New food bank warehouse aims to better serve Winters, rural Yolo County

A new warehouse for the Yolo Food Bank aims to significantly increase the output of food assistance to Winters and other parts of the county.
A new warehouse for Yolo Food Bank is pictured on December 18, 2018. Photo by Yolo Food Bank/Handout
A new warehouse for Yolo Food Bank is pictured on December 18, 2018. Photo by Yolo Food Bank/Handout

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More than 19 percent of people — or one in five individuals — living in Yolo County fall below the federal poverty line, according to information released by the U.S. Census Bureau. In Winters, that number is less than 10 percent of residents, according to data collected by Yolo County officials and furnished by Yolo Food Bank to the Express. But Cohan said officials in Winters claim the number is much higher if you broaden the data to include portions of the county served by the Winters Joint Unified School District. A school official told her the number of people living in poverty jumps to more than 25 percent — or one in four people — when you take into account those residents who live both inside and on the periphery of the city line. Allow that to sink in for a moment. One in four people. Consider your neighbors, your friends, the students who attend school with your children. Statistically, for every group of four people you know, one of them likely faces the challenge of “food insecurity” — an academic term that largely means hunger. If you think you’re one of the lucky individuals who surrounds themselves with other people who aren’t hungry, you’re probably wrong. People who are classified as “food insecure” are statistically unlikely to make it known because of a stigma associated with poverty. Studies largely confirm their concerns: One in two Americans surveyed said they believed poverty was caused by a lack of aspiration and motivation, according to data released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and others. (The Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not a part of Kaiser Permanente, operates Kaiser Health News. The Express is a Kaiser Health News media partner.) That perspective is largely untrue: Many of the people Yolo Food Bank have jobs, pay taxes and contribute to society. But their paychecks may fall short of fully funding their ability to secure nutritious food. For some in rural portions of the county, access to grocery store could require a trip several towns over, making such trips cost prohibitive. For others, a restriction on funds, lack of public transportation, disability, an unexpected layoff or even drought could put healthy food out of reach. That perspective on why a person in poverty makes it less likely that someone will seek help in the way of food assistance. “The common perception being that these individuals made poor life choices and need to live with the consequences,” Jaclyn Lindsey, a writer with Kindness.org, wrote in 2016. “This kind of societal reaction is devastating and can often exacerbate people’s already dire situations.” And that’s true, because while poverty can cause food insecurity, it also works the other way around: Hunger spurred by a lack of nutritious food can thrust a person into poverty — or, if they’re already there, make a bad situation much worse. And that can have a myriad of cascading consequences: Numerous studies have shown that when children go hungry, their test scores are bad. Likewise, when adults go hungry, their work performance suffers, which could result in an increase in sick day utilization or even a job loss. In recent years, city officials and food distribution partners in Winters have taken a proactive approach to combating both hunger and the stigma associated with it. Mayor Bill Biasi, Council Member Jesse Loren and City Manager John Donlevy are among the city officials who wrote letters of support of county and state funding applications for Yolo Food Bank. Loren took things one step further, sharing her own personal story about living with hunger as a college student in a mailer distributed by the food bank earlier this year. Partnerships with CHOC/Winters Village, Rise, the First Baptist Church, Familia Church, Meals on Wheels, various farmers markets at different Winters-area schools and others have helped increase the output of nutritious food to nearly 114,000 pounds valued at over $228,000, according to 2017 data offered by the food bank. Every month, the food bank says it is serving around 560 individuals who live within the Winters city limits. Yolo Food Bank wants those numbers to increase, and a bigger warehouse will make that possible. “The new facility has the capacity to service 300 percent more food collection, storage and distribution activity than our previous location,” Cohan said. The construction of the new facility also brought costs down considerably for the food bank: West Sacramento-based Brown Construction agreed to build the new Yolo Food Bank complex at cost, which saved $300,000 for the food bank — money that can be reinvested in other areas such as operations and distribution. Members of the public who are interested in seeing the new Yolo Food Bank warehouse are invited to attend a symbolic procession of food from the old office complex to the new one on Friday, March 22 at 1:30 p.m. Cohan said more than 100 people are expected to participate in the procession to the new food bank. The new food bank warehouse is expected to be fully operational next month, with a ceremonious grand opening tentatively scheduled toward the beginning of autumn.]]>

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