Yolo Food Bank Names Karen Baker as Executive Director

(Jessica Bartlett – Photographer)

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Woodland, CA – The Yolo Food Bank acted quickly to move on from its recent controversy.  A few months after naming Karen Baker the interim director following the firing of long time director Michael Bisch in May, the Yolo Food Bank board of directors has named her its full time new executive director.

Baker, who has been serving as the organization’s interim director since May, takes over following a successful career as a non-profit and public sector leader, strategist and community program innovator.

Baker has, according to the announcement, served in cabinet positions and agency lead posts under California Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom while leading California Volunteers, the state office tasked with engaging Californians in service, volunteering and civic action in their communities.

Most recently, the announcement continues, she served as the program architect and co-chair of Listos California, a $50 million statewide disaster preparedness campaign for diverse and vulnerable Californians that was then expanded to COVID education.

“We are thrilled to have Karen lead the Yolo Food Bank.  She has tremendous experience in the non-profit and public sectors and her expertise in effectively reaching California’s most vulnerable will be a great asset for our organization,” said Liz Schmitz, chair of the Yolo Food Bank Board of Directors.  She added, “Her vision for our organization is exciting and very strategic.”

The news follows the announcement earlier this week that Michael Bisch has sued the organization.

Bisch, former Executive Director of YFB, who is credited with turning YFB around and making it one of the most successful nonprofits in the region, alleges various causes of action including wrongful termination against public policy, whistleblower retaliation, and defamation.

The lawsuit alleges that YFB and certain YFB directors improperly retaliated against and terminated Bisch when Bisch began disclosing and reporting on possible government agency noncompliance with California’s Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction Law (SB 1383) legislation, with the stated purpose of increasing food security for Californians while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The organization is attempting to move on from that controversy and continue to fulfill their mission.

“I am very excited to lead the Yolo Food Bank and work to effectively address the needs of our community at such a critical time,” said Baker.

She added, “We live in one of the nation’s most productive agricultural counties, yet food insecurity is very prevalent throughout the region.  We will be relentless in our focus to maintain existing partnerships and create new ones to address and meet the needs of the residents in our county who are food insecure.”

The Yolo Food Bank began more than fifty years ago as a volunteer-run gleaning program.

Today, the announcement noted, “it partners with Feeding America, a national non-profit with a network of more than 200 food banks, and annually serves the nutritional needs of tens of thousands Yolo County residents.”

The release added, “Working with a network of passionate volunteers, committed donors, grocers, retailers, farmers, processors and food distributors, the Yolo Food Bank recovers, collects and store more than eleven million pounds of food each year.  It distributes that food each month through 130 distributions and more than 80 local food pantries, senior meal delivery programs, homeless and domestic violence shelters, migrant centers, college campuses, mental health facilities, recovery centers and more.”

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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