FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - The Rotary Clubs of Fair Oaks and Orangevale, partnering with SMUD and Grid Alternatives, installed solar panels on the patio roof of the Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank. The solar panels will reduce operating costs by 50%, allowing the food bank to put more money toward their mission of providing food, resources, and hope to local families in need.
“Inspiration started this project,” said Nick Broad, Fair Oaks Rotary Club member and project manager for the solar installation. Broad first came up with the idea after hearing that the Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank, a local non-profit, was looking for a way to reduce their energy costs. Broad had recently visited Grid Alternatives and was “inspired and impressed” by their work installing solar panels for low-income families. Broad suggested that the Rotary Clubs of Fair Oaks and Orangevale collaborate to provide $16,000 of funding for solar panels for the food bank.
The total cost of the solar panels was $26,000, so the Rotary donation would get the project started. SMUD then stepped up and offered to close the funding gap by donating the additional $10,000 needed to complete the project.
Under the direction of licensed solar contractors from Grid Alternatives, Rotary volunteers from Fair Oaks and Orangevale installed the solar panels in two days. At a closing ceremony on February 23, Broad thanked everyone who volunteered their time, saying he had witnessed “a great deal of competence and sheer volunteerism and love of your community.”
Keith Wright, executive director of the Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank, said, “It takes a lot of community involvement to make something like this come together…It’s amazing to see the groups that have stepped up, to see the community involvement, the volunteerism, and I am proud to be a small part of what has happened here.”
Grid Alternatives board member Jonathan Marz described the organization as “a triple-threat non-profit.” He explained that they focus on bringing solar panels to low-income families to provide “a degree of economic security they might not otherwise have.” They also have an important work-training component, which provides youth with on-the-job training in the construction and electrical trades. “And finally,” said Marz, “it’s about reducing carbon emissions, helping out the environment, [and] becoming more reliant on alternative energy as opposed to traditional energy.” Marz said that this project was a milestone for Grid Alternatives because it is the organization’s first solar panel installation for another non-profit in this region.
SMUD board member Brandon Rose said, “This is an exciting day for the food bank and for SMUD. I’m really honored and proud to be here. I went to Orangevale Open, which is just a mile up the road, so this really is my home. This really is coming full circle to be able to bring a project like this to Orangevale.”
Rose said that one of the greatest benefits of the project is “everyone in the community collaborating and working together for the greater good.” Rose thanked all the local grocery stores (Raley’s, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Walmart, Grocery Outlet, and WinCo) that enable to day-to-day operations of the food bank, as well as all those who donated their time to complete the installation. “Ultimately we’re all working together for that common goal.”
SMUD estimates that the solar panels will “reduce energy use by 50% and save the food bank more than $56,000 over the next 20 years, while preventing the emission of 150 tons of carbon—or the equivalent of 3,500 trees,” said Rose. SMUD has also suggested energy-efficient lighting and chilling systems to help further reduce operating costs for the food bank.
“So it really will make a big difference,” said Rose. “And the beauty of the whole project is that the savings go right back into the food bank operation, to provide people in our community that extra measure of food security, which is really what it’s all about, and is the real value.”
Sacramento County District 4 Supervisor Sue Frost expressed admiration for “the leadership that just continually emerges from Orangevale and Fair Oaks.” Supervisor Frost expects other local rotary clubs to follow this example and undertake similar projects: “All the things you guys are doing is igniting the local community and the economy, and it’s the beginning of big things to come…Congratulations of the out-of-the-box thinking and the amazing partnership, and all the good you’ve brought to our world.”
Wright said he hopes this project will “be a model for how local organizations can work together to make a project like this happen…We couldn’t do it without all the community support. I would love to see this type of thing replicated throughout the county.”
FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - On December 20, the Rotary Club of Fair Oaks held their annual holiday food basket donation for local students and their families. Jim Erickson, a member of the Rotary Club of Fair Oaks, explained why he volunteered to lead the food basket project for the second year in a row: “I’ve been in Rotary for about two years, and my primary focus is things that will benefit the local community.”
The volunteers from Rotary started their day at 7:00 AM, picking up food from Sacramento Food Bank and purchasing some additional food items at local grocery stores. From 8:30 AM until around noon, volunteers assembled the food boxes in empty classrooms at Northridge Elementary School.
Local parents and former school employees often volunteer to join the Rotarians for the assembly. With so many volunteers, the work goes quickly and Erickson said it is always a very fun and festive atmosphere. He said, “It’s a fun project. It’s one of those feel-good projects where everyone enjoys doing it and feels good about what we’re doing.”
