photo of diane

For the past 15 months, I've volunteered at the Food Bank campus.You can find me in the reception office with my mentor, Cary Howitson, every Friday. I have got to tell you, I look forward to Fridays for so many reasons, not the least being that Cary is an inspiration to work with.

It is personally fulfilling helping people discover all the fantastic services that Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) offers. Most call to locate food distributors and are more thankful to find out that you can also sign up for adult education, parenting and computer classes. I also let them know that we help with resumes, finding employment opportunities and much more.

We have terrific staff and volunteers who can help them sign up for CalFresh, distribute fresh produce, and host nutrition classes.

Everyone I've met while volunteering at SFBFS makes me feel better about people in general. Come on by and say hi!

Mrs. Flores

Mrs. Flores was working but wasn’t earning enough to meet her family’s needs.  Since her husband lost his job, Mrs. Flores struggled every month to cover basic expenses. Talking with Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services’ (SFBFS) staff at a CalFresh outreach event opened the door to hope for her. 


The SFBFS team members explained how CalFresh could help supplement the family’s income while her husband tried to find work.  She applied and was thrilled to tell a CalFresh staff member who called later that she was now getting CalFresh benefits.

“Receiving CalFresh is like a miracle for me at this time of my life,” Mrs. Flores said.

Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

Ms. Brown

Sometimes the first step to providing CalFresh benefits is delivering up-to-date information about the program. Ms. Brown, a single senior struggling with food costs, had been turned down for food stamp assistance many years ago because she receives Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Fortunately, Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) CalFresh Outreach team was available when she needed help and decided it was time to ask again about her eligibility. 

A team member explained that the policy had changed and SSDI no longer disqualified her for CalFresh benefits.  After struggling with food costs for so long, this information was welcome news to Ms. Brown. With the assistance of the SFBFS’ CalFresh team, she promptly applied for CalFresh benefits. When the staff member called her later in the month, Ms. Brown said she was already shopping with her EBT card.

“This makes it easier to get to the next pay day, knowing I have a little more to spend on other necessities,” she said.

Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

The Perez Family

Mrs. Perez was afraid to apply for CalFresh benefits because she’d heard rumors that anyone receiving government assistance might be deported. While she didn’t want to ask a government official about the rumors, Mrs. Perez felt safe in speaking with a Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services’ (SFBFS) CalFresh Outreach team member at an outreach event. The SFBFS representative told her that there was no foundation for the rumor, which led her to apply for benefits.  

With that assurance from the CalFresh outreach team, the Perez family now is receiving much needed CalFresh benefits.   There was no question that the family faced hardship in feeding their four children, even though Mr. Perez had a construction job. However, he didn’t work in rainy weather and the already tight family budget was becoming unmanageable.

When a CalFresh team member called to see how her phone interview had gone with county CalFresh officials, Ms. Perez was in a good mood.  Shortly after the interview, she had received her EBT card. With CalFresh benefits, the Perez family now is better able to balance its budget.

“For us is very important to pay our bills and rent on time (because) we don’t want to get kick out of our place, especially with four little kids,” Mrs. Perez said.


For Sarah, CalFresh helped to make a college education possible. She was not only a community college student but also an important source of income for her family. She lived with her mother and younger sister in an apartment where her mother’s paycheck barely covered the rent and other basic expenses. Until this year, Sarah’s part-time work paid for their food.

At the beginning of 2017, Sarah quit her job so she could take enough classes in order to transfer to a four-year college. Searching for a way to fill the income gap, Sarah found the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) online. She filled out an online CalFresh inquiry and received a call back from a CalFresh team member within an hour.

The next day Sarah went to the SFBFS’ CalFresh office to apply for benefits. Her application was submitted that afternoon. Within two days Sarah and her family had their EBT card in hand and were ready for their first shopping trip.

While Sarah plans to resume part-time work next semester, thanks to SFBFS’s online and in-person services, she’s found a way to help feed her family while taking needed classes. CalFresh gave Sarah the opportunity to put her education on track for a rewarding career and at the same time ensured her family didn’t go hungry.

Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

The Bopha Family

The Bopha family reaped a bountiful harvest when they stopped by the CalFresh outreach table at the Galt Farmers Market. Ms. Bopha told the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) team that her husband recently had been laid off his seasonal job and she was getting desperate for a way to feed her family. 

With four children she was grateful to learn about the SFBFS food-related programs, such as Produce for All that distributes fresh fruits and vegetables in communities without full-service grocery stores. When our staff informed her about the CalFresh program, Ms. Bopha realized that she had found a lifeline for the full range of groceries she needed to help get her family through their difficult time.

