Driving home from a long, hard day at work, and thankful that I got one as opposed to the skilled people hating every moment being unemployed, I took notice of a large banner above Coloma Food & Liquor. You know the place – the mini-mart next to Wienerschnitzel across Sunrise. What caught my eye was a large red, yellow and white sign that read, “WE ACCEPT EBT.”
Wrongly or rightly, my first thought was that liquor stores shouldn’t be part of the Electronic Benefit Transfer Project due to the inflated prices inherent to such businesses. That’s just the nature of liquor stores, mini-marts, convenience stores – whatever you want to call them. They charge significantly higher prices than conventional groceries or supermarkets because smaller retailers order lower quantities of inventory at higher per-unit prices from wholesalers. Anyone who has stepped foot in one or looks up Wikipedia knows that.
My beef when I saw the outdoor banner wasn’t just with Coloma Food & Liquor, but EBT recipients who shop there. Trust me, my heart and taxes warmly go out to those on welfare who try to get off it. But if I were in need of financial aid, I wouldn’t be buying groceries at a liquor store. I’d try to put more food on the table by stretching my dollars at, say, the warehouse-style Smart & Final just around the corner. And if that wasn’t convenient, then a supermarket or drugstore with serious buying power, like our Bel Air and Rite-Aid that also accept EBT. These big retailers would never be undersold on essentials by a high-priced mini-mart, right?
In order to stand on my soapbox with confidence, I visited all four of those stores on a recent Saturday to price-check a half-dozen like grocery items. Besides such staples as milk, bread and boxed cereal, I went with a carton of Coke because “junk foods” is routinely the second-most popular category for EBT households after meat, poultry and seafood. Sadly, according to a November 2016 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 20 cents of every EBT dollar are spent on sweetened beverages, desserts, salty snacks and candy. Because “frozen prepared foods” comes in at No. 4 (vegetables are third, yippee), I also tossed a frozen pizza in the shopping cart.
Now for dessert. Super premium ice cream was my pick because a year ago I seethed over a mom on welfare splurging on Ben & Jerry’s. OK, calm down all you bleeding-heart snackers. I’m not saying that EBT cardholders shouldn’t enjoy the finer things of life. But even my wife and I feel guilty buying luxury brands for non-essentials, and we’re double-income empty nesters living in Gold River! (Knock on wood.)
So, let’s get to the research. Below are the lowest non-member everyday prices I found on like products at Coloma Food & Liquor (“Coloma”) and our local Bel Air, Rite-Aid and Smart & Final (“S&F”):
Clearly, my knee-jerk was unfair to Coloma Food & Liquor. For a mini-mart, those items are reasonably priced. We can also conclude, based on this very small sample, that EBT funds stretch furthest at Smart & Final or Bel Air, depending on the item. As for the nation’s third-largest drugstore chain, Rite-Aid should be ashamed of itself. I get it – it’s not a grocery. But charging nearly double for the same box of cereal found at another store mere steps away? Not OK, and the Rainbo Bread guy who was stocking Bel Air’s shelves when I was doing my thing agreed.
“Yeah,” he said, pointing in the direction of Rite-Aid, “you don’t want to spend your EBT over there.”
So, color me enlightened. I started out my story thinking a close-by Rancho Cordova liquor store would be the villain and it winds up being the place in Gold River that fills my prescriptions. Or at least it did.
And, again, my apologies to Coloma Food & Liquor for assuming the worst. “It’s a common misconception,” I was told by store employee Shan that morning. He also said that for the sake of accuracy I should expand my grocery list.
“These cheap things,” he said, pointing to the package of six high-fat Hostess powdered mini donuts. “That’s a meal for many of our EBT customers.”
David Dickstein can be reached at email@example.com.
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), provider of food and support to 135,000 of the 242,000 members of the Sacramento community who are food insecure, just got more mobile.
Its new, Produce for All truck can motor to a destination, and because of its nifty design, roll up its side doors and distribute food akin to a famers’ market. Anyone (no questions asked) can select fresh produce of their choosing from the open-air bins. The quality groceries come from regional farms and a variety of other sources.
The traveling produce truck, on the road due to the generosity of a Sutter Health Community Benefit investment, is an important addition to SFBFS’ 224 partner agencies that help to expand food distribution throughout the county.
