Run to Feed the Hungry this Thanksgiving and support the Sacramento Food Bank

Jeff vonKaenel

It started in an Oak Park church basement 39 years ago. Father Daniel Madigan, seeing people in need, began collecting and distributing food. That was the beginning of the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, which now provides food for 150,000 Sacramentans every month.

One hundred and fifty thousand children, senior citizens, single moms, people with only part-time work, people with full-time work but hungry bellies at home and people down on their luck. One hundred and fifty thousand is a big number. Imagine the Sleep Train Arena filling up nine times.

An even bigger number is the 245,000 Sacramento County residents who are “food insecure.” This means that they struggle to find access to quality food and often are desperate for calories. Not being able to afford healthy food, they purchase inexpensive, unhealthy, fattening foods.

With so much need, the staff at the Sacramento Food Bank wants to start a revolution. They want to first dramatically increase their food services, and then add to their family services.

Until last year, there were three major Sacramento agencies that collected and distributed food: Sacramento Food Bank, California Emergency Foodlink and Senior Gleaners. In 2014, Foodlink stopped its local food distribution to focus on its statewide program. The Food Bank took over those accounts.

Senior Gleaners, suffering from severe financial problems but having a massive warehouse in need of repair, merged with the Sacramento Food Bank. All of sudden, the Sacramento Food Bank went from serving 50,000 people to 150,000 people.

Having one instead of three food banks is much more efficient for the major food donors such as the grocery stores. Having seen the Senior Gleaners warehouse before the merger, I was stunned to see how many improvements have been made. The Sacramento Food Bank now has the facility to match its ambitions.

Sacramento Food Bank President Blake Young wants to take the organization beyond providing food and dramatically increase family services. Describing the approach as holistic, he says, “It’s not just about food, but services that lead to healthier lifestyles and self-sufficiency.”

The Food Bank offers 14 different types of services, including adult, youth and parent education; technology training, and health and nutrition and clothing classes. There is a certain logic to having food, clothing and services all at the same location, as obviously many of the people who need one service will need the others.

But a revolution needs volunteers, donations—and also runners. The 22nd annual Run to Feed the Hungry, benefiting Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, with more than 27,000 participants, is the largest Thanksgiving run in the country, generating nearly $1 million for services. This is the equivalent of 17 percent of the Food Bank budget.

I will be there. I will be running. And I will be giving thanks. Thanks that my family is not hungry. Thanks that we have the Sacramento Food Bank. And thanks that I am living in a town where 27,000 runners will show up to help the Sacramento Food Bank start a revolution.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.