Friday, September 24, 2010

Seeds of hope: Master Gardeners help feed the hungry

Missed Friday's Enterprise?  Check out this reprint of Patty Rominger's fabulous feature story and stop by the Food Bank to check out the Master Gardeners in action in classes & in our Demonstration Garden!

By Patty Rominger
Special to The Enterprise
September 24, 2010 09:16

Courtesy of the Davis Enterprise

Hunger hurts. It hurts children, families, the elderly, the ill and those on the edge or those homeless. According to the Food Bank of Yolo County, 30,000 Yolo County residents live with the threat of hunger. But government officials, business leaders and volunteers continue to work together toward a goal of ending hunger across the nation.

One group of local volunteers, busy planting seeds of hope and help for the hungry, are the Yolo County Master Gardeners. They're familiar faces at local farmers markets, offering answers and advice for seasonal gardening questions. What many people do not realize, however, is the role the Master Gardeners play in alleviating hunger.

Yolo County Master Gardener Cidney Barcellos tells how she got involved in feeding the hungry. A longtime member of the Davis United Methodist Church, she was invited by a fellow church member to visit a garden at a church in Santa Rosa. The fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs harvested from this garden had fed hungry people in Santa Rosa for more than 20 years.

After touring that garden, 'I felt called to provide food for the homeless and those living on the edge,' Barcellos said. 'I know that one of the first things to be diminished or eliminated from their grocery lists is fresh produce, and yet it is so much better for you and the taste is incomparable to canned vegetables.'

Barcellos teamed up with fellow Master Gardener Gwen Oliver and started a garden at the church on Anderson Road. Last spring, they began donating produce to the Friday's Harvest program administered through the Davis Korean Church. At that time, Friday's Harvest was handing out 70 to 80 bags of produce to the needy each week. With the extra food from the Davis UMC's Grace Garden, that number has grown to 100 to 120 bags distributed each week.

The church garden has four, 4-by-50-foot beds, four raised beds and a demonstration area. The current plan is to double the garden size so even more fresh produce can be given to Friday's Harvest.

Many hands pitch in to keep this garden going, and Barcellos and Oliver are happy to welcome new volunteers from the church and community, regardless of their gardening experience.

At Woodland Community College, Master Gardeners have a working demonstration garden and orchard that they use for teaching the public about successful home gardening techniques. Four Master Gardeners led by Steve Radosevich, as well as students in Jim Schulte's horticulture classes, meet at the college garden every Wednesday morning to harvest the food grown there.

'In early August we started donating extra produce - squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and eggplant - to the Food Bank of Yolo County,' Radosevich said. 'Two weeks ago, we made our largest delivery of 184 pounds of food and we estimate our total to date to be about 450 pounds.'

Thanks to the efforts of Master Gardener Florentino Castellon, the college garden also donates about the same amount of food to the Child Development Center at WCC. Nearly 40 children ages 2 to 5, offspring of full-time and part-time WCC students, are enrolled.

Anna Weidling of the Child Development Center says, 'Teaching our students about healthy eating is a top priority. We serve three healthy homemade meals a day to our students, including fresh vegetables grown right here on our campus by the Master Gardeners.

'The children have helped with some of the planting and have enjoyed watching the vegetables grow. And because of the abundance of food, we have been able to offer our parents vegetables to take home and serve to their families, again reinforcing our teaching of healthy eating and the garden-to-food connection.'

Radosevich and Master Gardener Robert Dragoon also have started a demonstration 'square foot' garden at the Food Bank of Yolo County, with the goal of encouraging food recipients to grow their own vegetables. A 'square foot' garden is somewhat like a patchwork quilt, with each square foot planted with a different variety of vegetable. A surprisingly large amount of food can be grown in relatively small spaces using 'square foot' gardening practices, the gardeners say.

Master Gardeners also are at work feeding the hungry in Davis. In 2006, a community effort began to bring new life to the Central Park Gardens in Davis. The redeveloped area on B Street now features seven themed gardens with a variety of California natives, wildlife-attracting, drought-tolerant and edible plantings.

Master Gardener volunteers maintain, plant and harvest the seasonal edible plantings garden where vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers thrive in the sunny environment. All of the garden's harvest is donated to Davis Community Meals, a nonprofit, nondenominational organization whose mission is to provide low-income and homeless individuals and families with housing, food and human services.