“When one in four children in Sacramento County lives in poverty, and nearly half of our seniors don’t have enough income to meet the most basic of expenses, our services are more important than ever before,” says Blake Young, President/CEO. “Our new Produce for All truck will increase our capacity to serve more residents where they live.”
Transportation to one, centralized food bank in the county is often an overwhelming obstacle for food insecure families. Those who must rely on public transportation, seniors, families, the working poor, the unemployed and the disabled, can find navigating the system challenging. When fresh produce can come to them, a healthier lifestyle is more likely. SFBFS’ Produce for All truck, transporting food from local growers and donors to as many as 300 families at any given stop, is also a neighborhood-by-neighborhood link to additional services such as CalFresh, employment, housing and healthcare.
“No one - regardless of income level, age, gender, race/ethnicity, marital status or community of residence - is invulnerable to the possibility of experiencing food insecurity sometime in their lives,” says Young. And when that happens, by providing healthy food, we may be able to offer other assistance related to the root cause of poverty.”
SFBFS’ Produce for All truck offers a robust calendar of regularly scheduled stops. To view a calendar listing of current Produce for All food distributions, visit: www.sacramentofoodbank.org/produce-for-all/.
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) offers compassionate support and a compass for families navigating difficult times. With 15 diverse programs and services, a staff of 83 employees, several thousand volunteers and the financial support of the community, SFBFS guides families on their journey through support and education. Since 2014, SFBFS has served as the main food bank of Sacramento County.
California Connections Academy @ Ripon is a tuition free, virtual public school serving students in an eight county region including Sacramento County. While students are widely dispersed and complete course work online, they do get together regularly for field trips.
Amber Manko, School Counselor from Modesto said that she and other counselors and advisory teachers decided a good way to get students engaged in community service would be to schedule a service project. After researching, they agreed that the Sacramento Food Bank sounded like a good choice. “I’ve been pretty impressed with the organization and how it’s run,” Manko said. “I’m really just excited to be able to offer the opportunity for kids.”
At the food bank Maria Zefo, food resource manager, showed the group around the facility on Bell Avenue in Sacramento. The food bank took over the building from Senior Gleaners around two years ago. “At that time, we were feeding about 50,000 people,” Zefo said. “Now we’re at 135,000.” Zefo took the group through several of the warehouses (there are five) to the one where the group would work. She filled them in on Sacramento Food Bank facts along the way.
The organization serves Sacramento County via 220 other agencies who come to them for food and resources: churches, soup kitchens, food pantries, senior programs and more. The food bank itself does not dispense food from their facility, but they do send their trucks out to nearly 20 sites to dispense food. “We just completed hunger assessment for this county, what areas are not being served, where there is need and no agency, where we can go and pull up a truck and hand you some food,” Zefo said.
The Sacramento Food Bank serves over 135,000 people a month via family services programs and food distribution. In 2015 donors provided 16,342,858 pounds of food and 175,124 clothing items. Nearly 8,000 volunteers gave close to 90,000 hours of service. Only 7 cents on the dollar goes to operating costs, so 93% of the food bank budget goes directly to programs. The national average, per Zefo, is only 80% directly going to programs.
The California Connections Academy group’s job was to sort food, and they attacked the huge bins with gusto during their three hours of service. School Site Administrator Amy Hunt, along with her 10-year-old son Brady, worked alongside the others. “Brady and I got to the bottom of our barrel, and we moved on to another one,” Hunt said. “I think we were the slowest of everyone there. When we got to the bottom, everyone else had moved on to another one.”
Those volunteers who turned up for the event were happy they were able to help. “We’re already going to start looking for an opportunity in the Bay Area, another area that our families hopefully can attend,” Hunt said.
Though Manko was disappointed in the number of those turning out for this event, she hopes for a better response in the future. “I work with high school students and often they want to know how they can get involved in their community,” Manko said. “So it would be nice if our school can build on this and offer more opportunities throughout the year... It’s important.”
California Connections Academy @ Ripon opened in 2012 and is part of the Connections Education Academy, which was founded in 2001. In the 2015-2016 school year, Connections education supported 30 virtual public schools in 26 states, serving more than 65,000 students.
For more information on California Connections Academy @ Ripon, call (209) 253-1208 or see www.connectionsacademy.com/california-online-school/about/ripon.
