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

May 28, 2014

Kate's Korner: Libraries… for Seeds?

When people see the Demonstration Garden at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), they are usually amazed. They take in the gigantic zucchini, the tasty strawberries, the innovative aquaponics system and the fantastic Kitchen Table. Generally, people marvel at how much goes on in our garden and how good it looks. What fewer people know is that the garden is not constrained to our outside area. A vital part of our garden is tucked secretly away inside the Food  program office. Have you seen our Seed & Resource Library?

In this room thousands of vegetable, fruit, and flower seeds are all eagerly waiting to be checked out, planted and producing beautiful produce and blooms! There are organized shelves full of a variety of seeds from amaranth and arugula to watermelon and wheat. A reference manual will help you determine what sun and water needs each plant has as well as how easy they are to grow and the seasons they prefer to grow. There are empty seed packets and labels offered for convenience. It’s basically a candy store for seeds!

The seeds are “checked out” and not just given away. This means we want gardeners to save some seed from their plants and return it to the Seed Library, in order to keep seeds available. In general, we want people to be knowledgeable about how to save their own seed so they no longer have to purchase new seed season after season. We have offered a Seed Saving class and have another coming up in summer that we encourage our seed “borrowers” to attend.

We also have a resource library with a plethora of books about gardening, healthy eating, cooking, and landscape design that can be checked out for a month at a time. Some of my new favorites are the vermicomposting book Worms Ate My Garbage! and native plant and edible landscape-lover’s Reimagining the California Lawn. There is also a variety of flyers and brochures about conserving water, backyard chickens, fruit tree pruning and more.

The Seed & Resource Library was instituted in order to provide free resources to people interested in gardening. It's hard to start and maintain a healthy garden without seeds and knowledge. I hope this valuable resource makes growing food more accessible to our clients as well as encourage their enthusiasm and continued learning about food production.

Submitted by Kate Wilkins, Garden, Health and Nutrition Assistant at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

May 22, 2014

Peanut Butter with a Purpose

Children in the Youth Education program at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) were invited to attend a fun event to learn all about the healthy benefits of peanut butter on May 21.

Students interact with Kim during the presentation
Led by SFBFS Health and Nutrition intern, Kim, youth learned all about serving sizes, where peanut butter fits into the My Plate chart and what fun snacks they could make with peanut butter. Kim asked the students what their favorite snacks with peanut butter were and received all sorts of fun answers such as PB&J on crackers, apples dipped in peanut butter, peanut butter spread on celery and ants on a log! The kids then learned that the spread contains protein, vitamin A, potassium, fiber, healthy fat and helps build strong bones.

After learning all about the health benefits of peanut butter, the kids stepped out to the Kitchen Table in SFBFS’ Demonstration Garden to make fun critters snacks. Kim showed the kids how to make snacks look like spiders or an octopus, and then set out apples, grapes, raisins, marshmallows and blueberries. The kids made all sorts of creative food art and then enjoyed their peanut butter snacks.

This event was in honor of Save Mart partnering with local food banks to raise awareness of the struggle many families have feeding their children during the summer months. May 11-31 all Save Mart and Lucky stores throughout the region will be collecting peanut butter to help stock the pantries of local food banks. Giving this initiative a boost, Jif peanut butter has announced a buy-one, get-one promotion making it easy for families to donate a jar of peanut butter each time they purchase one.

"I appreciate us partnering with SFBFS and think it's an awesome cause,” John Biggs, Save Mart Store Manager said. “Running the promotion with Jif so customers would give a free jar of peanut butter has greatly helped to generate donations." 

For more information about Peanut Butter with a Purpose, click here.

May 15, 2014

Donors are God’s Soldiers

When I first took on the position as the Guest Services Coordinator 3 years ago, little did I know that my outlook on life would change for the better. I was the kind of person that liked having material things in life like nice cars, clothing, shoes and even eating out at expensive eateries. My first week at Guest Services was a rude awakening for me as I saw men, women and children with little or nothing lined up at the food and clothing line at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). They all had something in common, which was a need for food and clothing and just needed the necessities in life to survive.    I realized that donors are God’s soldiers. They come to the aide and rescue for all the men, women and children in dire need for something as simple as clothing and food. Though, there will never be enough to tackle all the needs for these less fortunate individuals and families, at least they now have something they did not have before they came to SFBFS. When I saw their body language and facial expressions before they received help I could feel their sadness. After receiving clothing and food, I could feel their happiness and gratitude. Now, I appreciate all the things that I have in life and not so much wanting materialistic things that made me happy. I tend to preach to my children, family and friends to donate and help the less fortunate and be God’s soldiers in life to help the less fortunate. Again, I feel blessed to be part of SFBFS that helps people in need and has helped me to be more humble and giving. Mahalo Nui Loa, Ke’ea Oka Aina I Ka Pono!

