Guest Commentary: Yolo Food Bank in Disarray

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Yolo Food Bank’s “Eat Well Yolo” farmers market style food distribution in West Sacramento

By Andrew Newman

Editor’s note: Andrew Newman sent the following to the media on Thursday.  We are publishing his message because it contains some valuable new information, plus the letter he sent to the media.

Dear Media Professionals,

My name is Andrew Newman.  I previously provided accounting advisory services for Yolo Food Bank. I was engaged by the former executive director, Michael Bisch.  Within days of joining the Food Bank in January 2018, Michael discovered the Food Bank was within 60-90 days of insolvency.  He also discovered the Food Bank’s accounting practices were deficient, the financial statements were unreliable and did not meet GAAP standards.

Michael Bisch (Michel) brought me in to assist the inhouse accounting team to correct the deficiencies. My engagement extended on and off for two years or so. I have a relationship with former and current Food Bank staff from my advisory work for the Food Bank.

The Food Bank board’s decision to fire Michael is inexplicable and detrimental to the Food Bank and, more importantly, to the food insecure residents of Yolo County. The board’s rash decision has clearly unleashed a crisis of leadership and trust, and well-founded fear of retribution. This is now the second such crisis that has occurred under this board since 2018.

In the last week, the Food Bank has “lost” six board members, fired numerous executives and reinstated the management team originally in place before they hired Michael.  This is the same group that steered the organization to dire financial conditions in 2017.  Examples of ths mismanagement are already being reported.  For example the law firm that was engaged to investigate employee harassment concerns.   

Out of concern for the staff, the Food Bank, and residents struggling with food insecurity, I have publicly offered to publish information and documents sent to me anonymously by current and former Food Bank staff.  Although the attached protest resignation is from  (a former employee) I did not receive the letter from her. I received the resignation letter from another staff member who requested anonymity.


June 2, 2022

To the Staff and Board of Yolo Food Bank:

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I submit this letter expressing my intent to resign from my position … at Yolo Food Bank (YFB), effective June 17, 2022.

I joined the staff at YFB in May 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been so much suffering in the world these past couple of years. It has given me immeasurable pride to be part of a team of people who work tirelessly year-round to alleviate this suffering by increasing food and nutrition security in our community. Working with and learning from the enthusiastic, dedicated, and kind staff of YFB these past two years has been the most enriching years of my career.

While it certainly was a team effort that has made YFB such a success these past few years, it is no coincidence that our team’s success coincided with the leadership of Michael Bisch. The Board showed incredible wisdom when it made Michael the Executive Director. He transformed this organization, pulling it back from the brink of insolvency, making it a thriving organization with the potential to make serious inroads to end food insecurity in our community.

In my opinion, the Board made an inexplicably poor decision to fire Michael that, I fear, will cause harm to the people we work so hard to serve. Despite the Executive Team’s repeated requests for clarification, in my opinion, the Board has been unable to explain or to justify what Michael did that warrants his termination. From my perspective, it seems that the decision was rooted more in satisfying the egos of some or all of the Board members than to ensure that YFB continues to increase food security in our community.

I cannot, in good conscience, continue working for the food bank under the direction of this Board. I do not want to work for a food bank that works to serve the interests of Board Members over the needs of the food insecure in our community.

Sincerely,

(Redacted)

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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4 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Yolo Food Bank in Disarray”

  1. Ron Oertel

    The thought has occurred to me that Robb Davis would be an excellent fit to lead the Yolo Food Bank, if he’s interested. I can envision a very positive result, if that occurs.

    I mentioned this to a couple of other people, who agreed with that conclusion.

  2. Bill Marshall

    Folk… despite the little drama/soap opera going on, the organization is much more than the Board or any individuals… it is a team effort, with an excellent ‘mission’ and great track record, particularly in the past two years.

    It deserves your monetary and/or volunteer support… as does STEAC (YFC and STEAC support one another… much overlap in donations, cooperation, volunteers), and other local efforts.

