Open Hearts - Open Home

There was little question once we heard of the plight of people around the world in desperate need of refuge, safety, and most urgently- temporary housing upon arrival to Sacramento.  Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ Refugee Resettlement Services’ Parish Liaison, Candace – spoke briefly after mass about the need for emergency housing for refugees while the agency located affordable apartments.  She inquired if parishioners could assist in some way; maybe they had an empty apartment which could be utilized or furniture folks wanted to donate or a bit of time to volunteer a few hours a week.  During her talk, my teenage son, Carlos, who was sitting beside me in the pew looked my way and gave a slight nod and seconds after, my husband turned his head and lifted his eyebrows. This call for help resonated with us, given my own story of being a political refugee and my memory of a family who offered to house us temporarily.  My son prompted us to ensure we were committed to following through. After mass, we walked to the back of the church, and submitted our name; however, our vision was not to offer volunteer hours, although this too is very needed, but rather our home.  We connected with the Refugee Resettlement Manager, Rocio, who quickly mobilized to provide us information. Before we knew it, we set an appointment for a visit to evaluate our home and the space we could offer for emergency housing.  We have a small in law quarters with a full bath but no kitchen. That was not a barrier. We would share our kitchen in our house and open our home and hearts to a family in need. 

A few days later, we found ourselves at a local live scan agency getting our background checks.  Our sons were running around helping to transform the back house from their teen cave to a family living space. We reached out to friends who graciously offered to provide items needed, not just for their arrival but things they would need to furnish an apartment.  We received confirmation that the family would be arriving in a few days.  Their home country was Iran but they were on refugee status in Turkey for 3 years, awaiting approval to arrive in the US as the vetting system is very rigorous.  We anxiously awaited their arrival.  The day and time had come; the family was on their way from the airport and would soon be approaching our street.  We ran outside and waited on the sidewalk, all the while, vigilantly checking the time.  The car finally approached, stopped and parallel parked in front of our home.  In a few moments, Mary (we will call her) opened the car door, slowly turned her body to get out of the car, lifted her head and glanced our way with the humblest and gentlest eyes.  She came out of the car and immediately extended her arms.  She approached me with such a sincere embrace, kissed me on both checks and said with an accent and loving, soft tone, “Thank you so much.”  I was so taken by her and her husband’s depth of gratitude, that I immediately teared up.  At that moment, we realized the incredible connection we have as human beings, that we are given this incredible gift called empathy and compassion- a gift which quickly transcends barriers. 

After the introductions, we showed our family around the house and helped them settle in. Their case worker, translator, friend and our family sat around discussing their 30-day plan. We were overwhelmed with emotion as we learned about the journey ahead of them. This family had just arrived from across the world with a few possessions to their name. They will have to quickly readjust to another culture and life, learn English, find housing, secure a job, develop a different skill if their license or vocation does not apply in the US and more than likely encounter discrimination… but they were so thankful.  They only focused on the opportunities, “When can we sign up for English classes? Is there employment assistance? How quickly can one find a job? Is there affordable apartments so we do not burden the Ramirez family?” They were so motivated, so solution focused, so resilient and so great full.

During our short time together, we showed them the Capitol, walked around the Farm to Folk festival and took them shopping for some necessities. We even gardened together in the back yard on a sunny afternoon.  We communicated and shared stories through lots of funny gestures and the help of our iPhone Farsi /English translator.  We were reminded that as people, we have so much more in common than differences. We share similar dreams, hopes, fears, losses; regardless of where we are born, what religion we are and the language we speak.  We shared several meals together- listening to music, talking and laughing as we tried to communicate. There was one meal however, which was different.  As we ate, there was an instance when we all strangely and simultaneously stopped talking and eating, and found ourselves silent.  We glanced at one another and our eyes swelled up with tears. There was a moment of intense connection, our hearts filled with emotion as we felt a profound sense of understanding and empathy for one another.  We felt their pain, loss and fear and they too felt our emotions which had surfaced during that moment.  It is a reminder how sitting with others and breaking bread, does bring us together- we are sharing life.  This honor and experience confirms that we have an intrinsic need and responsibility to not stand on the side lines watching the plight of others, to not fear those we do not yet know.  That putting our thoughts, words and faith into action has such a high return on investment- emotionally, spiritually and socially.  It takes more energy to contemplate our desire to help than actually doing it.  Trust me, we are so much better off because of it!  The day “our” family left, we were saddened! They had touched us so deeply.  As we parted, they said, with assistance from the Farsi translator, “We have no way to pay you for your kindness and generosity, but we promise that one day, we will help someone the way you helped us.” It is beautiful testament about how kindness and compassion promotes more kindness and compassion!   

Three days later, I received this text which I will leave unedited, “Hi carol how are you? Sorry if I didn’t call because you know we can’t talk english. thank you for everything you did and your family did for us. we never will forget! we will contact you when our english is better. Your family are always in our heart.”  This message brought us all to tears once more… Maybe you have room in your heart or home to help change lives…yours and someone else’s!

Submitted by: Carol, Raul, Carlos, Elias and Andres Ramirez



A Divine Donation

In my position, I get to meet, greet, help and interact with not only our clients, (I have already written a blog about the blessing in that before), but I also get to deal with our incredible volunteers and donors. 

My dear friend of 25 years who lives in Dixon, CA called me last week and surprised me with the news that a local women’s prayer group, The Divine Mercy Group, had collected over 100 brand new and gently used hand bags, purses, clutches and shoulder bags for our clients!  Each one was filled with sundry items like Q Tips, Kleenex, chapstick, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, cream rinse, body spray!


