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

March 23, 2015

Kate's Korner: April 2015

Garden Cooking for Free!

Have you ever tried to cook something with solar energy? You probably have, but didn't realize exactly what you were doing.  Ever fry an egg on the asphalt or accidentally cook something in your car? You harnessed solar energy! 

Solar cooking is an old concept but it took a while for anyone to apply the technology to food. Greenhouses were built in England and the Netherlands to house tropical plants from the Mediterranean regions. These solar traps later evolved into conservatories and sun rooms attached to houses. A Swiss-French scientist named Horace de Saussure created the first solar cooker in 1767 with five glass boxes set on a black surface. Since then solar cooking has slowly gained in popularity as its usefulness has proven itself. Solar cooking is great in arid regions, places bereft of firewood or fuel and humanitarian crises areas like refugee camps. Not only can people cook without fuel but they can also pasteurize water when safe sources are not available. Solar cookers can be left unattended all day and pose no danger to children like cooking fires or fuel might. When the reflective panels are angled towards the sun, a solar cooker can heat up to 350 degrees! People in the United States are becoming more interested in solar as a free and sustainable source of energy.

The Demonstration Garden is lucky to have two portable sun ovens that work great in cooking all sorts of garden-fresh produce. Last week I harvested carrots and threw some in the cooker with some fresh thyme and a splash of olive oil. They came out fantastic! I also cooked some potatoes, carrots, onions and Swiss chard with tomato sauce to share with the gardening class. I have big plans to cook bread, amaranth and corn in the sun oven later this summer! On a sunny day, come check what is cooking in the garden!

Submitted by Kate Wilkins, Garden Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.

March 3, 2015

Kate's Korner: March 2015

As California’s drought continues, farmers and gardeners are perhaps the most keenly aware of its repercussions. We work with water every day, whether checking irrigation lines, watering newly planted seeds or rinsing off fresh produce. I can tell you exactly how long I have been able to shut the irrigation off in the Demonstration Garden this year – 10 days. That was after the two largest (maybe only) rain storms we have had in winter and spring. I thought I could get away with not mulching a few beds because temperatures would be cool, but with the lack of rain and summer-like days I had to put in more work later to mulch around each little sprout.

I believe that this may be the new normal in California but even if it’s not, gardeners and farmers should take some easy, precautionary steps to conserve water. Even if the drought eventually ends, conservation is still smart for your wallet if you have a water meter, or soon will. A few cheap, simple steps to dramatically reduce your water usage and increase your water use efficiency are:

1. Mulching! Use straw, dried leaves, grass clippings, newspapers or almost anything that biodegrades to cover the soil surface of your garden or yard. This mulch acts as an insulating layer that protects plants from temperature fluctuations as well as reduces evaporation significantly.

2. Drip Irrigation! Save yourself the time and heartbreak of hand watering each day and set up a drip irrigation system. There are many different kinds, including drip tape, soaker hose, and drip line that deliver water directly where you want it while decreasing water loss to evaporation. Think about investing in a hose timer so the system will go on automatically because who likes to come home from work and find that there tomato plant completely fried on the hottest day of the summer?

3. Water deeply. By watering deeply you encourage plant roots to grow down, where they can avoid the scorching hot soil surface and find more water that seeps lower into the soil. This will reduce the amount of water you use.

4. Intensive planting. Plant crops closer together so there is less area to water and their leaves shade the soil, thereby reducing evaporation. There are some great online guides and books that suggest the distances to space crops when planting bio-intensively.  

Come check out the Demonstration Garden to learn more about any of these technique. I’ll also be trying other inventive water-saving measures, so stop by and see how they’re working!

Submitted by Kate Wilkins, Garden Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. 

March 2, 2015

2014 CA State Employees Food Drive

The final results of the 2014-15 California State Employees Food Drive are in!

The food drive raised more than 623,000 pounds benefiting Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). California state employees donated more than $168,000 to purchase rice and food products and almost 213,000 pounds of food, including the turkey drive during the two and a half month duration.
This was the first year that SFBFS was the beneficiary of the CA State Employees Food drive and considering there were nearly 100 agencies with multiple locations and hundreds of thousands of employees, it was virtually a seamless transition. Each state agency designated a coordinator to work with SFBFS' CA State Employees Food Drive Coordinator on details such as barrel pick-up and cash donation deposits. There were many creative ideas implemented to raise money and food donations such as raffles, bake sales, canstruction competitions and more. The state agencies really stepped up to the plate and their generosity earned a home run! We are looking forward to surpassing our goal in 2015-2016.

"We are honored and grateful to work with the California state employees for this wonderful food drive,” said Blake Young, President/CEO at SFBFS. "The compassion and enthusiasm the state employees showed for helping families in need went beyond our wildest dreams. This group effort will allow our organization to reach more families who struggle with food insecurity and access to healthy food."

Food Drive coordinators and staff celebrate a successful year

To see a complete list of agency donations visit the State Employees Food Drive Web site:

Submitted by Peggy Marshall, CA State Employees Food Drive Coordinator at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.