guests were entertained by a rock-a-billy band that featured Sacramento Food Bank and Family Service's very own Shannin Saulnier from Operation.

Wall pieces from the show will be displayed at the Food Bank until December 4th. Come check it out!

October 30, 2009

Raffle for the Rock

Now- January 4th, 2010

Come down to our Oak Park facility to pick up your Raffle for the Rock tickets today! We are raffling a beautiful, Hearts on Fire diamond ring, donated to Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services by Rogers Jewelry Co. The ring is valued at $25,000; tickets are just $5. Make sure that you enter for a chance to win! All proceeds go to support the wonderful programs and services offered here at SFBFS. The drawing will be held January 4th, 2010. Good Luck!

Harvest Sacramento

The Food Assistance Program at Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services distributes a 5-day supply of groceries to over 15,000 individuals every month. As many volunteers who work in Food Assistance or the warehouse know, that's a lot of food! Many people ask "Where does all the food come from?"

Food distributed by SFBFS comes from many different sources. Food is donated by and purchased from grocery stores every morning, plus we also receive USDA commodities, food from donation drives and giving events, and organic produce donated from Soil Born Farms (a local urban agriculture education project, Often individuals will bring fresh fruits and veggies from their own yards. Now a nascent non-profit, Harvest Sacramento, is working to help harvest underutilized fruits and veggies from backyards and orchards for local food assistance agencies like Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services.

We are so pleased to reap the abundance of California fruit! Over the past month and a half SFBFS Americorp VISTA employee Courtney, and driver Larry, along with two Americorp NCCC volunteers group and a host of Harvest Sacramento volunteers harvested over 3,000 pounds of pears and apples. This produce ends up on the tables of the many clients we serve through Food Assistance.

If you are interested in volunteering, donating your backyard produce, or learning more about Harvest Sacramento, check out their website:

October 15, 2009

Rain or Shine, Mobile Goes On

Tuesday, October 13th

This past Tuesday saw some extraordinary weather indeed! So much rain and wind that most might prefer to stay inside, nice and dry. As our faithful blog followers and SFBFS supporters know, Mobile Food Distributions take place twice a week at different OUTDOOR locations throughout the city. By taking Food Assistance to the road, we help clients overcome transportation barriers and allow for more interaction with volunteers who engage clients in health and education activities like cooking demonstrations, kid's snacks and physical activities, and simply talking about the many healthy foods we distribute. However, generally the setup is all outdoors for clients, volunteers, food and resources.

This past Tuesday, despite wild rain and wind we served over 400 clients at our mobile food location. Committed volunteers hopped on the truck to bag and box groceries while clients waited inside the church to stay dry. Although we couldn't set up the usual resource table, resources were distributed to clients in line.
The number of clients who braved the weather is a testament to the great need in the community, while the hard work of volunteers and staff, rain or shine, demonstrates the commitment we have at SFBFS to serving our community with compassion and integrity. A BIG THANK YOU to our volunteers!

KCRA 3 Kid's Can Kick Off

Friday, October 9th

A 21 year tradition, the KCRA 3 Kids Can Food Drive got off to a great start this part Friday at Cal Expo where KCRA crew members, Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services staff and a handful of volunteers gathered to collect initial donations of non-perishable foods. SFBSF Operations Manager Shannin Saulnier arrived at 4:30 in the morning to kick off the event! Shannin was interviewed by KCRA and encouraged the community to donate not only canned goods and other non-perishables, but specifically more healthful items like canned vegetables, meats, beans and soups while avoiding high-sodium and low nutrition foods.

Check out this great media link:

While Friday was the big kick off event, the bulk of the KCRA 3 Kid’s Can Food Drive actually takes place at local schools throughout several counties in Northern California. This year 150 schools will participate in the canned food drive. Prizes will be awarded to schools that collect the most pounds of food.

Aside from collecting tons of food (Last year, SFBFS received over 26,000 pounds of food from Kids Can schools), KCRA 3 Kid’s Can Food Drive teaches students civic responsibility and engagement from an early age. This year teachers can go to for tips on how to incorporate the drive into their lesson plans. The drive runs at schools from October 12th to November 20th!

October 14, 2009

Oak Ridge Elementary Mobile Distribution

At Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services, volunteers and staff are thirlled to serve a new Oak Park location through the Mobile Food Project of our Food Assistance Program. In addition to supplying members of the community with a 5 day supply of nutritious groceries, our mission at mobile distributions is also to educate clients about health and nutrition as well as other community resources offered by SFBFS or other area agencies. Distribution at this site, which began in September, was a great success because children came with their parents directly after school. Parents accompanied their child as they made “ants on a log”, a healthy after-school snack made with celery sticks, peanut butter and raisins. Then, children had a chance to color fun, educational coloring sheets such as My Pyramid, and California Carrot coloring. Children who completed their coloring sheet received a magnet as a prize so that they could hang their work on the refrigerator (the magnets were from 211, another reminder to clients of the many resources available to them in the community). It was wonderful to have staff from other SFBFS programs available to help! Lorena, Mother-Baby Program Manager painted faces for many eager children while Martin, Clothing Program Manager assisted in distribution. Clients took home so much more than just food. What a success!

October 8, 2009

Amazing mobile distribution - September 26, 2009

This past Saturday Sacramento Valley Pharmacists Association visited our mobile distribution of Food Assistance and provided on-site blood pressure screenings for clients. This event was such a great success, not only were they impressed with the mobile distributions but also the interest clients expressed in the free services they provided. In addition to the pharmacists and students that were there conducting the tests, there were a few individuals from Catholic Healthcare West.