Yolo Food Bank “Eat Well Yolo” farmer’s market style food giveaway in West Sacramento

Andrew Newman

I received a message from the Board of Directors of Yolo Food Bank (YFB) dated June 17, 2022 (see letter below). The letter was sent to me presumably because I am a donor and not because I was protesting the “new direction” the YFB board has taken, including unexplained changes in key management personnel. Here are the questions/observations that immediately came to my mind as I read the letter over the weekend:

  1. The letter, as a conclusion, confirms that YFB has received numerous complaints and concerns from donors. Why do you continue to ignore donor concerns instead of openly addressing them? Hiding behind a “staffing issue” when concerns raised by donors and other stakeholders go far beyond the firing of two top YFB executives seems like an untenable position for the YFB board.
  2. The letter states that the main task of the YFB board in the future is to improve cooperation with partners. What data is this new main focus based on? Why did the YFB board abandon previous priorities such as changing the food system, addressing the root causes of food insecurity, improving the nutritional quality of the food distributed, and advocacy? We, donors, supported all previous initiatives. Why the sudden change in direction?
  3. Also related to the change of emphasis, which partners are you referring to? Yolo County and the cities of West Sacramento, Winters, Davis and Woodland? The public report indicates that the dispute between the Food Bank and local jurisdictions is related to the inability of the jurisdictions to secure funding for the state food recovery program. Is the YFB board changing course on this important issue as well? Is the board now going to have YFB donors fund this program and not the jurisdictions as required by law?
  4. The letter from the YFB board says that you want to restore the trust of the donors. However, you continue to be reluctant to answer questions from donors and other stakeholders, especially with the sudden abandonment of popular initiatives. How does this lack of communication build confidence and trust?
  5. There is no indication of “continuous devotion… to our mission.” Instead, the board appears to be mired in political machinations and conflicts of interest. What role have these shenanigans and conflicts played in the sudden “new direction” of the YFB board, including the layoffs of the CEO and influencer and innovation officer? What efforts has the YFB board made to ensure that individual board members’ conflicts of interest do not influence the board’s decisions on these issues? In particular, we are interested in the restrictions imposed by the YFB board on Dan Ramos, Jim Durst, Keith Still and Jennifer Engström.
  6. What role and when did the county’s board of directors play in YFB’s “new direction”, including firing the chief executive and influencer and innovation officer?
  7. This statement in particular caught our attention: “Another immediate Board priority is to recruit and appoint new Board members who reflect our community and the people we serve.” So why didn’t the board do it then? And why did the YFB board abruptly cancel the annual board elections in May, leaving qualified candidates, many with life experience, surprised and frustrated by the unprofessional behavior of the YFB board members present?
  8. How exactly did the YFB board grow from ten members to four and then back to six in a ten-day period, given that the annual board elections in May were cancelled? What is particularly striking about these wild rides is that no new board members were actually added. Given that the YFB’s bylaws require a minimum of five board members, how could the board even take any action, let alone drastic “change of direction”, including firing two of its top executives?
  9. How have the actions of the YFB board in recent weeks led to improved outcomes for vulnerable members of the community? I call on the YFB Board to shed light on this most important of all issues.
  10. Closing statement of the letter: “We thank you for your questions and comments and encourage you to continue to provide feedback.” I am looking forward to your answers

Message from the Board of Directors of Yolo Food Bank

Dear friends,

We know that many of you would like to know more about the reasons for the recent leadership change. Unfortunately, because this is a staffing issue, we are limited in what we can report publicly, but I can report that the Board sees a need for Yolo Food Bank to work more effectively with partners across Yolo County to fulfill our mission to increase quantities of food and nutrition. security and help create an equitable and sustainable local food system. This will be our main task in the future.

We also want you to know that we are listening, learning and taking action. As always, your feedback is important and plays a critical role in helping us to continually improve. For those of you who have doubts about the direction of YFB, we hope that through the continued work of the organization and our efforts to keep you informed, we will be able to regain your confidence and trust.

In the meantime, we want you to know that the Board and staff’s unwavering commitment to our mission and to serving those in need is stronger than ever. The main current priority of the Board of Directors is the appointment of an interim executive director. We are very excited about the list of candidates and hope to make an announcement soon. The board and staff also work closely together to ensure that all of our programs run smoothly, and they have. Another immediate Board priority is to recruit and appoint new Board Members who reflect our community and the people we serve, and we look forward to updating you on our progress on this front.

We thank you for your questions and comments and encourage you to continue to leave feedback. We also greatly appreciate your support and look forward to more updates on our progress in positioning YFB to serve our community even more effectively.

With thanks,

Elizabeth Schmitz
Board of Directors of Yolo Food Bank

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