By Jim Durst
Being a farmer, part of my job is to manage plant health. It is a kind of forensic science because it calls me to look beyond the obvious. In scouting for pests, I have found it helpful to spend time in the field observing the insect populations. One trick I have found helpful is to place a white plate under the plant and shake it vigorously and then examine what falls off the plant. You see critters you would not ordinarily see if you were just walking by. And if you repeat the process in various areas, you can actually get a good census of insect populations, both good and not so good.
Living in a rural community in Yolo County (Esparto), I have found the same holds true. You can drive up and down the streets of our rural towns and things look normal. But if you investigate further, many are struggling from paycheck to paycheck to pay rent, utilities and living expenses. The amount left over after these necessary items are covered has to go into the food budget and incidentals.
In many cases one or both adults in the household are working. They may also be folks who are retired or on disability, fixed-income households. As the cost of living continues to rise, there is little flexibility in balancing the family budget. And rural areas in particular have higher rates of poverty and unemployment.
Yolo County is at the center of bountiful agricultural production; fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Yet there are more than 35,000 food-insecure people in our county who do not necessarily have access to this bounty. The town of Esparto for instance, does not have a supermarket. Residents with transportation need to drive 15 to 20 miles to access a larger market.
The Yolo Food Bank is the lifeline that enables these households to feed themselves and put food on the table. The Yolo Food Bank supplies food to food closets, community feeding programs, kids farmers markets, and directly to families and individuals in rural towns. In remote rural areas where services may not be available, the Food Bank comes to them.
In our community of Esparto for instance, we have food donated by Whole Foods Market in Davis through the Yolo Food Bank that is available on Saturday and Sunday. This food is of higher quality with milk, eggs, whole wheat bread, butter, salads, prepared foods, and fruits and vegetables. People begin lining up two hours early to be there for this distribution. In conversation with these folks, most say that this supplemental food helps them go from week to week, keeping food on the table. The need exists.
Many of us do not know what it is like to not have enough to eat. We are accustomed to going to the grocery store and buying what we like. So let us be mindful of those who do not have this luxury. Let us be instruments of equality, sharing, and compassion in our communities. I would encourage you to join the movement to alleviate hunger in Yolo County and provide community support for those in need.
As a member of the board of Yolo Food Bank, our farm made a commitment to supplying the Yolo Food Bank with produce and dollars. All employees and owners are on board. It is simple. It is effective. It is rewarding.
We live in a world of abundance. Please consider supporting the Yolo Food Bank all year through financial gifts and volunteering your time, talents and resources.
— Jim Durst is the owner of Durst Organic Growers and a board member of the Food Bank of Yolo County