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

February 26, 2014


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

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