Submitted by Ross Fontanilla, Guest Services Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services. 

May 13, 2014

Senior program at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services

In May, 2008, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) undertook the development of a Community Needs Assessment with an ultimate goal ensuring SFBFS program offerings continued to be relevant and supportive of the greater Sacramento community.

One of the findings of the assessment was the prediction (by the California Department of Aging) that by the year 2020, 330,000 seniors will live in the Sacramento region, many of whom will be socially isolated and subject to poor nutrition and depression.

Building on the community needs assessment, SFBFS’ Board of Directors approved a strategic plan in April 2009, which among other things, created our Senior program. This concept is to match volunteer families and individuals with seniors who are referred to SFBFS by Eskaton, a premier senior service non-profit in Northern California. These volunteers socially engage with their matched seniors a minimum of twice a month and provide them with a generous supply of healthy groceries from SFBFS on one of those visits each month.

From these humble beginnings, the Senior program now has 45 active senior/volunteer matches and looks forward to helping many more seniors in the future!

Submitted by Marie-Louise Nelson, Senior Program Manager at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

May 12, 2014

Behind the scenes at SFBFS

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) is a dedicated team of employees and volunteers assisting those in need. We feed the hungry, clothe those in need, educate those needing education and offer an environment conducive to helping clients become self-sufficient and financially independent.

In order to provide that, much work goes on behind the scenes. Drivers must learn routes within the cities in order to deliver empty donation barrels and then return to pick up filled barrels. Donations are picked up from local stores, distributors, growers and individuals and are brought back to our warehouses. All donations must be accounted for. They are sorted, sized, weighed and labeled by our warehouse staff before they are available for our clients.

SFBFS' community rooms must be set up and arranged for meetings and special events for outside groups using our facility, as well as events hosted by SFBFS. This includes setting up tables, chairs, tents and other equipment necessary to accommodate the need.

No matter the number of hours, the weather, or the number of drivers available, we are a tightly knit team- dedicated to getting the job done and going the extra mile to do so. We represent SFBFS every time we drive up to a customer dock, walk into a donating store, or accept a donation from a donor at guest services or a special event.

We know that as a result of our hard work, lives are being affected and changed.  

Submitted by Steve Knieriem, Facilities and Equipment Manager at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

May 9, 2014

Councilmember Kevin McCarty's 6th annual Mother's Day Drive

Over the past six weeks, Councilmember McCarty has been encouraging community members to donate parenting supplies such as new or gently used baby clothing, educational games, baby food, diapers, books, strollers and toiletries to the 6th annual McCarty Mother’s Day Drive. 

More than 36 blue barrels were filled with diapers, baby clothes, infant formula, toys, books and even a few hand-sewn quilts to be donated to local families who attend Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS)' Parent Education program.

McCarty twins looking at some of the donations
SFBFS’ Parent Education program guides and empowers parents to give their children a bright and happy future. Anyone raising children is welcome to enroll in free educational classes, which include positive discipline, growth stages, car seat safety, healthy snacks on a budget, During Your Pregnancy and much more. Upon completion of courses, parents earn credits, in the form of Baby Bucks, which can be used to shop at SFBFS’ Baby Boutique to purchase clothing, food, diapers and other items new parents greatly need. 

Councilmember McCarty talks to crowd at Saca CLC
Thank you to everyone who made Councilmember Kevin McCarty's 6th annual Mother's Day Drive a huge success! 

May 7, 2014

Have a heart! And some apples, carrots, celery and kale!

Every day at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), I get to witness the greatest things about being human, seeing people who are giving, caring, empathetic, compassionate, and hopeful.

In the daily span of doing my job I'm blessed with seeing the most wonderful acts of kindness. SFBFS volunteers are truly amazing! Day in and day out we have a constant rotation of volunteers helping to do everything from sorting and bagging canned items, dry goods, fresh produce, meat and dairy, as well as helping with the set up and handing out of these goods at food distributions. The faces I see are all ethnicities, all ages, all incomes. They're all working hard together, all smiling with purpose and moving toward one goal: helping others.

