Yolo Food Bank feeds Winters and beyond

Yolo Food Bank staff and volunteers distribute food to Yolo County residents at the Winters High School food distribution site. (Aaron Geerts/Winters Express)

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With nearly 12,000,000 pounds of food distributed annually, the Yolo County Food Bank is bolstering the county communities’ quality of life. As Winters is one of those communities that benefit from this nonprofit’s work, perhaps it’s time to feed into this organization’s vision.

The Yolo Food Bank’s genesis begins in 1970. At the time, it was a just a volunteer program until 1988 when the first employees were hired, and it officially became a food bank.

“In the 90’s we joined what is now known as the Feeding America Network which is a national network that’s a governing institution food banks partner with. And today, we remain the only food bank in Yolo County,” explained Yolo Food Bank Director of Communications and Marketing Maria Segoviano. “We have two distribution sites in Winters. One every Wednesday at the high school and another we have twice a month at RISE, Inc.”

With 25 different sites in their network, the Yolo Food Bank requires no proof of income, registration or citizenship. All they need to know are how many people are in one’s household. When COVID hit, however, the organization didn’t close down, they doubled down in their efforts to keep Yolo County fed.

“Food assistance levels skyrocketed,” recalled Segoviano. “We went from serving 20,000 people per month to 60,000 when Covid hit. We also went from 4,000,000 pounds of food pre-COVID to giving 10,000,000 pounds in 2020, and more than 12,000,000 pounds in 2021.”

While quantity of food is taken care of, the Yolo Food Bank doesn’t skimp on the quality and nutritional value of their food. To do so, they collaborate with local farms, businesses as well as retailers like Nugget Market and Trader Joe’s. This all in an effort to see their new vision come to nutrition fruition.

“At the moment, we’re developing a nutritional policy that will guide procurement and distribution in the future so we can provide food at the highest quality that’s also nutritionally sound and healthy,” said program coordinator Matthew Hanson. “We’re also beginning to make progress in offering food distributions times. People work and we like to be responsive to those needs in increasing the number of distributions sites and times as well.”

Inflation, however, has taken its place as a new, daunting challenge for the organization and its communities to contend with.

“We’re seeing surge of participation at the WHS site. It’s been increasing the past couple months with gas prices going up and effecting the amount of groceries people can buy,” Hanson said explaining the increase in the community’s need for food. “Last Wednesday, we served 177 families which is an all-time high, and there were 164 the week before that. The numbers have been creeping up since the new year, but the have surged within the last few weeks.”

Like with any nonprofit, of course, there’s always a need for volunteers — especially now with an increasing difficulty to facilitate the communal needs for food. To help, one only needs to visit yolofoodbank.org, complete their online orientation and sign up for any one of the wide varieties of volunteer opportunities within their programs.

Since Winters is known for helping its own, it only fits the neighborly mold to lend a helping hand.

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