Each month, a volunteer at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services is featured for their dedication of time and talent. This month's volunteer spotlight is:

Essa - October 2018


Nearly one in four youth in Sacramento County struggle with food insecurity. Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services’ (SFBFS) No Student Left Hungry program addresses this need by facilitating food distributions on school campuses. SFBFS’ goal is to bring healthy options to local students and their families.

No Student Left Hungry serves students of all ages, from kindergarten to university. Distributions occur at schools within the Sacramento City Unified, Twin Rivers Unified and Robla Elementary school districts. Additionally, SFBFS supports distributions at American River College, Sacramento City College and Sacramento State University.

Much of the food utilized by this program is donated to SFBFS and is packaged by a team of 136 regular volunteers each month. One of those many big hearted volunteers is Essa Loinab.

Essa is the youngest child of two loving immigrant parents from Afghanistan. Essa has always had interest in the natural world leading him to pursue his degree in molecular biology and biochemistry at UC Davis. He currently works with his father at his store while interning at the UC Medical Center as a Child-Life intern. Additionally, he volunteers his time on a weekly basis helping to sort and box food which goes to the No Student Left Hungry program at SFBFS.

Essa discovered SFBFS by browsing the UC Davis website while looking for volunteer opportunities. He attended volunteer orientation at the end of July and has been volunteering with SFBFS ever since. 

When asked for his motivation behind volunteering, Essa explained: “Unfortunately, there are many in our community who do not always have enough on their plate, so I became a volunteer in hopes of being a small positive force of change, hoping I could help contribute to an organization that dedicates itself to helping my community.” 

Being a volunteer in the food program Essa’s role can change on daily basis but it generally revolves around sorting and packaging food, bagging produce and repacking bulk items such as rice, beans and lentils so they can later be transported to locations where families in need are able to access them. Specifically for the No Student Left Hungry program, these locations are composed of 17 distribution sites, including five pop-up produce distributions, five walking groups, three after school snacks/meals sites, two pop-up grocery distributions and two onsite pantries

As somebody who enjoys weight lifting and being active, Essa likes the more physical aspects of volunteering such as lifting, sorting, and packaging and also the environment other volunteers create at SFBFS.

“Everyone I volunteer with is so enthusiastic and polite that it reminds me of how much good there is in the world. What I have gained most from this experience is I have learned that helping others is a team effort, and when we work together we can accomplish incredible things.”

“Incredible things” is certainly no understatement - last fiscal year the No Student Left Hungry program distributed 555,679 pounds of nutritious food to the community. SFBFS could not accomplish such a feat without the invaluable work of volunteers like Essa.

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