I encourage you to come to a volunteer orientation and see the great changes SFBFS is continuing to strive for. See if there is an opportunity for you or someone you know to give back to our community and help those in need become more self sufficient. Take a step towards greatness.

"Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Submitted by Ray Dowler, Food Program Direct Distribution Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

Healthy Living: Get Out What You Put In

The human body is a remarkable and complicated thing! There are 206 bones in every adult, a heart pumping around 5 liters of blood, a system of nerves, some 650 muscles, and a bunch of major organs that all help keep you healthy and active. It is important to remember that like anything else, your body needs maintenance and care so that it keeps working as well as it possibly can, and the best way to help your system out is to make sure that you get regular exercise and that you are aware of what you are putting into your body. By knowing how different substances are going to affect your health, you can make informed and sensible choices about keeping your body in good working order.

Essential Things Your Body Needs
To maintain your health, it crucial that you find time for regular exercise. Now, this can be tricky for many of us nowadays, because some days we may lack the time or motivation, but as the Harvard School of Public Health Recommends even if “you don’t currently exercise and aren’t very active during the day, any increase in exercise or physical activity is good for you.” You don’t have to suddenly start running marathons – even aiming to go for a short walk everyday can help make a start at providing the exercise you need to stay fit. If you aren’t currently doing much to improve your fitness, it’s fine to start small and build up as you become more comfortable with regular exercise. At the same time, it’s also important to try and find forms of exercise that are fun to help motivate you to keep it up. If you can join in an enjoyable activity that also gives you a chance to spend time with other people, all the better – spending time playing sports or outdoor games with friends will also help maintain your motivation along with your fitness.
Regular exercise helps keep your body running, but what about the fuel we use? According to the last published Dietary Guidelines “Americans currently consume too much sodium and too many calories from solid fats, added sugars, and refined grains”. Just as it is important to maintain your fitness, you also need to make sure you are conscious of what you are putting inside your body. In particular, we need to make sure that we are eating enough fruit, vegetables – recommends making sure that half your plate is made up of these healthy alternatives. This is because fruit and vegetables help keep our weight at an appropriate level and prevent obesity, while also providing essential minerals and vitamins that help the body stay in good shape. At the same time by making sure that you are using fruit and vegetables as a major part of your meals and snacks, you will be reducing your risk of contracting disease like cancer.

Taking on Damage: Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs
Of course, not everything we put into our bodies is actually helpful for us – and some things can be downright harmful for our health. We might know that drugs can cause us a lot of harm – even a relatively common drug like marijuana, which says “is often referred to as a gateway drug” can have harmful effects on the body. According to, marijuana smoke can not only cause damage to the lungs, but “A number of studies have linked chronic marijuana use and mental illness.” At the same time, it isn’t just illegal drugs that can affect your health, as legal substances like alcohol and cigarettes can also damage your body.
Like smoking marijuana, cigarettes can cause severe respiratory problems, and as states smoking “damages your breathing and scars your lungs”. Cigarette smoke can significantly raise your risk of contracting cancer, and also lead to problems with your heart, raise blood-pressure and damage your arteries.
Likewise, putting too much alcohol regularly into your body can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease. Consuming excessive alcohol can also lead to liver disease, since the liver works hard to process alcohol, but too much drinking exhausts the liver. It is especially important to be aware of how alcohol might be affecting your organs, since those who have damaged their liver from consuming too much alcohol will often not be able to feel any liver damage and as says “people often don’t realize it’s suffering until it’s too late.” It is precisely because there is so much going on in our bodies that can’t be seen that we need to make the effort to monitor of how our lifestyle can affect our health.

If you take the time to think about how you are looking after your body and what you are putting into it, with just a little bit of effort, you can keep yourself fit and healthy and help avoid unpleasant diseases. Remember, for a healthier and happier life, keep your body going with exercise, make sure you put in good fuels like fruit and vegetables, and always be aware of the dangers of using substances that can harm you.

Submitted by Lily McCann.

May 6, 2014

Teaching nutrition to Computer Clubhouse students

Recently, four nutrition students from CSUS approached me to conduct a nutrition class as a project for one of their classes. One of the students and her sister had previously attended the volunteer orientation and wanted to become more involved with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). Their idea was to teach individuals how to utilize the website, specifically the SuperTracker, to track food intake and physical activity. After meeting and discussing more about the goals and objectives of the class, we decided that teaching the students in Computer Clubhouse would be beneficial. Not only do the students receive a healthy and nutritious snack while attending the after-school program, they also receive nutrition education.