The group leader Elsa, spearheaded the donation drive and we are so fortunate that they chose our clients to be the recipients of such a great donation.  The donations will help so many in need including our Parent Education program clients. Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' (SFBFS) Parent Education program helps parents explore healthy eating options and offers supportive courses including toddler development. Participants earn valuable parenting supplies, such as diapers and clothing, through attendance. SFBFS' Parent Education program engages expectant families, mothers, fathers or guardians with their children 0 – 5 years of age. So thank you, Elsa and all the women in your prayer group who went to the effort to put together such a fantastic donation. We need more people like you!    

Reflecting on my time at SFBFS

My experience here has been one full of hilarious memories and hard work all made possible by the invaluable staff here at SFBFS. This was my first internship and at the beginning I honestly had no idea what to expect besides the image of the typical coffee getting intern common in T.V. sitcoms today. To my immediate surprise, from day one I was treated like any other member of the team in both interaction and work material. I was given instructions on my role in upcoming projects and allowed to create my own content for those projects; they offered guidance but did not hold my hand and I loved it. The Communications Officer challenged me to bring my best to the table and assisted me whenever I struggled and with her help I have completed projects that I am very proud of. I am so grateful to her for being a patient mentor to me and also for choosing me to be her minion.  Thanks Elise!

I’ve learned a great deal of valuable skills and gained both experience and friends here at SFBFS. What was unexpected though is that after working alongside these amazing and passionate people, I now have a clear direction on what I want to do with my life and that is powerful. I will focus all my fire, focus and energy on following my passion of helping others and influencing positive change.  Even though my time as the communication intern for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services is coming to an end, mydesire to help those in need is stronger now than ever before.

Why I Volunteer

Looking at my own life, I have always had a calling to assist those who were struggling to help themselves regardless if their needs were long or short term.  It honestly makes me feel amazing to be relief to someone who is having a hard time. It’s always been important to me to make a positive difference in this world and I understood from a very young age that in order to do so I have to start by first making my home and neighborhood better.  Everyone wants the world to be a better place but I’ve found that many people often don’t have a clear idea on where to start. I’ve traveled all over the country while in the military and I volunteered in more places than I can remember.  What I have come to discover is that each of us is the world and if we really have a strong desire to make the world a better place, we must make ourselves and those around us better.  This idea and my strong desire to help is what drew me to SFBFS whose mission is to help as many people, neighborhoods, and communities as possible. This organization is directly contributing to the prosperity of the community and everyone in it. They are actively making the world a better place and for a short while I was a part of that. While here I have smiled into the faces of those in need and directly contributed to their and their family’s well-being.  I’m envious that people do this for a living.

It’s my belief that life is made more valuable when people help others and it is my goal to get as much value out of my life as possible. If you agree with me please volunteer. It will make you feel amazing and you will know that you have a part in making this world better. If you don’t believe me believe this:  SFBFS has more than 8,000 volunteers a year, many of which show up multiple times a week. There’s got to be something special to it. Click here to make your community a better place.

A Donation Close to Home

A Donation Close to Home

Every day as Communications Officer at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), I get to see people come through our doors. Some come with the unwavering dedication to earn their GED or learn English, others come in frantically searching for food or clothing. What’s empowering is that we help everyone. As stated in our mission, SFBFS is dedicated to assisting those in need by alleviating their immediate pain and problems (often finding food or clothing for themselves and their families) and moving them toward self-sufficiency and financial independence (earning a GED, learning English or securing a job).

SFBFS’ Clothing program is just one of 15 different programs and services offered at no cost to families in need in our community. Every day, our Donations Receiving area is open and ready to receive a variety of goods including clothing. Dedicated volunteers then have the task of sorting, hanging and displaying these items for our clients. I’ve seen several families come in with little ones looking for a new pair of pants, a new dress for school or new shoes because theirs have been worn down. These donations make such a difference in the lives of many of the individuals who find themselves without appropriate attire. In addition to our regular Clothing program offering men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, SFBFS offers a specialized program called JobSmart, designed specifically for individuals seeking job interview and work appropriate clothing. The best part? These items are given away to people who need them and never resold for our benefit.

I recently celebrated my first year at SFBFS and continue to share with my family all that I’m learning and all the ways we give back to our community. So, it was no surprise when I got a phone call from my Mom last week. “Elise, we have bags and bags of Nana’s clothing that we need to get rid of. I know so many people at your work go without and I’d love if we could donate them to Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.”

To give a little background, my Nana is my grandmother. She was recently diagnosed with dementia and has been moved to an assisted living facility as she can no longer live safely on her own. This transition was incredibly hard for both my Nana (who up until about a month prior had lived in her own home, alone, since I can remember) and for my family. After weeks of cleaning out her home, we were left with countless clothing items for donation. I have to admit, seeing all of my Nana’s prized clothes wrapped up in garbage bags made my heart hurt. After picking them up in my hometown, an hour and a half away, I hauled them all the way back to Sacramento and knew that while my Nana was losing her independence, so many others would be provided with beautiful clothes to wear.

After about 3 hours of dropping off her items, I walked down from my office with curiosity. “I wonder if any of my Nana’s clothing has been sorted and hung up yet.” To my delight, our amazing Clothing program volunteers had taken care to sort and hang up each and every piece of clothing. It brought a little tear to my eye as I looked at all the clothes hung up and memories began to flood my mind as I sifted through the racks. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to give back and I know my Nana, even though her mind isn’t what it used to be, would be happy to know that her beloved clothes weren’t simply tossed away.

