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

May 29, 2012

Letter from the President

I try each day to live my life by example for those around me, but most importantly for my daughters, Dani and Ariel. My wife Cyndie and I have been given the gift of two beautiful, healthy girls. I take my role of father very seriously, making sure I am always available for their needs, challenging them to do their best and exposing them to as many situations as possible. I am thankful that volunteering at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) has been a staple in my children’s lives.

My childhood was a bit different. Raised by a single mother, who relied heavily on her own mother for support, I spent my free time standing in line at a food bank, as opposed to volunteering at one. I know my family would have greatly benefited from a program like Parent Education during difficult periods in our lives. I am thrilled to see this new program take shape at SFBFS and serve caring and dedicated parents who just need a bit of help in hard times.
Young Family
This month I’d like to pay tribute to all of the parents in our community. All of the single mothers, working fathers, dedicated grandparents and selfless foster parents who put their children first.
I remember how hard it is when you have a new baby. The sleepless nights. Hoping you are doing it right. Wondering what you’ve gotten yourself in to. The Parent Education program provides parents in our community with a network of support, guidance and an opportunity to learn from others, wonderful tools for any new parent. Volunteers and staff in the Parent Education program lead courses on positive parenting and require an investment on the part of the parents to earn baby supplies. These teachable moments turn into life-changing experiences for the parents and provide greater potential for the child. 

I have spent many years coaching my daughters’ soccer and softball teams, joking with fellow parents how hard, but rewarding the role of parent can be. The job seems endless and sometimes thankless. Not to mention, their desire for clothing leaves me feeling pennyless. But it is the greatest job I will ever fulfill. Thank you to my mother and grandmother who raised me during very tough times. Know that SFBFS is here to serve other parents in our community during their most challenging moments. Please join me in making sure support will be there for them well into the future.

Thank you for your continued support.

Submitted by Blake Young, President/CEO

May 22, 2012

Kids Helping Kids: 4-H Bike Day

On a warm, sunny afternoon in early May, a group of dedicated and motivated young members of our community gave back and completed a service project at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) Saca Community Learning Center (Saca CLC). A group of youth from Sacramento 4-H started collecting used bicycles last year from the community and under the guidance of their adult mentors they learned the skills necessary to refurbish and repair these bicycles. These resourceful students fixed up a dozen bicycles and prepared them to be gifted to a group of deserving community members in need of a bike. This is the third year that the American River 4-H Club’s Bicycle Project has chosen to share these bikes with families from SFBFS.
For many of the people who attend SFBFS’ programs, the gift of a bike can provide much needed means of transportation and recreation. Many of the families and individuals SFBFS serves have to make difficult decisions to manage their limited resources and gasoline is a huge expense that many are being forced to give up. Getting kids to school, going to or applying for work, grocery shopping and attending doctors’ visits are getting harder to manage. For many, riding a bike can be a free, healthy, easy and fun form of transportation to ease these budget crunches and encourage self-sufficiency and financial independence from purchasing gas.

Mireya Estrella, Parent Education Program Manager and James Moore, Adult Education Program Manager at SFBFS’ Saca CLC identified twelve men, women and children who needed bicycles for transportation.

On May 12, families attended 4-H Bike Day where children and adults each received a bicycle, lock, helmet with safety fitting and the opportunity to test out their new bikes on a bike rodeo chalk course. The smiles on everyone’s faces were contagious. Each person who received a bike, helmet and lock were very grateful and excited to have the improved ability to get to where they need to go. SFBFS feels very blessed to have the opportunity to collaborate again with 4-H in Sacramento to provide this much needed service to our community!

Submitted by Heather Kohlmeister
Youth Education Program Manager

May 21, 2012

Food For Thought

The following post was written by a local college student attending American River Collge. She was assigned to write an observation-based paper for an English writing course. Enjoy her first impression of a food distribution at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
It’s a chilly February morning. The ground is still glistening from last night’s rain. As I drive towards my destination, my mind wonders about what I might see there. I am on my way to North Metro Church of Christ, one of ten food distribution sites of Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS). I’ve never been to a food distribution, but I imagine a long line of people waiting behind a large box truck for a handout of cheese blocks and dried beans.

Having already passed it once, I arrive at the church. It is set back from the road on a large plot of land surrounded by a chain link fence. I pull my car through a narrow gate and head to the parking lot on the right. All of the parking spaces are full. I dead end into a line of people so long they flow out a side entrance of the church parking lot. I check the clock. It is only 10:30 am. The distribution doesn’t start until 11:00 am. A man wearing a small tank of oxygen, like a necklace around his neck, is walking away from the line. Carefully, I back my car up, turn around, and drive around to the other side of the church looking for a place to park. This side isn’t quite so full. I pull into a space, hop out of my car, grab a sweatshirt, and make my way to the back lot of the church not sure I’m prepared for what I am about to see.

