Yolo Food Bank seeks healthier outcomes for West Sacramento residents – Daily Democrat

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As guests select farm-fresh, organic foods and other healthy al fresco dining essentials on a recent sunny Saturday in West Sacramento, conversations in English, Spanish, Russian and Farsi float in background. Visitors marvel and discuss the variety and quality of the abundant offering. Greeted on arrival and thanked for the visit, friendly advice is offered on request, to ensure guest satisfaction.

Where is this engaging gastronomic event taking place? Has a new grocer or cafe opened along West Capitol Avenue, or maybe even a farmers market? The answer surprises the most: it is a free “Eat Well Yolo” fresh food distribution from the Yolo Food Bank, one of four large-scale walk-in or drive-in nutrition access events that Yolo Food Bank offers in West Sacramento each week at sites such as Sutter Health Park, West Sacramento Family Resource Center, Masjid Aisha Mosque and along the West Capitol corridor. Additionally, more than a dozen other locations throughout the city – faith-based organizations, public schools, low-income apartment complexes, shelters and county facilities – regularly offer food provided by Yolo Food Bank, in addition home grocery deliveries for seniors and others. who are housebound or vulnerable. No qualifications, proof of citizenship or other requirements to receive food means dignified and barrier-free access for all.

Joy Cohan will be the new executive director of Meals on Wheels Yolo County starting in the new year. Cohan is currently Director of Philanthropic Engagement at Yolo Food Bank. (Courtesy)

The growing and persistent lack of access to healthy, fresh food has long challenged too many of West Sacramento’s culturally diverse residents, especially in the wake of the lingering pandemic. However, the impact of the Yolo Food Bank is changing lives, creating more food equity and hope for healthier long-term outcomes in the city.

“Ensuring consistent access to nutritious food for West Sacramento residents continues to be a challenge, and Yolo Food Bank is an unparalleled partner in this priority area for our civic leadership, said West Sacramento Mayor Martha Guerrero. “The relief and expanded service they have provided during a difficult time is impressive, but their dedication to deeper insights into nutritional quality, culturally appropriate foods and the foundation of a sustainable local food system is essential for the socio-economic future of West Sacramento.

Last spring, the City of West Sacramento presented Yolo Food Bank with the 2021 Civic Leadership Award for the Community, in honor of the organization’s COVID-19 relief service. West Sacramentans have faced unprecedented challenges connecting to nutrition amid pandemic-induced economic hardship, isolation and even a wild wind and rainstorm last January that disrupted cooking and refrigeration for residents due to widespread power outages, just as a surge in COVID-19 cases hit the city.

“Thanks to resilient volunteers and compassionate donors of funds and food, the Yolo Food Bank is approaching two years of uninterrupted pandemic-level service in West Sacramento and throughout Yolo County, with no end in sight,” said Michael Bisch, executive director of Yolo Food Bank. “Demand for food assistance has skyrocketed in West Sacramento and across the county since the start of 2020, and we have responded by adapting our services to increase food equity and a more sustainable local food system for meet current and future needs.

This year, more than 10,000 food access visits were made to Yolo Food Bank distributions across West Sacramento, providing more than 2.5 million pounds of produce, fresh meats and dairy, and long-life items. According to Bisch, maintaining this level of service for West Sacramento and the entire county requires $500,000 a month to fund the intense logistics of supplying, retrieving, purchasing, transporting and storing safely and distribution of food. Costs are both programmatic and operational, including provision of facilities and capacity, trucks, drivers, fuel and vehicle maintenance, as well as recruitment and coordination of volunteers, supply and coordination of distribution sites, relationships with nonprofit partners, community outreach, and other expenses related to a nonprofit that will distribute more than 12 million pounds of food in total in 2021 .

“Sustained financial investments and collective efforts from individuals, businesses and regional leaders are needed to anchor Yolo Food Bank’s commitment to building a thriving community in West Sacramento and throughout the county, where everyone has the resources it needs to experience health and prosperity,” Bisch added.

The richness of Yolo Food Bank’s commitment to West Sacramento is already reinforced by key partnerships with organizations that are integral to the fabric of the community. Yolo County Children’s Alliance, Mercy Coalition, Out of the Box Ministries, Holy Cross Parish, Our Lady of Grace Church’s St. Vincent De Paul Ministry, and the Health Education Council’s West Sacramento Accountable Communities of Health initiative are among those focusing on access to food. The strong presence of warehouses and distribution centers in West Sacramento provides food donation resources that feed local residents and those across the county, including Amazon, Core-Mark, NorCal Produce, Farm Fresh To You, Farmers’ Rice Cooperative, Raley’s and Bel Air, Nor- Cal Beverage, Walmart, and more. A dedicated team of volunteers, primarily based in West Sacramento, covering most of Yolo Food Bank’s “Eat Well Yolo” distributions, provide familiarity, stability and the heart of service to the community.

But there is still work to be done; The recently released “Sacramento Area Food System Action Plan 2021” by Valley Vision reveals a food insecurity rate of over 18% across much of West Sacramento, the highest rate in the Yolo County and well above the regional average of just over 12%. Additionally, a large portion of the city’s residents have experienced a more than 40% increase in food insecurity since 2019.

“The reality is that in West Sacramento and throughout Yolo County, the high demand for food assistance laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic will persist,” Bisch said. “An increased level of service requires both increased funding and increased volunteerism to create a food secure future for the community.”

With 50 years of experience alleviating poverty in the county, Yolo Food Bank’s current mission is to connect, collaborate and come together to sustainably increase food and nutrition security by creating an equitable and local food system. sustainable. To learn more about access to food in West Sacramento or throughout the county, or to contribute funds or volunteer time, please visit yolofoodbank.org.

Joy Cohan is the former Director of Philanthropic Engagement at Yolo Food Bank.

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