I recently attended a meeting for NFAN 4, a collection of 12 churches, food pantries and organizations located in Citrus Heights and Orangevale. Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) created NFAN, Neighborhood Food Access Network, as an innovative approach to ending hunger in Sacramento County and I was very excited to see a meeting in action.
As the official food bank for Sacramento County, SFBFS’ works with local food pantries, schools, churches and congregate meal sites, collectively referred to as Partner Agencies, to reach hungry families in Sacramento County. Currently, 240,000 men, women and children live in food insecurity and, together, our Partner Agencies are only reaching about 135,000 of them per month.
This shortfall, also known as our community’s feeding gap, stems primarily from capacity. I learned this firsthand as volunteers with little resources from various Partner Agencies shared some of their common frustrations at the NFAN 4 meeting. From limited storage capacity to lack of reliable vehicles to a water leak and damaged dry wall. Most of the Partner Agencies rely upon volunteer in roles throughout the organization, while some of the larger agencies employ a few staff members.
I learned more about SFBFS’ role at the NFAN meetings by listening and observing. Our two staff facilitators, Avery and Sonia, shared the meeting agenda, but kept tight to their role of facilitators, only asking for clarification as needed and keeping the group on topic. The group shared common practices around volunteer management, food storage, client tracking and more. While reviewing times and days for food distribution, I found it interesting that neighbors did not know they offered food distributions on the same day (and often same time) as fellow Partner Agencies. This example helped bring home the importance of information and resource sharing amongst the NFAN members.
Throughout the 2-hour discussion, I truly enjoyed how one agency representative would share a challenge and then the other agency volunteers would jump in with questions and offer solutions. Their collaborative spirt felt real and wonderfully refreshing.
The group didn’t make it all the way through the agenda, but that is why this NFAN meets monthly, so the various agencies can continue conversation and learn from one another.
I enjoyed this new approach to resource sharing and collaboration. For the first time in a long time, I felt a united front in the mission of alleviating hunger amongst agencies of all sizes. I am hopeful this great NFAN work will continue and Sacramento can become the first food secure county in the country.
I invite you to learn more about SFBFS’ NFAN work at https://www.sacramentofoodbank.org/partner-agencies/
By: Kelly Siefkin
VP of Communications & Marketing