by Andrew Newman
I am in receipt of a communication from the Yolo Food Bank (YFB) Board of Directors dated June 17, 2022 (see letter further below). The letter was sent to me presumably because I am a donor and not because I have protested the “new direction” the YFB board has taken including the inexplicable change in key management personnel. Here are the questions/observations that immediately came to my mind when I read the letter over the weekend:
- The letter, by inference, confirms that YFB has received numerous donor complaints and concerns. Why do you continue to ignore the donor concerns instead of addressing them forthrightly? Hiding behind “personnel matter” when the concerns raised by donors and other stakeholders go far beyond the terminations of two top YFB executives seems an untenable position for the YFB board to maintain.
- The letter states the YFB board’s primary focus going forward is improving collaboration with partners. What data is this new primary focus based on? Why has the YFB board abandoned the previous priorities such as Flipping the Food System, addressing the root causes of food insecurity, increasing the nutritional quality of distributed food, and advocacy? We donors supported all of the previous initiatives. Why the abrupt change in direction?
- Also relevant to the change in focus, which partners are you referring to? The County of Yolo and the cities of West Sacramento, Winters, Davis and Woodland? The public record indicates the dispute between the Food Bank and the local jurisdictions is over the jurisdictions’ failure to provide funding for the state mandated edible food recovery program. Is the YFB board reversing course on this critical issue now too? Is the board now going to have YFB donors fund this program instead of the jurisdictions as is required by law?
- The letter from the YFB board states you wish to regain donor confidence and trust. Yet you continue to resist answering donor and other stakeholder concerns, particularly the sudden abandonment of popular initiatives. How does this lack of communication build confidence and trust?
- There is no indication at all of the board’s “steadfast dedication…to our mission.” Instead, the board appears mired in political machinations and conflicts of interest. What role did these machinations and conflicts play in the YFB board’s sudden “new direction” including the terminations of the executive director and impact and innovation officer? What efforts did the YFB board take to ensure the conflicts of interests of individual board members did not influence board decision-making regarding these matters? In particular, we are interested in the guardrails the YFB board created pertaining to Dan Ramos, Jim Durst, Kate Stille and Jennifer Engstrom.
- What role, and when, did the County Board of Directors play in YFB’s “new direction” including the termination of the executive director and impact and innovation officer?
- This statement in particular caught our attention: “Another near-term Board priority is to recruit and appoint new Board members who reflect our community and the people we serve.” So why then did the board fail to do so? And why did the YFB board abruptly cancel the annual board election in May leaving qualified candidates, many with lived experience, surprised and frustrated by the unprofessional conduct of the YFB board members present?
- How exactly did the YFB board go from ten board members to four, and then back up to six over a ten-day period, given the annual board election in May was canceled? What’s particularly striking about these wild gyrations is no new board members were actually added. Given the YFB bylaws require a minimum of five board members, how was the board able to take any actions at all let alone dramatically “change directions” including terminating two of its top executives?
- How does the YFB board’s actions these past weeks result in better outcomes for vulnerable community members? I challenge the YFB board to shed any light on this most important of all questions.
- The letter’s final statement is, “We thank you for your questions and comments and encourage you to continue providing feedback.” I look forward to your responses.
A message from Yolo Food Bank Board of Directors
We know there’s a desire with many of you for more information about the reasons for our recent leadership change. Unfortunately, because it’s a personnel matter we’re limited in what we can communicate publicly, but I can convey that the Board sees a need for Yolo Food Bank to collaborate more effectively with partners throughout Yolo County to achieve our mission of increasing food and nutrition security, and helping to create an equitable and sustainable local food system. That will be our primary focus moving forward.
We also want you to know that we are listening, learning, and taking action. As has always been the case, your feedback is important and plays a critically important role in helping us to continually improve. For those of you who are questioning YFB’s direction, we hope through the organization’s continuing work and our efforts to keep you informed that we can gain back your confidence and trust.
In the meantime, we want you to know that the steadfast dedication of the Board and staff to our mission and to serving our neighbors in need is as strong as ever. The top current priority for the Board is to identify an interim executive director. We’re very excited about the field of candidates and expect to make an announcement soon. The Board and staff also have been working closely together to ensure that all of our programs continue without disruption, and they have. Another near-term Board priority is to recruit and appoint new Board members who reflect our community and the people we serve, and we look forward to keeping you informed about our progress on that front.
We thank you for your questions and comments, and encourage you to continue providing feedback. We also greatly appreciate your support and look forward to providing more updates about our progress in positioning YFB to even more effectively serve our community.
Yolo Food Bank Board of Directors