For more than two years, food banks across California have continuously adapted to the relentless havoc that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on their communities, and Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) is no exception. Like many food banks, SFBFS runs a multitude of specialized programs that provide targeted support to specific community members, or about specific resources. Here are some of the ways they have pivoted these programs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic:
CalFresh is known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and formerly as food stamps. It is the nation’s biggest and best anti-hunger program. SFBFS staff were able to implement new outreach methods and expand their reach.
They successfully implemented bilingual (English and Spanish) CalFresh/SNAP-centered social media campaigns targeting different community populations, including low-income households impacted directly by the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults, families with school-age children, and communities of color.
Says Kevin Buffalino, SFBFS Director of Communications, “Our digital outreach has produced much higher results than anticipated; more than 80% of overall [CalFresh] applications were referred from digital sources compared to other traditional outreach methods.”
For clients who prefer to interact via text rather than phone calls, SFBFS implemented CalFresh application assistance services via text messaging. With this updated technology, their team has access to a case management-style platform where clients are able to submit the documents needed to complete their CalFresh applications via secure and encrypted systems. This has also improved their CalFresh case follow-up processes, with an 80% average approval rate.
Since April 2020, SFBFS has partnered with Paratransit to provide home delivery to between 900 and 1,500 Food for Seniors clients each month. In December, Paratransit made the holidays extra special for SFBFS clients by providing each household with a gift box to go along with their groceries that included socks, lotions, scarves, slippers, and more.
This is the best thing that anyone has done for me in years!
Twilia, SFBFS Food for Seniors Client & recipient of a Paratransit gift box
In July 2020, SFBFS partnered with Paratransit to launch a new home delivery pilot for community members with mobility limitations due to age or disability. The pilot currently serves about 120 community members a month. In a recent survey of program participants, 94% reported that the program had improved their food situation.
I’m eating more and better, and it’s perked up my whole attitude because I’m not just eating oatmeal & soup. If I were in better shape, I’d do cartwheels.
Paratransit pilot program recipient
During the pandemic, SFBFS has expanded their school-based partnership to eight Sacramento County school districts. These partnerships not only provide food for local families but also help schools strengthen ties with the families they serve. Julia Johnson with Center Joint Unified School District explains this when talking about their collaboration:
“Our partnership with Sacramento Food Bank has helped us strengthen our ties with our families and meet their food needs on a consistent basis. Being able to provide grocery boxes directly from our district office has helped us remove barriers to food access for our families. Having the opportunity to connect with our families and provide food resources opens the door for assessment of other needs and then connection to community resources.”
Twice a month, Galt Elementary School District gets a delivery of non-perishable grocery boxes to share with families in need within their community. Nick Svoboda, Food & Nutrition Supervisor for Galt Elementary School District, said, “I would like to note that the grocery boxes have tremendously helped out the Galt community.
“Grocery boxes are being picked up by everyone — from school families, all the way to our seniors on fixed incomes. I have many of the same return customers that watch our website and Facebook postings for pick up dates and locations.”
Drive-Through & Walk-Up Distributions
Like most food banks, SFBFS launched drive-through distributions in April 2020 in response to the skyrocketing demand that COVID-19 created. Between April 2020 and May 2022, they hosted 217 distributions, providing over 5.3 million pounds of food to community members. They currently serve more than 1,100 households (4,000+ people) every week via two temporary distributions.
These stories provide a glimpse into the massive undertakings of SFBFS over the past several years. It is a testament to their unwavering commitment to those they serve in Sacramento County. We are so proud to have Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services as a CAFB member food bank. You can learn more about them on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
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