Submitted by: Elise Hawkins, SFBFS’ Communications Officer




Closing the Food Gap

Since interning with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) I have become growingly aware of the food inequality problem America faces today. What this means in a nutshell is that the wealthiest people are eating better, while the poorest are eating worse. While this is obviously an aspect of finances I believe that the problem can begin to get better by spreading education related to better nutrition as well as communicating convenient alternatives and resources to low-income families. Here is some of the fun stuff I’ve learned!

Farmer’s Markets

There’s something special about attending a farmers market. Maybe it’s the abundance of fresh, bright, sweet smelling fruits and veggies, or maybe it’s the realization that all of it was produced by someone who took the time to nurture their crop to maturity. Some even enjoy the environment and person-to-person interactions between a seller’s farms to your fork. Either way, I am a fan.

I have always loved farmers markets, the people are always so nice, the fruits and veggies are always so appealing to the senses and there is always something new to try; think samples people! You may be surprised to learn that Sacramento is home to one of the largest California Certified Farmers’ Markets in the state and offers the most ethnically diversified market in both produce and customer demographics. The Sacramento region also has more than 40 farmers markets, many of them year-round fixtures, which is amazing.

Most people think farmers' markets are more expensive than supermarkets—but studies don't always support that conclusion. In fact, they're often cheaper. For organic items, farmers' markets beat grocery stores every time hands down. Find a certified farmer’s market near you à 2016 Market Times and Locations


What is Cal Fresh? Short answer: Awesomeness!

Real answer: CalFresh is the name for the federal Food Stamps Program in California. In most other states, this program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture– is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

CalFresh can add to your food budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table. The program issues monthly electronic benefits that can be used to buy food at many markets, food stores and some farmers’ markets -- Yes!

SFBFS can help you apply! It takes less than five minutes to see if you qualify and just 30 minutes for a confidential appointment to complete your application. Find more information on our Web site by clicking à CalFresh Info.

SFBFS Gardening and Nutrition Classes

They say it’s better to teach a man how to fish than to just hand him a fish, well here we do both! SFBFS offer classes in our demonstration garden which is proudly displayed at our Family Services campus in Oak Park.          

Gardening classes include introduction to gardening, composting, pest management, irrigation, healthy food choices and more. The Demonstration Garden includes a greenhouse, composting and vermicomposting bins, large production beds along with other demonstration areas and an outdoor kitchen table where clients can learn to prepare food they cultivate and harvest.

SFBFS also has a seed bank to assist with growing your own fruits and veggies, so come check it out.

 Food Distributions

One of our biggest functions here at SFBFS is alleviating the immediate food needs of the community. Along with a huge number of partner agencies, we currently assist 135,000 individuals by giving away fruits and veggies all at no cost to the recipient. While our ultimate goal is to move our clients toward self-sufficiency, we understand that to do so their immediate basic needs must be addressed. There are many distributing spots around Sacramento. Use our Food Access page to find a location and time convenient for you. There are many options out there for better eating on a budget, you just have to go out and get them.

Submitted by:

Maurice Elamrani, SFBFS’ Communications Intern




My journey at SFBFS

I remember vividly at age 53, being at a very scary cross road in my life.  I had been a stay-at home mom for 17 years uniquely famous in my children’s classrooms for my delicious cupcakes, story time leadership and creative craft activities I shared with the children.  I had a small interior decorating business on the side but did most of my decorating for free, for community events, in parish halls and for American Cancer Society relay event booths.  I had been in the banking industry in my earlier career and considered myself an organized and talented woman, but after my divorce I couldn’t find work and found it very difficult fitting into the mainstream corporate circle.  I had gone to CalWorks at least 15 times seeking help with my resume and to find work and was linked to at least 10 job search engines.  Taking a shotgun approach I applied for everything month after month.  I was scared and out of money. I am blessed to be a woman of faith but even the best of us can fall into despair and depression. 

When I walked into Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) I felt love and outstretched hands ready and anxious to help me! I took advantage of the free computer classes, resume workshops and met Tasha, the Clothing Program Manager who gave me some nice interview attire.  The help, assistance and guidance I got from SFBFS was amazing and I ended up actually working for them!  As I sit on the other side of the client counter now, gainfully employed with good benefits, I try to extend the same professionalism and sincerity shown to me and am grateful to be part of such a remarkable company.  

Submitted by

Cary Howitson, SFBFS' Administrative Receptionist



Displaying a Legacy

Hard work alongside teamwork has prevailed!

The Senior Gleaners, Inc. Legacy wall has finally been completed with the amazing help of the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) communication team and an extremely knowledgeable SFBFS warehouse technician Tommy. Although the project took longer than expected, (the good ones always do) I am very proud of the work that was able to be completed. I spent countless hours filing through the decades of Senior Gleaners’ (SGI) photos, newsletters, newspaper clippings, leadership statements, donor contributions and the like in order to best discover and represent the organization. It goes without saying that SGI and its entire unpaid force believed in and exemplified hard work, teamwork, empathy and the sense of community responsibility. They helped be responsible for others with a strong yes and spent years doing so through food bank services, toy drives, soup kitchens, and other events in the area.

My goal was to make the project feel special to all viewing parties regardless if you were ever apart of SGI or not. I wanted to create something that had meaning in every aspect and in every detail; something visually pleasing that draws emotion and radiates inspiration.

