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A Member Meeting to Remember

September 22, 2016

The 2016 CAFB Annual Member Meeting offered a few departures from years past. In a sunny room in San Leandro, the walls were decorated with images of produce and strands of fruit-inspired balloons. As food bank members, Farm to Family solicitors, and others began to arrive, people greeted friends they hadn’t seen in months or years; others met for the first time.  Before long, a lineup of CAFB staff marched into the room to serenade the room as “Hunger Busters” (Who ya’ gonna call?) calling out canned soup, food deserts, and help filling shelves. Clapping and high fives from the crowd were much appreciated by the performers.

Sue Sigler then honored outgoing CAFB board members Mike Mallory, Erik Talkin, and Chair extraordinaire, Suzan Bateson.  New members elected to the Board included Al Brislain (Feeding America San Diego), Sara Griffen (Imperial Valley Food Bank), Patricia Nickols-Butler (Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino), and Bruce Rankin (West Side Food Bank).

The first presentation of the day was a moving talk by Claribel Chavez and Linda Ulloa of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, who shared their experiences on the ground doing outreach for Disaster CalFresh following the Lake County fire. Linda and Claribel explained how outreach methods had to be altered in terrain where many buildings were lost, and where survivors were difficult to locate and deeply traumatized.  Six food banks and three other organizations, including CAFB, responded to the need for outreach in Lake County, where their hard work and perseverance led to over 1,100 applications.

Next up was received lively Q & A with Farm to Family solicitors, who urged food banks to consider matching their practices to produce industry standards, such as receiving loads on Saturdays and during inventory, and considering ways to accept iced product while still maintaining warehouse standards. Sue Sigler reminded everyone to take every opportunity to thank our farm donors in their communications and social media, as it makes a big difference in their willingness to support food banks, and asked members to share stories with CAFB about the impact of fresh produce on food banks and our clients. That conversation eased naturally into a Q & A on the CAFB protein program. Need chicken or beans? Let us know!

After lunch, a panel including Andrew Cheyne, CAFB Director of Government Relations, Kathy Mossburg, CAFB Lobbyist, and members Teri Olle of SF-Marin Food Bank and Kevin Heuer of Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County, gave a spirited recap of the recent important policy wins for food banks, including the renewal and expansion of the produce tax credit and $2 million in funding for the State Emergency Food Assistance Program (SEFAP). Key to our success was a high degree of member engagement on these issues, and Teri and Kevin shared both the importance of year-round cultivation and of relationships with legislators and how CAFB made it easy to engage.  Members emphasized that their small investment of time had a high degree of impact. With an election coming soon, now is the time to host candidate forums to elevate the issues of hunger and poverty, and when new officials are elected, educate them early by inviting them for visits and sharing information. As experts on issues in our field, food banks offer invaluable information resources and can position themselves as trusted partners.  Legislators, in turn, are more likely to respond when every contact is not a request. 


Next, attendees broke into small groups to consider big picture questions in our work, such as how to advocate for social justice and anti-poverty issues, what does it mean to end hunger, and a look into the challenges in the coming decade.  Common themes were the need for living wages, the connection with healthy food and cost savings in health care, and food waste recovery.

Suzan Bateson shared deeply inspiring thoughts as outgoing Board Chair, encouraging attendees to ask hard questions, to prioritize diversity in their organizations and to challenge themselves. The following general discussion touched on topics such as research connecting hunger to health, meat donations stymied by the USDA, and school meal participation.

CAFB thanks all of those who made the journey to attend.  We agree with Anne Holcomb who commented it was “an enjoyable day, learned a lot and loved seeing colleagues!”


See more pictures on our Facebook page!

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