For more information on the Sacramento Food Bank, call (916) 456-1980 or see www.sacramentofoodbank.org.
With the holiday season approaching, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reminds consumers to use safe food preparation and storage measures to prevent foodborne illness. Bacteria that can be found in foods such as meat and poultry may cause illness if they are insufficiently cooked, inadequately cooled or improperly handled.
“We can help ensure that foodborne illnesses don’t ruin our holidays by properly preparing and handling meat, poultry and other foods,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.
About 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. each year are related to foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Foodborne diseases can be prevented by: washing hands with soap and warm water before and after food preparation, and especially after handling raw foods; cleaning all work surfaces, utensils and dishes with hot soapy water and rinsing them with hot water after each use; cooking food thoroughly and refrigerating adequately between meals.
Symptoms of foodborne disease can include diarrhea, which may be bloody, vomiting, abdominal cramps and fever. Most infected people recover from foodborne illnesses within a week. Some, however, may develop complications that require hospitalization. Young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems are at highest risk for potentially life-threatening complications.
Additional information about food safety is available on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). Consumers can also access the national Partnership for Food Safety Education’s Fight BAC! Website www.cdph.ca.gov
Spice up your weekday lunch routine! Off the Grid Sacramento has launched a weekly food truck event series in the City of Rancho Cordova.
Every Thursday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., a pop-up food market features local food trucks at Rancho Cordova City Hall, 2729 Prospect Park Drive. From lobster rolls to burgers to gyros, Off the Grid brings plenty of options to our community.
This weekly food truck event offers unique lunchtime options for those who work in Rancho Cordova’s business park or live in the nearby neighborhoods.
Visit www.offthegrid.com/sacramento for the weekly food truck line-up and other events in the Sacramento region. Download the Off the Grid App or sign up for Off the Grid’s newsletter. Be sure to also check out Off the Grid on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Employee owned WinCo Foods has announced the opening of its newest California supermarket, its 36th in the state and its 110th location overall, on September 3, 2016 at 2300 Watt Avenue in Sacramento.
Known primarily for being the “Supermarket Low Price Leader,” the new WinCo Foods building is approximately 100,000 square feet and will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will be staffed by approximately 170 employees from the surrounding community. The store will contain WinCo’s trademark “Wall of Values” at the entrance, as well as a wide assortment of grocery items along with a full produce section and meat, deli, bakery and bulk foods departments.
“We’re thrilled to be bringing the residents of Sacramento their first WinCo,” said a company spokesperson. “By blending the absolute lowest prices, the best products and world class customer service, we think the people of Sacramento will quickly fall in love with WinCo and see why we’re one of the fastest growing grocers in the country.”
Another trademark aspect of WinCo supermarkets is the 700+ item bulk foods department. Selections in the bulk foods department can be purchased in whatever quantities the customer desires and includes a multitude of rice varieties, dried beans, pastas, baking ingredients, cereals, snacks, candies and pet foods.
“Our customers love that they can buy as little or as much as they like,” added WinCo’s spokesperson. “Whether it’s two teaspoons of a specific spice or a 50-pound sack of flour. On top of all this, we also carry a variety of organic, gluten-free and natural food items, all clearly labeled.”
To learn more go to www.WinCoFoods.com.
On August 25th, 2016, Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. (CA-7) called on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take immediate action to make lower cost alternatives available in response to exorbitantly priced EpiPens from the drug manufacturer Mylan. Currently, EpiPens have a virtual monopoly on the market for emergency allergy attack treatment. In the letter, Congressman Bera asks the FDA to address processes that may limit competition and allow some companies to drastically increase prices. Today, Mylan announced they would offer additional coupons for EpiPens, but have not addressed the underlying cost.
“As a doctor, I know that in the case of an allergic reaction no time can be wasted and we can’t allow anything to stand in the way of immediate access to epinephrine.” said Bera. “$600 for an EpiPen is outrageous, and Mylan must be held accountable for their pricing on a life-saving drug. That’s why I’m calling on the FDA to make sure that families have other more affordable and safe options to EpiPens so that no one needs to make a choice between paying their bills or having a life-saving drug.”
Congressman Bera has previously urged the FDA to regulate the prices of life-saving drugs. He leads the push to ensure that drug companies are not able to charge excessive prices for drugs, like in the case of Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceuticals.