Ensuring Food Security for Those In Need
Despite the agricultural prosperity of California, there still are many people who do not have enough food, or access to nutritious food. For nearly a decade, Grow West® has supported the efforts of Yolo Food Bank in Woodland, Calif. to end hunger and malnutrition in Yolo County. Most recently, Grow West made a significant contribution to Yolo Food Bank’s End Hunger Yolo project to develop a purpose-built food recovery warehouse and operations facility. The new facility represents a huge step forward in food security for Yolo County.
Bigger Space, Expanded Promise
The End Hunger Yolo campaign began in 2014 with the purchase of an existing warehouse in Woodland, and continued through March 2019 when the food bank moved from its previous location into the newly renovated and much larger 42,000-square-foot space. All told, it was a $9.5 million project, 93 percent of which was funded by private philanthropy.
“Grow West is the second largest donor to the End Hunger Yolo campaign,” said Joy Cohan, Director of Philanthropic Engagement at Yolo Food Bank. “That pledge told us that they believed in the potential of the project to make a difference in the community. And while the funding itself was instrumental in bringing our new facility to fruition, their generosity also inspired other donors to come forward, which allowed us to meet our goal.”
As a food bank (rather than a food pantry or food closet), Yolo Food Bank serves as a hub of food security for Yolo County. About two-thirds of the food the organization collects annually is directly distributed to people in need from more than 80 access points covering the four cities and vast rural areas of the county. The other one-third supports a countywide nonprofit partnership network, comprised of 72 organizations such as food pantries and food closets, homeless shelters, senior meal delivery programs, college campuses, migrant centers, veterans’ programs and more.
Fresh Produce Donations Needed
Yolo Food Bank is on track to increase food donations and distributions by 50 percent in each of its first two fiscal years in its new space. With a focus on healthy, fresh foods (capable of leveraging the new facility to shift the county’s nutritional paradigm), produce donations from the local farming community play a key role in this expansion. Yolo Food Bank’s goal is to achieve a 100 percent increase in produce in and out of the facility this year.
Agricultural relationships are developed and nurtured as part of the food bank’s “Yolo Grown” program. Yolo Grown Coordinator Aliyah Moreno (firstname.lastname@example.org) welcomes contact with growers who wish to become involved. Moreno regularly makes presentations and follows up personally with growers to create awareness of the opportunity.
“‘Yolo Grown’ encourages farmers to do well by doing good,” Moreno explains. “Not only does their engagement with us positively impact the social safety net, but they may gain tax advantages and benefit from community recognition opportunities, too.”
Donated produce makes its journey to Yolo Food Bank via several pathways. Some growers harvest and deliver the donated produce directly to the Food Bank. Others harvest and request that the Food Bank send a truck to pick-up. Harvesting completed by Yolo Food Bank volunteers is yet another scenario. Particularly valuable are partnerships in which farmers essentially set aside a corner of their fields to grow produce specifically for the Food Bank
Waste Not, Want Not
With food collection and distribution as its primary activity, Yolo Food Bank is in a unique position to help rescue edible food waste. Currently, no food collected or recovered by Yolo Food Bank goes to the landfill. Furthermore, the Food Bank recently was the recipient of a $500,000 CalRecycle Food Waste Recovery Grant to be used to assist Tier 1 edible food waste generators – food retailers, producers, and distributors – with landfill diversion
The grant funds are equipping the food bank to prepare for SB 1383, California legislation going into effect Jan. 1, 2022, mandating that all Tier 1 waste producers in the state divert their food waste from landfills. Yolo Food Bank will be the certified entity in Yolo County that can recover this edible food waste and ensure compliance with the regulation.
“Nearly 220,000 people call Yolo County home, and almost 20 percent of them are living in poverty,” Cohan emphasizes. “Without this new facility, we would never have been able to even conceive of meeting the full food security need. Now, eight months since our move, we’re immersed in the realization of the programmatic promise and capacity expansion potential of the site to make food security for all in Yolo County a reality. And Grow West and grower-donors are making that reality possible.”