The color scheme of white frames is supposed to represent the blank canvas of life; the photos then are the art. Because SGI volunteers were senior citizens, usually around fifty years of age, the gold frames and accents in the piece represent their golden years of life. I added one row of all black and white photos and a separate row of color photos to signify the passing of time, knowledge and work ethic between the old and the new. I was ecstatic to find an actual ladle while looking through the project materials and had to add it. I mean can you imagine all the people that it helped?  I wanted people to see that it doesn’t take much to help someone. To display the many achievements of the organization, I selected awards that were given to SGI by a variety of groups representing the different demographics that they served and affected. Each award comes from a different group from police officers, to government officials, to children organizations and other welfare groups in the community. This is meant to represent their willingness to help all people and their positive impact on the entire community. Lastly, it serves as a reminder that no matter where you come from, we are all the same and we all could use a helping hand at times.

This project was so much fun and I learned some amazing lessons about myself. Through SGI’s hard work and dedication to each other and their community, they set the bar extremely high and have left a legacy that they can be proud of. Their example has left me reflecting on what it is I would like my legacy to be. I hope that the SGI Legacy Wall will have that same effect on everybody. 

Submitted by:
Maurice Elamrani – SFBFS' Communication Intern



A Phone Call with Norma

I often have the privilege of sharing the success we see every day here at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). Unfortunately, the journey to self-sufficiency and financial independence is often a hard one. Many of our clients struggle to make it by. Our receptionists are all too familiar with the desperate calls of people seeking support. Below is an example of one of those phone calls. I received the e-mail below recently and wanted to share with our supporters as it was a huge reminder of not only the resources that we offer, but the love and heartfelt compassion our employees have for this cause. I hope this story allows you to get a brief insight into sometimes tough calls we receive and how just one employee can make such a positive impact on a single life. In today’s news stations flooded with stories of mass tragedy, it is reassuring that we are making a positive impact in our community and offering support to those who need it most.

“We received a call today from a very desperate homebound 94 year-old senior who was deliriously hungry.  She called yesterday afternoon. Norma lives alone with her little dog and hasn’t eaten for days. Her sweet tone, humble nature and absolute desperation REALLY tugged at my heart strings and my only consolation was that one of our partner agencies, Christian Fellowship Ministries, offering a food distribution the next day, was close by on Cottage Way apparently right down the street from a church she has attended in the past and she thought she would be able to find it. However, she was very confused and asked me to repeat the information quite a few times. She called back again today and sounded even more delirious, faint and weak complaining about her hunger.  I used more administrative time on the call than I should have and I know that those of us on the front lines feel this deep, agonizing helplessness sometimes.  I have gotten many other calls like this but never quite so jolting as this one and I wanted to bring her some food after work.  I was reminded that we do not interact with clients at that level for safety reasons and that if I went over to her house something dangerous could happen.  Instead, I called Non-Emergency to inquire about what type of service they might offer and Eskaton TLC about the outreach calls they make. 

Non-Emergency said that they would check in on Norma and if the officer felt it necessary, they would contact Adult Protective Services in which a case worker would get involved.  I felt much better when I got off the phone knowing that professionals who interact with people at that personal level were involved.  Those of us who answer the phone hear stories about people with cancer whose sibling’s and or spouses just died, people narrowly escaping threats, violence, people being evicted who are homeless and crying etc.  They not only need help in the form of shelter, food and other services, they want someone to listen and to feel loved. Although we cannot spend a ton of time with each caller I always feel supported knowing that I can make a difference.”

Submitted by
Elise Hawkins, SFBFS' Communications Officer

Special thank you to Cary Howitson, SFBFS receptionist, for sharing this story.



Our Inaugural Partner Agency Conference

About a month ago, I celebrated my one year anniversary with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS). What an incredible year full of learning and new experiences. In addition to my role as Communications Officer, I’ve challenged myself to be part of a variety of different planning committees. The goal? To dive head first into this position and learn as much as I possibly could about all facets of this wonderful organization. Last winter, I helped plan SFBFS’ Holiday party and just last week, I was proud to be a part of the amazing team that put on our very first Partner Agency Conference!

The Partner Agency Conference idea originated about four months ago when the Food Bank Services team decided to host an event dedicated to our more than 220 partner agencies. Many of our agencies are very small and often have little additional resources to provide to the families that need it most. Keeping with SFBFS’ mission to assist those in need by alleviating their immediate pain and problems (food/clothing) and then moving them towards self-sufficiency and financial independence (education), we wanted to make good on our promise to be a partner in the fight against hunger. As Sacramento County’s main food bank, SFBFS is responsible for feeding the 240,000 food insecure families in our region. This simply would not be possible without the dedication and compassion of our partner agencies. Recognizing that many of these organizations struggle to stay afloat themselves, our goal was to provide a day chalk full of resources to the agencies who ultimately help us serve 135,00 men, women and children every month.  

On July 14, 240 individuals showed up for our inaugural Partner Agency Conference at Arcade Church. We were incredibly blessed to have this venue donated to us and the support of the wonderful church staff was so appreciated. After a welcome from SFBFS’ President/CEO, Blake Young, the agencies were off for a full-day of learning. Three different class sessions were offered throughout the day including classes like: Cultivating a Successful Volunteer Program, Food Safety Review, Simple Funding Strategies for Success, CalFresh, Building a Healthy Food Pantry, Marketing Basics for Your Food Pantry and more! Speakers included local experts and SFBFS staff.

Lunch was provided by Plates Café and Catering, a local Sacramento restaurant run by St. John’s Shelter for Women and Children. In addition to serving homeless women and their families, Plates Café and catering is also run by women looking to build their job skills and prepare themselves for the work force. The ladies did a fantastic job catering our event and the food was delicious and healthy!

