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Highlights & Insights: Reflections from the Food ACCESS 2024 Conference

June 6, 2024

We at CAFB extend our deepest gratitude to everyone who attended Food ACCESS 2024, presented by PG&E. This remarkable two-day event brought together a diverse group of passionate anti-hunger advocates dedicated to addressing and ending the hunger epidemic.

Attendees had the opportunity to engage in thought-provoking educational workshops, hear from inspirational speakers, and share innovative solutions. Together, we strengthened our collective resolve and forged new partnerships, all united by a shared commitment to ensuring that no Californian goes hungry.

On the morning of Thursday, May 16, a buzz of excitement filled the air as more than 400 attendees streamed into the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center in Sacramento. The atmosphere was electric with old friends joyously reuniting and new connections sparking to life. Soon, it was time to kick off the day with an engaging lunch session, setting the stage for the inspiring events ahead.

First up was an address by our CEO, Stacia Levenfeld. She highlighted the historic milestones of the anti-hunger movement and the history of CAFB, honoring key individuals who have shaped our organization. Stacia spoke to the current moment we find ourselves in as an anti-hunger community and how our strong foundation and pandemic learnings have equipped us to create a hunger-free future.

Following Stacia’s address, we celebrated some of our amazing legislative champions, recognizing the efforts of those who have significantly contributed to the fight against hunger through policy and advocacy.

Our honored legislators included Senate President pro-Tempore Mike McGuire, Senator Anna Caballero,  Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and Assemblymember Liz Ortega — whose rousing speech earned a standing ovation from our attendees.

Finally, May Lynn Tan, CAFB’s Director of Research & Strategic Initiatives,  took the stage to share our newly released research findings on the impact of CalFresh Emergency Allotments (and their subsequent end) on Californians. 

The afternoon agenda featured two engaging rounds of workshops, each designed to provide valuable insights and practical skills. Attendees had the opportunity to delve into topics relevant to their work and interests, fostering an environment of learning and collaboration.

A dedicated networking session offered a perfect setting for participants to connect, exchange ideas, and build new professional relationships. This session was a highlight for many, as it allowed for meaningful interactions and the establishment of connections that would extend beyond the two-day event.

To cap off an energizing first day, attendees gathered for an outdoor reception hosted by Pareto Health. Over hors d’oeuvres and beverages, attendees mingled and discussed their favorite moments from a content-packed day.

The morning of Friday, May 17 began bright and early with a breakfast plenary,  “Resilience in Action: Food Banks Responding to Community Crises,” featuring food bank leaders who have recently navigated significant crises and natural disasters in their communities.

Our panel of inspiring women consisted of Sarah Nordwick, Chief Executive Officer, Community FoodBank of San Benito; Carly Robbins, Executive Director, Food For People; Margie Palomarez-Yumul, Interim Program Manager – Food Bank, Community Action Partnership of San Bernardino County; Amy Eilts, Director of Programs, Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank; and was moderated by Erica Padilla-Chavez, Chief Executive Officer, Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County. 

Day 2 was also filled with ample opportunities for attendees to learn new skills and strategies during informative workshops and dynamic discussion sessions, including: 

  • Cyber Attacks: Prepare, Respond, Mitigate 
  • Challenges & Opportunities of Transporting Fresh Produce
  • Demystifying AI: Fundamentals for Fundraisers
  • Leveraging Data to Transform the Charitable Food Network
  • SUN Bucks: The New Summer Food Benefit for Kids!
  • Innovate Using Your Equity Lens: A Chance to Learn & Practice Liberatory Design

Friday’s lunch featured an enlightening panel discussion titled “The State’s Response to Hunger in California” featuring Secretary Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture; Alexis Fernández Garcia, Deputy Director of the Family Engagement & Empowerment Division, California Department of Social Services; Kim Frinzell, Director, California Department of Education Nutrition Services Division; and Zoe Heller, Director, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery; and moderated by Natalie Caples, Co-Chief Executive Officer, Central California Food Bank.

Attendees were able to soak up insights from our powerful panel as they delved into how various California State departments are tackling the hunger crisis, and walk away with a deeper understanding of the collaborative efforts and strategies being implemented to combat hunger across California.

As we bid farewell to Food ACCESS 2024, we carry with us invaluable information, cherished memories, and meaningful connections that will drive our efforts in the coming year. We eagerly anticipate seeing everyone again at our next Food ACCESS conference in Spring 2026. If you missed out this year, we invite you to join us next time and be a part of our journey towards achieving a hunger-free California! Together, we can make a difference.

Food ACCESS 2024, by the numbers:

View all of our photos from Food ACCESS 2024 here. A huge thank you to our event photographer, Jordan Benton!

We hope to see you in 2026!

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