Fostering Collaboration

Supporting others to live with a sense of dignity and self-worth

When Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services (SFBFS) assumed the operations of Senior Gleaners in 2014, it inherited a patchwork of 220 food distribution agencies as well as a 100,000 square-foot warehouse, essentially tripling its operations. 

That made it difficult to effectively measure the impact of its distribution. Compounding that challenge was the varying makeup and capacities of the emergency food agencies that dot the entirety of Sacramento County in its network: Some have paid staff, while others are entirely volunteer-run; relatively few have access to cold storage, and most rely solely on pen and paper to track their distributions.

Our investment in SFBFS’ Neighborhood Food Access Networks (NFANs) has helped change that.

SFBFS' Blake Young with a map of the NFANS

With our partnership, SFBFS streamlined its system of partner agencies, launching thirteen NFANs that divided Sacramento County into small hubs that are building a more effective and efficient emergency food distribution system to escalate the fight against hunger in our community. Because of our sustained collaboration, local emergency food distributors are better prepared to meet the needs of those who are hungry in our region thanks to improvements in technology, fortified transportation and storage infrastructure, and enhanced network coordination. Through the success of the above, agencies within each NFAN are disseminating greater quantities of healthier foods to the hungry in our community.

By working together, our leadership helped SFBFS launch a massive and successful model of collaboration and capacity-building across the County, and the NFANs have already improved the quality of life for so many of our region’s most vulnerable.

Their impact is illustrated by River City Food Bank’s work in NFAN 7’s Arden-Arcade neighborhood, where a distressing 24 percent of people are hungry and 41 percent live at 185 percent of the poverty level. Many of the Arden-Arcade’s residents have little access to healthy food, and—with inconsistent sidewalks and few public transit options—what grocery stores do exist are often inaccessible for the vulnerable populations that live there.

Eileen Thomas, standing in the doorway of the walk-in freezer, which sits entirely inside the larger refrigeration unit at River City Food Bank’s new Arden-Arcade site.

In September, we found River City Food Bank’s Executive Director, Eileen Thomas, overseeing the installation of a massive refrigeration system in the former hall of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, the site of the well-known Midtown food bank’s expansion into the Arden-Arcade neighborhood. She watched as construction workers installed handrails on the stairs that ascend the enormous refrigeration unit’s base.

“One in four children in Sacramento County is at risk of food insecurity, and that will have a detrimental impact on the people who live here,” said Thomas. “This refrigeration and freezer unit is going to mean a better life for the people who live in this neighborhood—for children, for the elderly, for the refugee families who settle here—who will now have better access to healthy, fresh foods in this community.”

Not only will the refrigeration unit increase the number of residents served during the weekly distributions at St. Matthew’s, it will also store perishable foods for smaller food closets in the area, making it a hub for local pantries. 

“For us, this is the key to solving a logistics nightmare,” said Thomas. “With the cooling unit, we can equalize distribution, so when we get a palette of cucumbers, they don’t have to be the only thing we distribute that day; with the refrigeration system, those cucumbers will stay fresh longer, which means we can share them with other agencies, too.”

Thomas’ focus on collaboration among emergency food distributors in the Arden-Arcade neighborhood reflects the broader movement made possible by the Foundation’s partnership with SFBFS that launched the NFANs. “Before the NFANs, we operated in bubbles, and that’s not a strategic way to solve a problem like hunger,” said Thomas. 


Our partnership with SFBFS addresses one of four goals identified in the Food System Action Plan, the Foundation-funded blueprint that guides our Strategic Initiative to Connect the Regional Food Economy and address a breadth of challenges facing the entire region’s food economy. Our Healthy Food Economy Fund, built in partnership with our fundholders and other donors, helps resource our efforts. 


Be Part of the Solution

Only through strategic, collaborative efforts can we address the complex challenges that affect our region’s entire food system. Join us with a donation to the Healthy Food Economy Fund.

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