Lunch was followed by an inspirational speech from world-renowned expert on gratitude, Dr. Robert Emmons. While the work of serving our community’s struggling families can often be challenging, Dr. Emmons reminded us of just how good we have it and to always remember to express gratitude.

After a full 8-hour day of learning, our partner agencies headed home with a wealth of knowledge and a rejuvenated purpose for serving Sacramento County’s 244,000 food insecure.


The feedback I received throughout the day made all the hard work of planning the conference pay off. I had multiple people come up to me and express what an amazing opportunity this had been for their organization to learn and expand their services to help more people. With one year under our belt, I’m looking forward to see what next year will bring. 

A Volunteer Experience with Refugee Resettlement

On June 24, 2016; I volunteered with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services as part of Refugee Awareness Month.   The activity in which I participated was a Home Visit; this home visit was actually accompanying a new arrival refugee family to their first new apartment.  So I had the opportunity to be part of the first contact that the resettlement agency had with the family; the family arrived to Sacramento on June 23, 2016 at midnight; two staff members, Nemat and Rocio met the family at the airport.  Nemat shared with me that it took two hours to the family to be cleared by customs.  The family consists of a 40 year old mother and two daughters, 19 and 11 years old.  Nemat and Rocio took the family to a hotel as the apartment was not ready and the arrival time did not permit to have taken the family to their apartment. 

I met with Nemat and Rocio at their agency, from there, Nemat and I went to pick up the family at the hotel and took them to the agency to complete paperwork, to schedule appointments and to discuss the services that this agency would be providing.  Nemat and Rocio conducted the initial meeting with the family; Rocio facilitated this meeting and Nemat served as an interpreter; Rocio and Nemat were a great teamwork.  

Once the paperwork was completed, we proceed to take the family to their apartment in the Arden area; by the time we arrived to the apartment, Freddy, another member of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services was waiting for us with a truck full of furniture; and we all helped to bring the furniture inside.  The family was informed that the apartment would be furnished with basic items that were donated; the furniture consisted of three single beds, a dresser, dining table with four chairs, couch, two living room chairs; coffee table, lamps; the apartment was provided with stove and refrigerator.  In addition, the family received: blankets, sheets, towels, cookware etc.  I left once we finished bring all the furniture inside, and Rocio and the rest of the team stayed to help to set up the beds, assist to sign the lease agreement and to accompany the family grocery shopping. 

As I drove back to the office, I reminisced on this experience.  I could not avoid worrying for this family; perhaps it was my own countertransference, but I wondered if they would be safe; whether mom will find a job soon and be able to take care of her young girls.  At the same time I realized that this family left their own country seeking for a safe place to live; and I sincerely hope they will find a safe home in the U.S.; and with the assistance of the resettlement agency they will also be able to become self- sufficient.  

I commend Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services and all the resettlement agencies for their amazing work in assisting refugees through the resettlement process; I know for experience how rewarding is to provide direct services to clients and I know how important is for the resettlement agencies to receive the support from RPB.  I wrote this brief summary to let everyone know just through one example the impact of collective work.     

Heriberto Camarena, Staff Service Analyst

California Department of Social Services

Refugee Programs Bureau


CCTLA Fundraiser - June 16, 2016

This June, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) partnered with the Capitol City Trial Lawyers Association (CCTLA) for its 14th year to host the CCTLA fundraiser. Over the course of several months, a dedicated committee met to discuss logistics and fundraising tactics to raise money for the 135,000 served every month through SFBFS’ 15 diverse services. CCTLA is the voice of and for Sacramento Trial Attorneys and has a vested interest in the community they work for. After months of hard work from the committee, 66 individuals agreed to sponsor $1,000 each for the fundraiser. That’s $66,000 for families in need! What an incredible gift!


The initial sponsorship opportunity was followed by a beautiful silent auction and evening at the home of Parker White and Noël Ferris. Their East Sacramento backyard garden was the perfect location to host an evening dedicated to giving back to the community. More than 100 people attended the event to enjoy wine, food and bid on several dozen auction items. While many of the attendees were aware of the beneficiary of their generous donations, the evening took an emotional turn when we heard a heartwarming speech from Gricelda Valencia. Gricelda is a former SFBFS client who struggled to give her children the life she dreamed for them after she and her husband found themselves without work. Now, Gricelda gives back to families going through similar struggles as SFBFS’ CalFresh Outreach Coordinator. Many attendees were brought to tears as Gricelda shared her story and SFBFS’ mission suddenly had a face.

I could not believe the generosity of this group. At one point, a challenge was posed to all attendees to give an additional $50 donation to SFBFS. Many individuals stepped up to the plate and donated. While the final donation count is still being tallied, I know that the money raised at this wonderful event will serve well in the 15 programs and services offered at SFBFS. 

Submitted by:

Elise Hawkins, SFBFS Communications Officer

A Legacy Wall

You must be the change you want to see in the world.” - Mahatma Gandhi

This is without a doubt one of my favorite quotes. I absolutely love the idea that in order to help the world become a better place, one needs to influence positive change around them using not only their words but actions as well.

An organization that has consistently modeled this idea since its founding is Senior Gleaners, Inc. (SGI). SGI began in 1976 when a group of 30 concerned senior citizens met to discuss the alarming amount of food being wasted when simultaneously there were a growing number of hungry people within the community. Their solution was to glean, or gather the useful remnants of a crop from the field after harvesting, from rich fields and orchards in California. The idea was a success and prior to merging with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) in 2014; SGI grew substantially into a nonprofit with more than 2,000 senior volunteers ranging from ages 50 to 96 in 1994. This hard working group of community members distributed food boxes and opened soup kitchens to assist their community.