    Community.  In the true sense of the word.

    Some would distract from the mission, efforts, for silly reasons.  But these are real people, trying to meet real needs… your support is welcomed… we are and have been, financial and volunteer supporters for over 45 years… in fact, spouse and I met on a food drive…

    1. Inoa Ole

      I wish I could agree. The mission of the YFB is vital. It likely will only become more essential in the coming months. The YFB has been successful over the past few years, but that is only because of the leadership of Michael Bisch. Before the YFB Board hired Michael, the organization was a fraction of its size today and was on a course to insolvency.

      The Board that exists today is largely the same Board that led the food bank to the brink of insolvency. Since terminating Michael, the Board has made sure that the organization is managed by the same people who almost destroyed the organization.

      This Board has demonstrated that it cannot be trusted. Despite its assurances to YFB staff in an email that Michael would be the only person terminated, the former Director of Programs was terminated via text message while he was on a planned vacation. The Board also terminated the attorney that YFB had hired to investigate HR complaints against the Board.

      The community has a right to demand that this Board explain its actions or resign before it receives any more donations. In the meantime, my money will be going to support one of the many organizations run by a competent board that makes decisions based only on its mission to serve the most vulnerable in our community and not whatever petty or self-serving politics seems to motivate this Board.

      https://www.facebook.com/100003893980883/posts/pfbid029D1YJr8kwERq7wFHG3TwroLKYNnziAzLwtSo98TYaR9H2FcNbChPAJ4nSxswN85Pl/?d=n

       

      https://www.facebook.com/100003893980883/posts/pfbid03eQQyPYfxrerkk296zistAc9io6hcdWpgS7RLJCbHxsorUR5z1K6z3vfu7impSTsl/?d=n

      1. Bill Marshall

        I wish I could agree. The mission of the YFB is vital.

        We actually agree on that, see bolded text, above…

        It likely will only become more essential in the coming months. [I’d say, years]

        The YFB has been successful over the past few years , but that is only because of the leadership of Michael Bisch [I’d opine not JUST him but Joy Cohan, and others on the team he helped form]. Before the YFB Board hired Michael, the organization was a fraction of its size today and was on a course to insolvency.

        I suspect the bolded text of  Inoa is knowledgeable, but I don’t know…

        The community has a right to demand that this Board explain its actions or resign before it receives any more donations.  In the meantime, my money will be going to support one of the many organizations run by a competent board that makes decisions based only on its mission to serve the most vulnerable in our community and not whatever petty or self-serving politics seems to motivate this Board.

        We’re ‘there’ as to how the Board should, be judged… can’t “get there” as to withholding contributions… something about “cutting off your nose to spite your face”… the Board should definitely search their minds and (can I say this?) souls, and hopefully discern the mission of the food bank, and their actions towards that mission… I am wary of their inclination to do so, and they maybe ‘self-serving’ as to tax write-offs, rather than motivated to fulfill the mission… not in a position to know, but it is truly a valid question…

        As for us, although we will be leery of the Board, past, present, future actions, we support the mission… we will not cut off our funding, to spite the Board… however, if we are “stakeholders” (we’re supporters of STEAC, pun intended),  can we vote to affirm/reject members of the Board?  Inquiring minds want to know…

        Think I met Michael once… good encounter… knew Joy for years, both thru DDBA and Yolo Food Bank… damn good, caring, folk… as is one of the resigned/termed out Board members…

        The Yolo Food Bank Board, needs an ‘epiphany’, in my opinion… they need to explore their mission, their motivations, and mostly, the folk they serve, directly or indirectly.  Their mission.

        But until then, we’ll fund the mission, knowing who will ultimately be served… withholding contributions, absent graft/corruption, is NOT an option… but the Board needs to see this as a “wake-up” call!  A credibility issue both for themselves, and the businesses/interests they represent.

        For those inclined, see:  Matt 6:2  (pretty much sums it up).

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