Yolo Food Bank works to alleviate hunger

ALEXA FONTANILLA / AGGIE

The Walmart Foundation provides Yolo Food Bank with grant

The Yolo Food Bank has started a county-wide food drive. The food drive has just received a $25,000 grant from the Walmart Foundation, and the food bank continues to reach out to other nonprofits to provide healthy food for those in need.

Zane Hatfield, an agency relations coordinator for the Yolo Food Bank, described the organization’s goals and mission.

“Our organization is about ending hunger and malnutrition in Yolo County,” Hatfield said. “We have several direct services where we give foods for free at certain times. We also work with several nonprofit workers, and we received the Walmart grant because it was available through Feeding America and they have corporate partnerships with entities like Walmart. We saw that the grant was available, and we applied for $25,000.”

As one of the coordinators for the food drive, Hatfield elaborated on how his work helps contribute to this organization. The program has benefited a diverse group of people who are unable to provide themselves with proper nutrition.

“I am the agency relations coordinator, so I work with all our nonprofit partners,” Hatfield said. “Some of them include family resource centers and nonprofit organizations contracted with the county to work with youth and fostering, along with rehabilitation programs and low income after-school programs.”

The program is constantly trying to improve its food quality because health is a crucial part of one’s diet. Grants like Walmart’s will help alleviate the financial cost of providing healthy foods.

“So we have our programs that we are currently developing; we just expanded a fresh produce program that is distributed twice a month, and we expanded it to the rural parts of Yolo County where people may not have access to grocery stores,” Hatfield said. “We are also close to renovating the building, which will increase our capacity to find new and creative ways to package foods brought in from the farms.”

Kevin Sanchez, a campaign and project director, explained his role at the food bank and the organization’s upcoming events.

“I was charged with trying to build the capacity of a food bank to strengthen its image within the community,” Sanchez said. “We are building out the warehouse we have now into the food bank of the future — as we like to think of it — to serve the community for the next 20 to 25 years with this new facility.”

The food bank, with the help of funding, will broaden its scope to provide the best possible foods for those who really need it.

“We hope to expand from a passive, charitable organization to a more proactive and sustainable model,” Sanchez said.

Linda Zablotny-Hurst, a director of development for the organization, explained how the Walmart grant will impact the community.

“Walmart has several different grant or giving opportunities,” Zablotny-Hurst said. “Not all grants are going to be in interested in food security or nutrition […] one of [Walmart’s focus] areas was on health and nutrition for children. We have our kids’ farmers markets, for example, and we are exploring funding for those programs, so we wrote for a grant asking for money from them to help support the kids’ farmers markets.”

Not only does the food bank have to consider the amount of food it gives out, it must also make sure the food it receives helps benefit the community as much as possible.

“We’re always looking for ways to serve our clients better to help them get healthy and nutritious foods,” Zablotny-Hurst said. “In the last few years, our focus has been increasing the amount of fresh produce we make available. In the next few years, we hope to keep increasing that amount. We are also pursuing […] a way to renew our food drive. Instead of accepting all types of food, we will be concentrating on 12 to 15 items that are particularly nutritious and needed, like canned tuna, peanut butter, fruits, vegetables [and] beans.”

The Yolo Food Bank offers many people a chance at finding themselves again amid difficult situations.

“Helping people really gives purpose to my life, and I think we need more compassion in the world to help people to at least level the playing field so they have the opportunity to get a better life,” Zablotny-Hurst said. “Getting people food is the most basic need […] which can allow them to concentrate on getting a better job or being engaged in their kid’s school. When you don’t have to worry about where your next meal comes from, you can then turn your attention to doing a lot of other things that help make your life better.”

 

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org

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