Since the merger, SFBFS has continued the amazing mission a few seniors began in 1976. Now working out of the former SGI distribution center here in Sacramento, SFBFS would like to honor the legacy of SGI by creating a display at the very same building that the organization made it’s start. I have the honor of creating that wall with assistance from SFBFS’ communication team and am excited at the opportunity to showcase some of the amazing work SGI accomplished in years past. I spend a good portion of my day sorting through mountains of notes, photos and awards the organization received in its time and one thing is very apparent to me; this group of volunteers worked very hard and they also believed in and enjoyed the work that they were a part of. Photos of smiling volunteers serving food to the community and others of them hard at work in the fields and orchards were abundant among the albums. This gave me a clear idea of the values of SGI - hard work, community and the idea that it’s never too late to be a positive change in the world. I’m excited to complete this project and share their passion through this legacy wall. Stay tuned for photos!

Submitted by:


Maurice Elamrani, SFBFS Communications Intern

BIGDOG2016: Tribulations to Triumph

Most people in the Sacramento area are familiar with the 24-hour giving drive dedicated to making money for area nonprofits known as the Big Day of Giving (BIGDOG). This year’s drive was hosted on May 3 through Give Local America.  Although I’ve participated in BIGDOG in previous years as a donor, this was my first time participating as a benefiting nonprofit. I had no idea how much preparation was needed for just one day! From developing an 8-week work plan to creating a social media strategy to preparing memes and videos for the prize challenges, this was a fun but daunting task for a two person team! But, Courtney (my colleague and I) were determined to make this BIGDOG the best one yet for Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS)!

After months of preparation, the day had come. Facebook was scheduled with fun and engaging posts to encourage people to donate, SFBFS staff were on-hand ready to make thank you calls to donors, e-blasts were ready and waiting to be dispatched with updates, board members and staff had credit cards in hands ready to give…and then…we got the notice.

The BIGDOG giving platform is currently down. Please stay tuned as we work to correct the problem.

What?! You’re telling me our donors aren’t able to give through the ONLY giving portal available for BIGDOG? Surely this is a small glitch that will be resolved soon. No problem. Put a hold on all posts, eblast, phone calls etc, until we hear more. Three hours went by…then four. After six hours of a non-responsive giving platform, Sacramento area non-profits decided to encourage donors to use their own personal giving platforms to give to their respective organizations. Even though the rules of BIGDOG only allowed donations through the KIMBIA platform, we certainly didn’t want to be missing out on critical donations that help to support the 135,000 men, women and children SFBFS serves monthly.

Our incredible team worked so well under pressure and did a fantastic job of keeping our donors up to date on the status of the giving platform. At the end of the day, the show must go on. With or without the designated giving platform (KIMBIA), we knew that our donors look forward to giving on this special day each year and didn’t want to deter anyone from giving where their heart is because of a technical difficulty.

After lots of backlash from the community, as well as local nonprofits, BIGDOG had come to an end. While the KIMBIA platform NEVER got fixed, our donors pulled through and were able to donate more than $70,000 to SFBFS. Our goal for the day was $55,000, so we were ecstatic to be able to far exceed our goals even with the technical challenges thrown our way. I know we say this over and over, but it could not be more true. SFBFS supporters are simply the best! Through their support, we are able to provide food, clothing and educational resources to thousands of families in need. This is the first step to #EndHungerSacramento and move people to self-sufficiency and financial independence. Again, great work, Sacramento! Can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together next year!

Submitted by:

Elise Hawkins, SFBFS' Communications Officer

Produce For All

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) is such a unique organization in that we provide so much more than food to families in need. Our mission is to not only provide immediate needs like food and clothing, but to also supply individuals with the tools and resources to become self-sufficient and financially independent. To be able to see people making the transition from dependent to independent is truly rewarding.

Every month, SFBFS supports 135,000 men, women and children by supplying much needed groceries and education. In the last few years, our food distribution model has changed quite a bit. In it’s inception, SFBFS acted as more of a soup kitchen and quickly began to introduce educational components in an effort to address the root causes of hunger. As SFBFS grew, food distributions began to happen at more and more locations throughout Sacramento. As of December 2014, SFBFS merged with Senior Gleaners, Inc, and acquired a 110,000 sq ft. warehouse that now houses all of our food operations. To date, SFBFS works with more than 220 partner agencies in an effort to distribute food across Sacramento County. As of May 10, SFBFS began yet another venture in providing families with healthy food; Produce For All. These distributions will now be held in addition to the 220 partner agency food distributions. The unique difference? Only produce will be given out! Often times, individuals and families are struggling to put food on the table and in turn will result in purchasing low-quality, unhealthy foods as they tend to be less expensive. The goal of SFBFS’ new Produce For All distributions is to be able to take advantage of living in the Farm-to-Fork Capitol and provide fresh produce to families across Sacramento County.

This week, I had the opportunity to visit a Produce For All distribution right down the street from our Oak Park office. In partnership with All Nations Church of God in Christ, SFBFS hosted its first Produce For All distribution in the church parking lot. This was the fourth distribution of its kind and SFBFS plans to grow this program every month, expanding the reach to multiple locations across the county.