The CSUS nutrition students created a detailed, yet easy to understand PowerPoint presentation, as well as a hands-on activity. During the class the CSUS students explained serving sizes and had each student measure out a serving of broccoli, strawberries and pasta and serving it on the appropriate-sized plate. Many of the SFBFS’ students learned that they are typically eating more than the recommended daily value. Providing a step-by-step tutorial on what the SuperTracker is and how to use it, really opened their eyes to the nutrients they are putting in their bodies. They now have a better understanding that beverages count towards your daily intake, not just breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

The students overwhelmingly agreed the class rated a 10! One student commented on how this will change her whole life. The class opened up a discussion on how the students really do enjoy eating healthy, just that they are used to eating items prepared a certain way. The next healthy eating topic for the class: homemade hummus. One student commented “hummus is life.” It showed that children really do like trying new and healthy foods, we just have to present it in the right way! 

Submitted by Erika Ledbetter, Health & Nutrition Resource Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

May 5, 2014

Lesser-known volunteer roles at SFBFS

As Volunteer Services Manager, one of the biggest parts of my job is sharing all the various volunteer opportunities at SFBFS. Many new volunteers enter the organization thinking that sorting and bagging groceries is the only thing that volunteers can do to help out. In reality, there are dozens of ways that volunteers can help. Often, volunteers are doing quite unexpected and extraordinary things in our programs. Because there are many volunteer roles that people aren’t aware of, I’d like to share some of the lesser-known volunteer needs from each of our programs.

-Food program: Most people are aware that volunteers are needed to help at our food distributions with sorting and packing food, but did you know about our need for Demonstration Garden volunteers? Our quarter-acre Demonstration Garden, located at our main facility in Oak Park, is especially in need of volunteers during the summer months on weekday mornings. Immerse yourself in harvesting, transplanting, maintenance and other garden related projects. Maybe you can assist during a class and help our clients learn how to grow their own food at home!

-Clothing program: Clothing program volunteers help with a lot of different things, but one unique project is helping to choose items for our teen rack. Teenage shoppers in the Clothing program often can’t find items they’d like to wear – it’s often embarrassing to have to shop with mom or dad, or they aren’t as aggressive shoppers as they need to be to find clothing they like. Volunteers help by picking and choosing clothing that should be on the teen rack so it’s well stocked for our teenage clients.

-Adult Education: Our Adult Education program consists of three main areas: English as a Second language (ESL) classes, tutoring in Adult Basic Education and GED preparation, and technology. Technology Lab Volunteers are more in demand than ever before. Volunteers teach 7 week long courses on technology basics. Classes run throughout the year, but volunteers may commit to just one 7 week long course at a time. Not sure if you’re ready to teach in front of a group? Join us as an assistant in the classroom – the main qualifications for volunteers are patience and encouragement!

-Parent Education: Volunteers in the Parent Education program have done incredible things. We’ve had volunteers become lactation consultants to volunteer their expertise to new moms, social workers facilitate group discussions in the evenings, yoga instructors teach classes to expectant and new moms, talented seamstresses sew cloth diapers to donate and much, much more. There are so many ways to get involved, but probably the least-known need is volunteer dads.  Experienced dads are needed to help develop classes and support groups for the dads in our community. Dads that speak Spanish would be a huge plus!

-Youth Education: Youth Education consists of three components: PlayCare Academy, After-School Academy and Computer Clubhouse. All serve different age groups and have different focuses. A lesser known volunteer need in Youth Education is the Computer Clubhouse Communications & Fundraising position, where volunteers help to spread the word about the Clubhouse’s available services, seek out possible funding and resources, invite guest speakers to engage with the teens and much more.

-Senior program: Senior program volunteers are matched with a senior in need in the community and visit their senior twice a month. There is only one volunteer need, but the volunteer experience varies greatly. You may be matched with a senior that shares your love of reading – so you read the same books each month and catch up on them during your visits. You may be a history buff who is matched with someone who loves talking about their past life experiences. We have had volunteers who are real problem-solvers help connect their seniors with needed community resources. We have seen amazing, real connections form between volunteers and seniors – it’s a special program.

If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer in any of our programs, please sign up for a volunteer orientation at

Submitted by Robin Simpson, Volunteer Services Manager at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.