As I approach, my ears are greeted with the sounds of Stevie Wonder singing “Higher Ground.”  I turn the corner to find a bustling of activity. Children are jumping in puddles, several volunteers are sorting through bins of food, and booths are being neatly arranged under blue tent canopies. There are about one hundred or so people hanging out in white folding chairs in front of the booths. It looks like a small community fair, not at all like the cold, impersonal event I had imagined. There are box trucks, but they are being unloaded and the food set out on tables, much like a farmer’s market.

With the help of a volunteer, I find the Food Program Director, Erik Kintzel, who shows me around the distribution site. Erik tells me that they will serve around 175 households on this particular day, close to 500 people. Each household will be given roughly 30 pounds of food: five pounds of chicken, a bag of potatoes, two bags of canned food, pears, apples, oranges, chard, bread, and much more. Under the food distribution tables are boxes labeled Capay Organic Farms. Some of the food provided is donated by individuals, some purchased at discounted rates by SFBFS, but much of the produce comes from local organic farms.

We make our way towards the long line in front while Erik explains the registration process. “This is the only time clients will stand in line,” he tells me. “After they go through registration, they can sit down.” He points to the folding chairs located behind registration. Many have already gone through the registration process and are sitting comfortably in the chairs. Some of the clients are older and wouldn’t do well standing in yet another line waiting for food. Pointing to the registration line Erik says, “That breaks my heart. I wish we could eliminate the need for that line, but for now…” He goes on to explain that food used to be distributed through a window at the SFBFS location in Oak Park. People would stand in long lines outside, and make their through a cold hallway, until they reached a window where someone would hand them food. A lot of care and effort has gone into moving away from that cold and impersonal format to a more dignified and friendly approach.

We continue the tour, and I am drawn to a table lined with colorful baskets and orange laminated cards. In the baskets are examples of the different types of fruits and vegetables people will receive; fresh chard, acorn squash, and butternut squash are just a few of the items displayed. The laminated orange placards identify the fruit or vegetable, give the health benefits, ways to prepare, and information on how to store the item. Handouts with recipes for some of the items can be found on the next table. People aren’t just given food; they are equipped with recipes and preparation techniques to empower them to use the foods they are given.

It is just about time for the distribution to begin, and volunteers huddle for a few motivational words from Erik. There are about forty volunteers today; thirty-three of them are sixth graders from s local elementary school. Erik encourages the kids to hand out a fruit or vegetable that they like and stay away from the ones they don’t. He wants them to be proud of what they are doing, to smile, and to interact with those to whom they are handing out food.  He also tells them to have fun. After speaking to the volunteers, Erik heads to the microphone to address the clients. He asks them enthusiastically if they are ready to begin. Again, it feels more like a fun family event than an emergency food distribution.

It’s time to begin, but rather than lining up, clients are called by number. After hearing their number, clients check in and head over to gather their food. It is obvious that some have received food before. They come prepared with rolling basket carts. Others are less prepared, seemingly overwhelmed by the amount of food they are about to receive. With or without a basket, most show up with a smile. Number after number is called and people come to claim their food. Music plays the entire time and some of the clients dance their way to pick up their items. An older client, wearing a USAF cap, jokingly repeats the numbers and invites people to, “Come on down!” Price is Right style. When his number is called, he cries one last time, “Come on down!” then makes his way, gathering his items, shaking the hand of each volunteer and thanking them with a warm and sincere smile.

We’re now more than an hour into the food distribution, and a Michael Jackson song plays. Two of the sixth grade boys moon-walk their way to hand out food and sing along with loud bursts of, “Hee, hee.” These kids are clearly having fun. With less than an hour left of the scheduled distribution time, the line for registration has dwindled down to around a handful of people. The crowd waiting in the folding chairs is still quite large, although they’ve already made their way to number 104. I think Erik may have slightly underestimated the expected turn out today.

With that unfriendly image of a World War II style food rationing erased from my mind, I make my way back to my car. Three of the sixth grade boys have just helped a woman carry her food to her car and are racing to be the first to get back to their volunteer duties. I smile at their enthusiasm as I get into my car and head home, hungry and grateful for the pantry full of food that awaits me.

The author returned as a volunteer shortly after attending her first distribution as an observer.

May 10, 2012

Every Day Heroes

I am amazed by our core group of faithful GED preparation students at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). Every day they teach me so much and their presence in the Education & Technology Center brightens my day. I am several years removed from my own journey through the educational process and I forget what it’s like to struggle and to persevere. Each day I watch what these students are willing to do in order to achieve success and have seen some of the challenges they’ve had to overcome to continue toward their goal. The students are grateful for the opportunities they are given, they make no excuses and they blame no one for their present situation (perhaps not even themselves).  Simply put, they are focused and they are getting the job done.