Even though this was the first distribution at this location, word travelled fast! We were shocked to see close to 100 people in line to receive fresh produce! Individuals received a bag of carrots, a bag of cabbage, a bundle of apples and some potatoes. In addition, SFBFS had a booth available with information about additional resources and encouraged individuals to come down and take advantage of our 15 free programs and services. Health Education Council was also on site with sign-ups for upcoming garden classes, recipe cards and more! Even a few representatives with the Girl Scouts stopped by to spread the word about youth opportunities with their program! In just over an hour, staff and volunteers were able to supply every person that came through the line with fresh produce. It was a beautiful thing to see. So many smiling faces walking away with good food for their families. It was especially nice to see some of the children in line with their parents get excited about produce.

If you’re interested in learning more about Produce For All, visit our Web site. Feeling inspired to get involved? SFBFS is always looking for volunteers to help out at events like this. Visit our Volunteer Calendar to sign up for the next volunteer orientation to get started!

Submitted by: Elise Hawkins, SFBFS’ Communications Officer


The Kindness of Strangers

Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS) has always been there for my family and I. I can remember being a young man growing up in South Sacramento in a single income household like so many. I remember watching my grandmother struggle to make ends meet while working multiple jobs, never really being home, even if her physical presence was. Being hungry was a common feeling for my brother, sister and I and we would try to ignore this feeling by distracting ourselves with old video games and TV, or simply going to sleep. After a while, my Grandma learned about SFBFS and their distribution locations and so she would take me, the man of the house, with her to receive food to help supplement us for the month. It was at these distribution locations that I would experience kindness unlike any I had experienced at that time and it would change me into the man I have become today.

I remember the volunteers were all working hard and fast to assist the long line of people asking for help but they were also so personable, nice and polite. They didn’tmake us feel embarrassed for being there, instead many asked me about what I wanted to do when I was older to which I responded, “I want to work in technology and communications!” I’m not even sure if I really knew what that meant back then. I remember finding it hard to believe that there were so many caring, warm-hearted and giving people who were willing to spend their time on my family of whom they had never met. Through their actions these volunteers taught me the valuable lesson that everyone needs help sometimes and that’s ok; don’t judge just help. That day I decided that I wanted to be like those people and help those who need it without question or judgement. I wanted to come back and greet these amazing people when I became an adult, shake their hand and show them that I had created something of myself and it was due in part to their help and kindness.


Now, at 26, I am proud to say that I am still dedicated to serving others and find it extremely rewarding. I have served at my church as a child, assisted with youth groups as a teen, served in the military as an adult and am now proud to serve my community as the Communications Intern at the same place that affected me so much as a small child, SFBFS.  I realize now that I will probably never meet the same faces I did that day, but instead I’m determined to be the same face of inspiration and encouragement to someone else.

I encourage all who want to help and be the change in the community to come down to SFBFS and volunteer. I promise once you do, you will experience the rewarding feeling of how great it is to give unselfishly.

Submitted by: Maurice Elamrani - Communications Intern, SFBFS



Stamp Out Hunger Success

Every year, SFBFS partners with the National Letter Carrier’s Association to participate in StampOutHunger. The largest one-day food drive in the nation takes place every second Saturday in May where letter carriers in more than 10,000 cities and towns across America collect food from their postal customers. The idea is simple. Go through your pantry, find non-perishable items like canned beans and vegetables, peanut butter or pasta, fill the specially marked Stamp Out Hunger bag you received in your mail a few days before and leave it on your porch. Your letter carrier will do the rest!

On Saturday, May 14, SFBFS participated in the 24th annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive right here in Sacramento. Seventeen post office locations across Sacramento acted as a hub for the delivery of goods for the greater half of the afternoon. Without the help of several volunteers at each location, there is no way we could have kept up! At one point, at the Fort Sutter location, we had three letter carriers with VERY full trucks ready to be unloaded. Our volunteers sprung into action making sure to set aside any glass items and filled our makeshift bins. SFBFS then loaded the trucks up for their journey to our Distribution Center. There, even more volunteers were waiting with the daunting task of sorting and organizing all the donations. In total, the day produced 173,869 pounds of food!

SFBFS is proud to partner with the National Letter Carrier’s Association for this incredible one-day event. Being able to see the community come together for one cause in such a short time frame was very inspirational. I was even more excited to see so many young people volunteering. At multiple locations, I saw middle schoolers, high schoolers and even elementary students volunteering with their parents. I asked one little girl how she found out about this and she replied, “My Mom told me about it…but I wanted to help.” It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we come together as a unit. Due to the abundance of donations received through this food drive, SFBFS will be able to supply food to so many families in need. Great work, Sacramento!

Submitted by: Elise Hawkins, SFBFS' Communications Officer

Peanut Butter Round Up

Who doesn’t love peanut butter? With the exception of those with peanut allergies, I bet many of us reflect fondly of enjoying peanut butter sandwiches, ants on a log or event grandma’s famous peanut butter cookies. But not all families have the ability to purchase this delicious and protein-rich staple.

Each month, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) provides food to 135,000 men, women and children thanks to 220 partner agencies. Through this network of church pantries, soup kitchens, schools and smaller food programs, SFBFS is able to get food, including produce and healthy shelf stable items like peanut butter to those who need it most.

Summertime, however, is an interesting time of year to think about food. It is often the months where food banks receive the least amount of in-kind food donations. Concurrently, it is when greatest need occurs.   With classes letting out soon, our communities will see an increase in hunger among children, as they will no longer have access to school meals during the summer. To help meet the need, Save Mart Supermarkets will be holding its annual peanut butter drive, Peanut Butter Roundup.