Using the fresh produce donated, Davis Community Meals serves meals prepared by volunteers every Tuesday evening and Saturday afternoon at the Episcopal Church of St. Martin. About 30 people are served at each meal.

'In the spring and summer, warm-season crops such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, basil, melons, cucumbers, squash and sunflowers are the major contributions,' says Peg Smith, a Master Gardener volunteer at the Davis Central Park Gardens. 'At the end of the 2009 summer season, more than 20 butternut squash weighing approximately 2 1/2 pounds each were donated. That made a lot of soup!'

In the fall and winter, cool-season crops are donated, including a wide variety of leafy greens, broccoli, onions, radishes and beets. By rotating crops and planting continuous seasonal plantings, the Davis Central Park Gardens vegetable garden has developed into a year-round garden and will continue to provide fresh produce donations all year.

Efforts are also under way in West Sacramento to establish gardens at two elementary schools and at River City High School. These gardens will provide a source of fresh produce to students and their families, as well as educate students on where and how food is produced.

Also, through October, the Urban Farm Stand is selling fresh produce in the Broderick neighborhood of West Sacramento, which is underserved by traditional grocery stores. Leftover produce is donated to the Food Bank of Yolo County. Active participants in these efforts have included Yolo County Master Gardeners Fred Deneke, Henry Garcia-Alvarez, Del Giese, Leslie Olaya, Jan Resier and Don and Diane Rake.

For more information about the Yolo County Master Gardener program, call the Yolo County Cooperative Extension Office in Woodland at (530) 666-8143 or visit

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Kids Can!

The Food Bank is proud to be one of the non-profit organizations participating in this, the 20th anniversary year, of KCRA 3's Kids Can Food Drive!  Each year at this time, dozens of schools in the Greater Sacramento Region host student-run food drives on their respective campuses to benefit local food banks and other non-profit organziations.  Last year, we received more than 2,450 pounds of food from KIDS CAN, and we look forward to an even bigger year, this year!  Please support the following Yolo County schools in their efforts for this year's Kids Can:






To learn more about Kids Can, please visit:


Friday, September 17, 2010

There's Still Time to Take Action!

The latest studies show that more than 49 million Americans currently live in food insecure households--16 million of whom are children.

As you may already know, September is Hunger Action Month.  National sponsors like Kraft Foods, Macy's, The Cheesecake Factory and United Airlines have all launched targeted Hunger Action Month campaigns to raise both funds and awareness in the fight to alleviate hunger.

Throughout the month, Feeding America's nationwide network of more than 200 food banks--including the Food Bank of Yolo County--is also working to engage citizens to take action through the 30 Ways in 30 Days campaign.  Follow us on Twitter, or check out our Facebook page for daily posts throughout the month for innovative, doable "ways" that you can help make a difference.

Although the month is roughly halfway over, there's still time for YOU to take action! 

Please partner with us and pledge to help fight domestic hunger. From hosting a food drive, to making a donation, each of us can do something to help feed hungry families.  For more information about Hunger Action Month, please visit, or contact us today at (530) 668-0690.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Do Some Good! It's Easier Than Ever 'Cause Paper = Food

Did you know that one in four children in California don't get enough food daily to meet their nutritional needs?  The recession has hit food banks as hard as it has Wall Street.  We're fortunate here in Yolo County to have a community that supports its local food bank.  And, thanks to the generosity of Boise  Business Products, it's easier than ever to lend your support!

You can help your company, your environment and your community all at the same time, because each time you buy a case of 30% or 100% recycled paper, Give Something Back and Boise, Inc. will donate $1 to the [ local] Food Bank!

As the San Francisco Food Bank's Paul Ash said recently on KOIT radio, "At first we really weren't expecting much, but [in six months] we received $25,000."  With a donation like that, the Food Bank of Yolo County can provide $275,000 worth of food to hungry people in our community!

We're asking businesses, schools, organizations and ANYONE who uses paper to please Celebrate Hunger Action Month by joining us in support of this initiative.  After all, you're gonna buy paper, anyway...might as well help the environment and hungry families in the process, right?   Get your Boise Business Products account today and start giving back!

As a special thank you:  the first 10 respondents who confirm their new Boise Inc. account number by emailing it to us at: will get a complimentary copy of Shipley Walters' new book From Pantry to Food Bank: The First Forty Years.  (Account numbers will be used exclusively for confirmation, and will not be kept or used by the Food Bank)

To get started, simply call 888-456-GIVE, or visit today!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Think You Know Bell Peppers?

As you know, bell peppers are our Veggie of the Month for September.

But did you know they are also an excellent source of Vitamin A and C--two very powerful antioxidants that may help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and several cancers?

Vitamin C, of course, helps boost our immune system; and Vitamin A is a critical support for eye and skin health. But did  you know that bell peppers have more Vitamin C than oranges? That's right, and this "miracle food" also contains lycopene and betacryptoxathin --both of which have been found to lower the risk of certain cancers.

And that's not all!  Bell peppers are also rich in dietary fiber, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, Folate, and small amounts of Vitamin K--which plays an important role in bone health.  So now that you're up to speed on the wonders of bell peppers, it's time to start enjoying them.  Before you go and grab one, here's what you need to know...

When buying bell peppers: Select bell peppers that are firm, glossy and plump. Make sure that they have no blemishes or soft spots. The flesh should be brightly colored and should yield to gentle pressure.

When storing bell peppers: Bell peppers can be stored without being washed in your refrigerator, where they will keep for approximately a week. However you should wash bell peppers if you plan to freeze them. For maximum flavor and nutritional value, store them whole.

Check out our Myspace blog at every Friday during the month of September for new creative and delicious ways you can enjoy bell peppers!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Proper Nutrition Is Critical for Growing Minds and Bodies

Missed the August edition of our column in the Davis Enterprise?  Enjoy the reprint, here!

Proper Nutrition Is Critical for Growing Minds and Bodies


Frances Johnson

Special to The Enterprise
Published: August 29, 2010

As the new school year begins this month, many of us may reflect back on fond memories of the "back to school" routine: new clothes, new books and freshly sharpened pencils; the anticipation of a new teacher, new friends, and a new schedule. But for the one in five children in Yolo County facing food insecurity — the government's label for what we commonly know as hunger — returning to school may not be something to look forward to.

On the first day of school, children experiencing hunger will have already fallen behind their classmates. These children will have more difficulty concentrating in class, be more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems, be sick more often during the school year, and struggle with low educational achievement.

Proper nutrition is vital to the growth and development of children, which is of particular concern for children in low- income families. And the consequences of child hunger extend far beyond this school year. Children who grow up poor are more likely to be unemployed and to receive public assistance as adults, continuing the cycle of poverty.

Ending child hunger is an investment in America's future. During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama announced a goal of ending childhood hunger in America by the year 2015. Since taking office, President Obama and other members of the Administration have reiterated that commitment. The Food Research and Action Center, a national policy and advocacy group, has put forth seven essential strategies for achieving this goal. These strategies focus both on improving and expanding the nation's nutrition programs, and bolstering the economy and strengthening supports for working families in order to move more out of poverty, the root cause of hunger.

Many of these opportunities to improve the health and wellbeing of schoolchildren are included in the federal Child Nutrition Reathorization Act which is currently making its way through Congress. This important legislation covers funding and nutritional guidelines for the school breakfast and lunch program, after school sites, and summer meals in addition to more innovative ideas like farm to school programs which have had such success locally.

But while policies and priorities are discussed and debated at the national level, the Food Bank of Yolo County is working to address childhood hunger here in our local community every day. Through our partnerships with schools, day cares, and other organizations serving children we are working to ensure that the children of Yolo County have the nourishment they need to grow and learn

We can solve child hunger in our community. Together, we can ensure that all children get the nutritious meals they need every day and provide a better tomorrow for children in need.

— Frances Johnson is the director of programs at the Food Bank of Yolo County

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Second Annual Running of the Turkeys - SAVE THE DATE!



Come celebrate the holidays with Woodland’s own
“Running of the Turkeys” family fun event benefiting the Food Bank of Yolo County!  

This year’s Second Annual Running of the Turkeys at Nelson's Grove promises to be even bigger than before. You won’t want to miss a moment!

Stay tuned for more details - including sponsor, vendor and Family Fun Fair information!!