Food baskets are distributed to approximately 100 families each year. The majority of the recipient families are from Northridge Elementary, and some are from Earl Legette Elementary. Teachers advertise the program through social media and word of mouth, and families are able to sign up anonymously. There are no qualifications needed to participate, families just have to sign up and they will receive food baskets to help them with their holiday meals. Each family receives a frozen turkey and two boxes of food, which include canned and boxed food, fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, and milk. “There’s enough that they can make at least a few meals,” said Erickson.
Distribution began right after school, and families were able to pick up their baskets from 2:30 until 6:00 PM. If families are ever unable to pick up their baskets during that time, the Rotarians will make a special delivery to the family’s home to ensure they receive their food for the holidays.
Erickson said that this year’s holiday food basket donation was particularly significant because it was the last year the project was coordinated by Marci Ortega, a teacher at Northridge Elementary. Ortega is retiring at the end of the school year after 15 years of teaching at Northridge Elementary. Erickson acknowledged all the hard work Ortega has put into coordinating the food basket donations over the years: “Ever since it started, it’s been her project.”
Ortega said the project is “very near and dear to my heart…and we couldn’t do it without the assistance of Rotary.” She is now training two young teachers to take over the project and she is “so proud of our school.”
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), provider of food and support to 135,000 of the 242,000 members of the Sacramento community who are food insecure, just got more mobile.
Its new, Produce for All truck can motor to a destination, and because of its nifty design, roll up its side doors and distribute food akin to a famers’ market. Anyone (no questions asked) can select fresh produce of their choosing from the open-air bins. The quality groceries come from regional farms and a variety of other sources.
The traveling produce truck, on the road due to the generosity of a Sutter Health Community Benefit investment, is an important addition to SFBFS’ 224 partner agencies that help to expand food distribution throughout the county.
“When one in four children in Sacramento County lives in poverty, and nearly half of our seniors don’t have enough income to meet the most basic of expenses, our services are more important than ever before,” says Blake Young, President/CEO. “Our new Produce for All truck will increase our capacity to serve more residents where they live.”
Transportation to one, centralized food bank in the county is often an overwhelming obstacle for food insecure families. Those who must rely on public transportation, seniors, families, the working poor, the unemployed and the disabled, can find navigating the system challenging. When fresh produce can come to them, a healthier lifestyle is more likely. SFBFS’ Produce for All truck, transporting food from local growers and donors to as many as 300 families at any given stop, is also a neighborhood-by-neighborhood link to additional services such as CalFresh, employment, housing and healthcare.
“No one - regardless of income level, age, gender, race/ethnicity, marital status or community of residence - is invulnerable to the possibility of experiencing food insecurity sometime in their lives,” says Young. And when that happens, by providing healthy food, we may be able to offer other assistance related to the root cause of poverty.”
SFBFS’ Produce for All truck offers a robust calendar of regularly scheduled stops. To view a calendar listing of current Produce for All food distributions, visit: www.sacramentofoodbank.org/produce-for-all/.
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) offers compassionate support and a compass for families navigating difficult times. With 15 diverse programs and services, a staff of 83 employees, several thousand volunteers and the financial support of the community, SFBFS guides families on their journey through support and education. Since 2014, SFBFS has served as the main food bank of Sacramento County.
California Connections Academy @ Ripon is a tuition free, virtual public school serving students in an eight county region including Sacramento County. While students are widely dispersed and complete course work online, they do get together regularly for field trips.
Amber Manko, School Counselor from Modesto said that she and other counselors and advisory teachers decided a good way to get students engaged in community service would be to schedule a service project. After researching, they agreed that the Sacramento Food Bank sounded like a good choice. “I’ve been pretty impressed with the organization and how it’s run,” Manko said. “I’m really just excited to be able to offer the opportunity for kids.”
At the food bank Maria Zefo, food resource manager, showed the group around the facility on Bell Avenue in Sacramento. The food bank took over the building from Senior Gleaners around two years ago. “At that time, we were feeding about 50,000 people,” Zefo said. “Now we’re at 135,000.” Zefo took the group through several of the warehouses (there are five) to the one where the group would work. She filled them in on Sacramento Food Bank facts along the way.
The organization serves Sacramento County via 220 other agencies who come to them for food and resources: churches, soup kitchens, food pantries, senior programs and more. The food bank itself does not dispense food from their facility, but they do send their trucks out to nearly 20 sites to dispense food. “We just completed hunger assessment for this county, what areas are not being served, where there is need and no agency, where we can go and pull up a truck and hand you some food,” Zefo said.
The Sacramento Food Bank serves over 135,000 people a month via family services programs and food distribution. In 2015 donors provided 16,342,858 pounds of food and 175,124 clothing items. Nearly 8,000 volunteers gave close to 90,000 hours of service. Only 7 cents on the dollar goes to operating costs, so 93% of the food bank budget goes directly to programs. The national average, per Zefo, is only 80% directly going to programs.