Jif peanut butter and Smucker’s jelly are each giving the campaign a boost by offering a Buy One/Give One promotion, making it easy for shoppers to participate. From May 18 to 31, every time a Save Mart shopper buys one jar of peanut butter or jelly, they will receive a second one for free to donate! Collection barrels for SFBFS will be located in the checkstand area for customers to place their donations. Last year, Save Mart stores (along with its sister stores Lucky) collectively received nine tons of peanut butter for three dozen food banks, including SFBFS. This is enough peanut butter and jelly to make more than a quarter-million sandwiches and feed lots of hungry kids!

New this year is the “roundup” feature at the cash register. In addition to the Buy One/Give One option, shoppers can roundup their grocery tab, and 100% of the change will benefit local food banks such as SFBFS.

The Peanut Butter Roundup is meant to raise awareness of the struggles many families experience during the summer break. Peanut Butter makes for a perfect donation because it’s high in protein, shelf-stable and kids enjoy it. Please help spread the love by telling your family and friends to participate! Even better, post pictures or brag about donations on social media, using the hashtag #PeanutButterRoundup to help the cause.


Submitted by Kelly Siefkin, VP of Communications & Marketing

A man named Oscar

Today I got a reminder of why I’m doing the job that I’m doing. As SFBFS’ Communications Officer, much of my time is spent behind a computer communicating to others via our Web site, social media, etc. While I’m surrounded daily with clients learning English, applying for jobs, learning technology skills and taking advantage of other great resources every single day, it’s not often that I get to have one-on-one interaction with our clients or get to know their individual stories. Today was a blessed exception. I had just finished attending our very first garden class offering and was walking back to my desk when a gentleman stopped me on the sidewalk. In Spanish, he asked if I knew if the Clothing program was open. Knowing a tiny bit of Spanish, I was able to understand him and quickly tried out my broken Spanish speaking skills to let him know that the program had in fact closed for the afternoon. He then told that he was simply hoping for a sweater; that it gets cold where he sleeps at night. My heart broke. I had to help this man.

“Let’s get you some help,” I said. “What’s your name?” “Oscar,” he replied. We then walked across the street together to visit SFBFS’ newly renovated Clothing program. Several staff were still there sorting and organizing and I asked if we could help out Oscar. “No problem,” said LT, Tasha and Freddie. This is what I love about SFBFS. No one even hesitated. Yes, our official program hours dictated that we were closed, but this man simply wanted a sweater to keep him warm. After a bit of shopping, Oscar told me he had recently just moved here from New Orleans and was staying at a men’s home nearby until he could find a job and somewhere to live. Oscar quickly picked out his sweater and was ready to go when our staff chimed in, “Is that it? Don’t you need some pants? Maybe a long sleeve shirt? Some socks?” The compassion I see working at this organization gives me all the feels I must admit. Oscar left with two long sleeve shirts, two sweaters, 1 jacket, a pair of pants and some socks. The look on his face was priceless. He kept saying “Thank you. Thank you so much, ma’am.” I was only happy I could help.

Before he left, I made sure to tell Oscar about all the great resources we have here at SFBFS and that I would love to see him back here and taking some classes with us. I can’t be 100% sure he’ll be back, but it felt good to know he might, and that the actions of a few strangers could have helped make this man’s day a little brighter and his nights a little warmer.

Submitted by SFBFS’ Communications Officer,

Elise Hawkins


As the weather is warming up and creating great circumstances for weekend gardening, I wanted to provide a few resources that I have used in the past year for farming, gardening and growing plants! 

 Things you need to be productive and efficient in a garden space:

Plant starts:
If you don’t have access to a greenhouse or cold frame and growing your own starts isn’t an option, buying plant starts (young vegetable plants about 6 weeks mature) is a great option. Make sure the plant looks healthy and alert with no yellowing leaves. An unhealthy young plant means it will continue to struggle as a mature plant. Check out these local nurseries:

  • Green Acres Nursery and Supply - 8501 Jackson Rd, Sacramento
  • The Plant Foundry Nursery & Store - 3500 Broadway, Sacramento
  • Talini’s Nursery - 5601 Folsom Blvd, Sacramento

Seeds :
Some plants can be sown directly in the ground and thrive better that way. These plants include carrots, beets, beans, cilantro, parsley, cut and come again lettuces, any greens (kales, mustards), turnips and radishes. Seed packs are inexpensive and can give you a lot of plantings. In addition to the above nurseries I also like to buy organic seeds from: 

  • High Mowing Seeds (free shipping!)
  • Ace Hardware

In addition to basic organic matter in your soil, you are going to want to add in some nutrients for plant health. The most common application is compost, either animal or vegetable based. You can make compost yourself (see below, or purchase it at a nursery.

Installing a simple drip tape irrigation system (connected to a water spicket or hose) is the easiest and most efficient way to water. The release is slow, consistent and doesn’t allow for much runoff. There are kits available for easy installation, and spending one day setting it up is worth the time and money you will save in the long run. We even have the garden drip tape set up on timers for more ease!

To help with germination (for direct seeded crops) it is also helpful to have a hose with a gentle shower head or some type of rotating sprinkler. When seeds are small they refer constant misty moisture instead of large drops which drip irrigation provides. 


  • Trowel
  • Clippers for harvest
  • Fork, rake, and shovel for prepping beds

Here are a couple books and websites that I have found helpful in my path towards learning to grow food: 

  • How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons
  • The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook by Jean-Martin Fortier
  • (organic gardening, DIY, homesteading, natural health)

 Happy spring gardening! 

Submitted by: Griffin Cassara, SFBFS' Garden Coordinator