With assistance from the CalFresh Outreach team, she completed and submitted a CalFresh application. Two weeks later Ms. Bopha told a SFBFS team member in a follow-up phone call that she was approved for CalFresh and expecting to receive her EBT card soon. For her the SFBFS’ CalFresh outreach program ensured that she’d be able to put food on the family’s table.

Visit our CalFresh page for more information on your family's eligibility and to submit an appointment request.

Submitted by: Lorena Carranza

Five Things SFBFS Needs

This time of year, SFBFS is blessed to have so many individuals give both their time and money to our organization. We often have people reach out to inquire about what our highest needs are. If you are interested in giving back this holiday season, please consider contributing in one of the following five ways:

1.      Cash contributions – financial donations are our GREATEST need. Did you know SFBFS is not a government agency? Donations from individuals, families, companies, special events and grants keep our 15 programs and services going strong. Gifts of all sizes are appreciated. $12 feeds two families for four days! You can give online, by mail, by phone or in person.

2.      Volunteers – SFBFS relies on the dedication of over 8,000 volunteers every year. The minimum age to volunteer is 10 and a volunteer orientation is offered every week! Sign up online at www.sacramentofoodbank.org to become a volunteer in one of our 15 programs and services. With a small program staff, SFBFS relies heavily on the generosity of volunteers in our community.

3.      Diapers – In addition to serving food and clothing, SFBFS provides diapers to families in need. Our Parent Education program offers free workshops to new parents, who can earn valuable baby supplies such as diapers. Your generous donation of diapers helps out tremendously. An infant can use up to 10 diapers/day, which can add up quickly for a struggling family. Consider collecting and dropping off diapers at SFBFS.

4.      Clothing – SFBFS provides free clothing items ranging from interview attire to back to school clothing all at no cost for families in need. All items come directly from the community and given to families at no cost. Do you have items of clothing you no longer want or need? Consider dropping them off at SFBFS or hosting a donation drive to collect at your place of work.

5.      Your help spreading the word – If you know of a family in need, please have them visit www.sacramentofoodbank.org or call (916) 456-1980. Our reception team speaks Spanish and can point callers in the right direction. We can help a family find a food distribution in their community, invite them to an upcoming orientation to learn English or study for their GED. We can provide clothing and sign families up for CalFresh. SFBFS even offers low-cost immigration legal services. Please help spread the word about these wonderful services in the community. 

Submitted by: Kelly Siefkin

The American Dream

The American dream; it was a driving force and what led Nematullah and his young family to the United States. That, coupled with the fact that he was forced out of his homeland of Afghanistan due to persecution.

When Nematullah first arrived at the Sacramento airport with his wife, Khatera, and two young daughters, Hadia (meaning gift), age two and Zuhal (meaning Saturn planet), age four, he didn’t know what to expect. “I was worried no one would be there to greet us; we wouldn’t know where to go,” remembers Nematullah. “But Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) was there. A large group of smiling faces greeted us and gave me hope. I didn’t feel alone anymore.” After being escorted to his new place of residence, reality began to set in. “I felt a huge sense of culture shock,” describes Nematullah. “While I was being introduced to a variety of different services through SFBFS, I felt cut off from my family back home. It was hard. My daughters expressed their want to go back home, but I knew I had to press on and make a life here in Sacramento for my family.”

After only two months of arriving in Sacramento, Nematullah began volunteering at SFBFS, the very organization that gave him and his family their new start in the US. “I had an overwhelming sense of needing to give back,” remembers Nematullah. Even though he himself was still new to the US and had many hurdles of his own to climb, Nematullah selflessly gave his time to help out in SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Services. “Nematullah was a huge help,” recalls Rocio, SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Manager. He helped connect clients with resources, notified them about free phone eligibility, helped guide them through social security applications and more.” A huge advantage? He spoke the language; many in fact. Nematullah speaks Dari, Pashto, Uzbek and Farsi; languages commonly spoken in both Afghanistan and Iran.

All newly arriving refugees going through SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Services are required to participate in a 4-week long cultural orientation course. Nematullah was instrumental in supporting new refugees on their journey towards becoming US citizen. “I think it’s easier hearing it from someone who has been in your shoes and can speak to you in your native language,” explains Nematullah. “I just want to give these refugees the same opportunities that were so generously afforded to me and my family through SFBFS.”

