Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services has officially shut down a number of programs it had suspended during the coronavirus pandemic.
The closure came with little warning to the community, surprising volunteers who believed the additional services filled an important need.
Katie Roberts, a volunteer for the food bank, says that she was “confused and heartbroken” by the closure. On June 15, she showed up at the Family Services Campus to find it closed, saying she wasn’t made aware until well after the decision.
“I’m feeling that this is very prejudicial act by somebody somewhere somehow,” Roberts, a retired nurse, said. “That we are that we were cutting people out that need us.”
The food bank, which administers to all of Sacramento County, closed the services to focus on food security along with closing its Oak Park Family Services Campus. It will be consolidating its services at its campus on Bell Avenue.
The charity sent a letter to supporters on June 15, when it also shared the decision with staff. The nonprofit’s leaders say the change will let it focus on the food bank’s core mission.
About two dozen people attended a public meeting about the closure Thursday night.
“The demand for food was so big that we have shut down a park to bring our employees up to the north area to help provide food and help us with the operations,” Blake Young, the President and CEO of the food bank, said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.
The Oak Park Campus has been closed for two and a half years due to the pandemic, Young said.
Young said that the board came to the conclusion that there was a lot of “incredible work being done” by other organizations, and that people who previously used the services found them elsewhere.
Greater need in Sacramento
Young said that while the charity is not in financial trouble, it is seeing rising demand for food and increased costs because of inflation. Since March, the food bank has had a 40% increase in the number of people they serve.
“Feeding people has cannibalized all of our other activities,” Young said.
Having experienced similar trends following the 2008 recession, Young does not expect demand to go down to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.
The charity removed a number of services from its website, including all of its adult learning services and computer and technology services, along with its job smart clothing program, parenting classes, and playcare. The four staff members working on these services have been offered positions elsewhere in the organization according to Young.
Notably, the charity will keep its refugee and immigration services up, along with continuing to provide parenting supplies, diapers, and clothing.
Food bank founded in Oak Park
City Councilman Jay Sheneier, who represents Oak Park, said other community-based organizations can “pick up the slack.” The food bank has bulked up its referral program, according to Young, to help find alternate options for those who used the food bank services.
Dwayne Crenshaw, president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League, said that his organization also has seen growth in many aspects of its services, including job training, a service previously offered by the food bank. The Greater Sacramento Urban League is listed on the food bank’s referral website under adult learning and job training.
Crenshaw was unaware of the closure until he spoke with The Sacramento Bee. “In this particular case this was not a strategic decision,” said Crenshaw. “We don’t know about it, we were not informed, so it’s not a planned out consolidation or merger. While our organization will certainly be able to handle whatever influx may or may not come, it wasn’t a strategic plan, which is somewhat unfortunate.”
The food bank has long been a part of the Sacramento community, being founded at the Oak Park location and a $3.5 million expansion building for an urban farm, education center, and recreational area being built in 2011. That expansion allowed for the growth of programs like adult education.
“The Food Bank has been an Oak Park for 50 years, starting with Father Dan serving food out of the basement of Immaculate Conception Church,” Schenirer said. “So obviously there’s a lot of history there. There’s a lot of emotion there. But the world has changed.”