In addition, these students recognize the caliber of the volunteers who tutor in the Adult Education program. They have formed bonds with these amazing volunteers and I have been privy to the camaraderie among them as I spend my days in the lobby of SFBFS’ Education & Technology Center. These students also never seem to take for granted the sessions of tutoring to which they are scheduled. They show up on time (or early) every day and are ready to get to work.

They also refrain from making excuses. Over time, I have learned more and more about each student as they pass through reception every day and many have shared some of the challenges they face.  Some have family members face grave medical challenges. Others have battled their own health issues.  Furthermore, they cannot always count on the support of family or of other members of their community, yet I’ve witnessed from them what can only be described as school spirit, with one young lady responding to a critic of her studies here, “Oh no, do not disrespect my school!”  

I’ve seen students struggle with frustration. I’ve seen the tears. I’ve seen some on the verge of giving up.  However, I’ve also seen other students and tutors step in to reel them back into the classrooms. Some students have walked down the stairs and out the doors, only to be escorted by friends back up the stairs to a soldier on. That is courage! That is growth!  That is character!

Another thing I’ve noticed from my vantage point in the lobby is a shocking lack of blame. I don’t hear complaints about their surroundings, their past or decisions they’ve made which brought them to this point in their lives. They simply show up and get the work done. They are proud to be a part of a group of positive-minded people, creating positive change and I am proud to know them.

Submitted by Brenda Wherry, SFBFS Receptionist

May 8, 2012

Recycle Your Little Bicycle

Now that summer has started, it is the perfect time of the year to clear out some garage space by donating those used bikes that the kids have outgrown to the less fortunate children in Sacramento. This simple donation can make a big difference in a kid's life. It can inspire a lifetime of activity, creativity and personal challenge.
Recycle Your Little Bicycle, is a donation drive being held at O'neil Park on the May 27. It is an opportunity to give a used bike to a child who would otherwise spend a summer seeking other forms of entertainment. Volunteers will repair used bikes and restore them to a like-new condition. After the restoration is complete on each bike, local businesses have agreed to purchase new helmets to give each child along with their bike.

With the great help of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, all bikes will be distributed to appropriate aged children. Please consider donating your used children-sized bikes, in any condition, on May 27 at O'neil Park, on 7th and Broadway, between 8am and 2pm. If you are interested in helping or donating before the event please e-mail Edgar Ortiz . Please help support the cause by checking out the event's Facebook page.

Submitted by Edgar Ortiz, Event Organizer

May 4, 2012

Best Kept Secret

I’ve heard so many people say that the services and programs offered through Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services are the community’s best kept secret. As individuals stop by the reception desk, where I volunteer, to inquire about food distribution locations and learn about other services offered, their expressions and demeanor immediately change.
In particular, the Demonstration Garden; people love it! You should see their excitement as they walk by wondering how they can get involved, it’s priceless!

Also the Technology Lab catches people off guard. It is not often community members can find free access to state of the art computers. Additionally, the computer courses offered at no charge are very valuable resources, especially in today’s economy.

What these programs and services offer to the residents of Sacramento is of tremendous value. As the word spreads throughout the community of what an awesome variety of services provided, it will no longer be the best kept secret, but the best of services and programs known to the community.

Submitted by Sharon Beavers, volunteer Receptionist

May 3, 2012

A visit from Dr. Oz

April 30 proved to be a busy and rewarding day at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). SFBFS hosted a special food distribution at the Saca Community Learning Center in north Sacramento. The goal was to highlight the Food program's unique and effective approach to serving families in need. Dr. Oz and his wife Lisa arrived with members of HealthCorps for a visit at 2:30pm.

Over the next 45 minutes, SFBFS' President/CEO Blake Young introduced Dr. Oz to SFBFS' approach on combating hunger and poor nutrition in Sacramento. SFBFS' crew of dedicated volunteers showcased the health and nutrition stations where nurses took blood glucose screenings and shared tips on preventing osteoporosis. 

Garden volunteers handed out tomato seedlings and encouraged families to grow their own groceries. 

Talented volunteers diced and prepared veggies for a fresh salad sampling, exposing families to a few new recipes they can make at home with their goods.

Amazing volunteers bagged and distributed fresh broccoli, spinach, potatoes, onions, cabbage, tomatoes and more to each family.
Several hundred families received food and enjoyed the opportunity to ask Dr. Oz health related questions. Dr. Oz expressed gratitude to each volunteer in attendance and took the time to listen to challenges facing clients in Sacramento.

SFBFS' approach to removing many barriers that face Sacramento families was featured in a Wizard of Oz themed game at HealthCorps' Journey to Oz later that evening.

Combating and removing barriers faced by families in our community, such as transportation, hours of operation, food deserts and lack of education about nutrition, is one way SFBFS fulfills their mission of moving families toward self-sufficiency and financial independence.  Helping families with healthy food is the first step in helping someone improve their life.

SFBFS currently operates 12 food distributions every month throughout Sacramento. If you know of a family in need of fresh produce, please visit for days, times and locations.