Now, almost two years after arriving in the US for the first time, Nematullah and his family can happily say that Sacramento is home. After volunteering with SFBFS for several months, Nematullah was offered a permanent position as SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Assistant. In his new role, Nematullah supports and tracks new refugee arrivals, attends airport pickups, approves and denies applications based on capacity and assists in apartment set ups with SFBFS’ volunteers and staff.  He also serves as a Case Manager for families with extended case management needs.

Khatera and the children have also settled in nicely. Khatera enrolled in English as a Second Language (ESL) courses at SFBFS and his older girl is now attending school. While it may have taken baby steps to get where they are, it’s only the beginning. Nematullah has dreams to follow up on his education and pursue a Masters in Law while Khatera aspires to go to beauty school.

What advice might Nematullah give to newly arriving refugee families? “Expect challenges, but never give up. It will take time, but don’t be discouraged. The American dream is alive and well.”

 Submitted by: Elise Hawkins


Save Money on Upcoming Travel with CheapHotels.org and Help a Family in Need

The holidays are here and many of us will be traveling to visit family and friends. Want to save money on your stay and help out a fellow family right here in Sacramento County?

Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) has been selected as CheapHotels’ featured charity for the month of December! When you book your stay through CheapHotels.org this December, a portion of your purchase will be donated right back to SFBFS!

By booking your next hotel stay with CheapHotels.org, you’re helping fight hunger right here in Sacramento. Thank you for your support. May you and your family have a wonderful and joyous holiday season together!

A Refugee Story

Hello, my name is Sayed. I am thirty years old and married to my wife, Makai with three adorable children.

I worked for the US government in Afghanistan for eight good years under the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of State (DoS). My main duty for half of that period was to interpret for the security department, translate training materials for Afghan National Police (ANP) and help interpret in convoy run. I also assisted the Site Coordinators to run the support section by getting promoted to Maintenance Supervisor and later to Operation and Maintenance Manager. I served in a five-hundred man camp which later expanded to eight hundred.


Life, as we see in the media is not so easy in the war-torn and traditional countries. I remember being shot at in the convoy runs and even experienced RPG attack and threats at our camp while we all were on duty.

In mid-2012, we were laid off as DoD decided to shut down operations in our camp. The US decided to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014. We were all exposed to the mercy of Taliban revenge. I had two choices to make; stay back and accept the risks and or make an attempt to save my family. 

Fortunately, my services and hard work paid off; the US government accepted our case and we selected California as our new home. We did go through and experienced a hard, risky long and stressful two year Visa process. But, we got lucky and now we are safe in our new home. However, many men and women who worked like me were not that lucky as some still undergo administrative processing in the Visa Program (SIV) and many have lost their lives waiting.  

Upon our arrival in Sacramento we experienced the unexpected; a warm welcome and greeting by the smiley faces of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' (SFBFS) crew. Our children were given gifts and toys. Our luggage was carried in the vans and we forgot the tiredness of an almost ten hour flight. We were immediately escorted and taken to our new apartment which we still live in. Yes I admit we were hungry, but our fridge was filled with food and fruits. 

SFBFS had also arranged for us to have beds, furniture and even pots and pans; things a new family can't live without. In addition to, we were provided free transportation and given culture orientation classes. 

US culture was not something I was new to due to almost a decade of work with Americans; but it sure was new to my wife and kids. Everything was amazing; kind people, good weather, great place!

We were assisted in any way we could have possibly imagined by our assigned agency (SFBFS). They went out of their way to help us solve any problems we faced and not only for the 90 days which was required, but even now, almost two years since we moved in. My wife, my children and I won't forget this kindness. 

We did our part and continue to do so. As soon as our legal documentations were processed, I attempted to find a job and I succeeded. I now work for a huge Tech Company and have been promoted twice during my first year. My wife takes English  as a Second Language classes and plans to continue her studies. Our children are going to school and we practice good citizen morals. Are we 100% self-sufficient now? No. Like many other citizens, we are not. We again thank  the US government and Sacramento County for standing by their core values and helping us achieve one hundred percent self-sufficiency.

We dream the American dream. We now have a reliable car, a job and working to buy a house which will take countless effort.     

Afghanistan is where I come from and know the culture. War is not what our culture allows and encourages. It has been enforced on us for almost four decades now. I even personally remember getting in trouble for learning the English language during the brutal Taliban regime when I was just a kid. Now, the world knows where the Taliban comes from and who backs them up. I do not need to explain but all I can say is that it is definitely not an Afghan ideology and culture. 

I appreciate those who read, understand and care. 

Thank you US government. Thank you Sacramento County. Thank You SFBFS. Thank you American people! 




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