The California Connections Academy group’s job was to sort food, and they attacked the huge bins with gusto during their three hours of service. School Site Administrator Amy Hunt, along with her 10-year-old son Brady, worked alongside the others. “Brady and I got to the bottom of our barrel, and we moved on to another one,” Hunt said. “I think we were the slowest of everyone there. When we got to the bottom, everyone else had moved on to another one.”
Those volunteers who turned up for the event were happy they were able to help. “We’re already going to start looking for an opportunity in the Bay Area, another area that our families hopefully can attend,” Hunt said.
Though Manko was disappointed in the number of those turning out for this event, she hopes for a better response in the future. “I work with high school students and often they want to know how they can get involved in their community,” Manko said. “So it would be nice if our school can build on this and offer more opportunities throughout the year... It’s important.”
California Connections Academy @ Ripon opened in 2012 and is part of the Connections Education Academy, which was founded in 2001. In the 2015-2016 school year, Connections education supported 30 virtual public schools in 26 states, serving more than 65,000 students.
For more information on California Connections Academy @ Ripon, call (209) 253-1208 or see www.connectionsacademy.com/california-online-school/about/ripon.
For more information on the Sacramento Food Bank, call (916) 456-1980 or see www.sacramentofoodbank.org.
With the holiday season approaching, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reminds consumers to use safe food preparation and storage measures to prevent foodborne illness. Bacteria that can be found in foods such as meat and poultry may cause illness if they are insufficiently cooked, inadequately cooled or improperly handled.
“We can help ensure that foodborne illnesses don’t ruin our holidays by properly preparing and handling meat, poultry and other foods,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.
About 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are related to foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Foodborne diseases can be prevented by: washing hands with soap and warm water before and after food preparation, and especially after handling raw foods; cleaning all work surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and rinsing them with hot water after each use; cooking food thoroughly and refrigerating adequately between meals.
Symptoms of foodborne disease can include diarrhea, which may be bloody, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever. Most infected people recover from foodborne illnesses within a week. Some, however, may develop complications that require hospitalization. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for potentially life-threatening complications.
Additional information about food safety is available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Consumers can also access the national Partnership for Food Safety Education’s Fight BAC! Website www.cdph.ca.gov
Employee owned WinCo Foods has announced the opening of its newest California supermarket, its 36th in the state and its 110th location overall, on September 3, 2016 at 2300 Watt Avenue in Sacramento.
Known primarily for being the “Supermarket Low Price Leader,” the new WinCo Foods building is approximately 100,000 square feet and will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be staffed by approximately 170 employees from the surrounding community. The store will contain WinCo’s trademark “Wall of Values” at the entrance, as well as a wide assortment of grocery items along with a full produce section and meat, deli, bakery and bulk foods departments.
“We’re thrilled to be bringing the residents of Sacramento their first WinCo,” said a company spokesperson. “By blending the absolute lowest prices, the best products and world class customer service, we think the people of Sacramento will quickly fall in love with WinCo and see why we’re one of the fastest growing grocers in the country.”
Another trademark aspect of WinCo supermarkets is the 700+ item bulk foods department. Selections in the bulk foods department can be purchased in whatever quantities the customer desires and includes a multitude of rice varieties, dried beans, pastas, baking ingredients, cereals, snacks, candies and pet foods.
“Our customers love that they can buy as little or as much as they like,” added WinCo’s spokesperson. “Whether it’s two teaspoons of a specific spice or a 50-pound sack of flour. On top of all this, we also carry a variety of organic, gluten-free and natural food items, all clearly labeled.”
To learn more go to www.WinCoFoods.com.
On August 25th, 2016, Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-7) called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take immediate action to make lower cost alternatives available in response to exorbitantly priced EpiPens from the drug manufacturer Mylan. Currently, EpiPens have a virtual monopoly on the market for emergency allergy attack treatment. In the letter, Congressman Bera asks the FDA to address processes that may limit competition and allow some companies to drastically increase prices. Today, Mylan announced they would offer additional coupons for EpiPens, but have not addressed the underlying cost.
“As a doctor, I know that in the case of an allergic reaction no time can be wasted and we can’t allow anything to stand in the way of immediate access to epinephrine.” said Bera. “$600 for an EpiPen is outrageous, and Mylan must be held accountable for their pricing on a life-saving drug. That’s why I’m calling on the FDA to make sure that families have other more affordable and safe options to EpiPens so that no one needs to make a choice between paying their bills or having a life-saving drug.”
Congressman Bera has previously urged the FDA to regulate the prices of life-saving drugs. He leads the push to ensure that drug companies are not able to charge excessive prices for drugs, like in the case of Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceuticals.