Rotary Volunteers to Install Solar Panels at Food Bank

Fair Oaks, CA  |  Story by Shaunna Boyd

FAIR OAKS, CA (MPG) - The Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank will soon be able to put more of their money toward their mission and spend less on operating costs, thanks to the upcoming installation of solar panels on the food bank patio roof.

The Rotary Clubs of Fair Oaks and Orangevale collaborated to provide $16,000 of funding, and SMUD donated the additional $10,000 needed to purchase the solar panels. All the labor for the installation will be provided by volunteers from the Rotary Clubs of Fair Oaks and Orangevale, under the direction of licensed solar contractors from Grid Alternatives, a national non-profit that installs solar panels for low-income communities.

The mission of the Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank is to provide food, resources, and hope to families in need. Each month, the food bank serves more than 1,000 people from the Orangevale and Fair Oaks communities. The food bank is a non-profit organization staffed by volunteers, and they rely on donations to cover operating costs. The solar panels will reduce operating costs by approximately 50%. Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank executive director Keith Wright said, “The savings will be redirected to our goal of reaching more of the 17,000 food insecure individuals within our service area.”

The Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank receives weekly food donations from Raley’s, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, Walmart, Grocery Outlet, and WinCo. Nick Broad of the Fair Oaks Rotary explained that the grocery stores are not donating food that is almost expired or extra food that could not be sold before the next shipment: “They are donating fresh food, just as fresh as if you went to the store to buy it. It is really extraordinarily generous.”

The grocery stores donate perishable items including meat, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and bread. The donations are then sorted and organized by food bank volunteers and distributed to recipients in the community. The food bank also distributes many non-perishable food items collected through local food drives.

Broad approached Grid Alternatives to initiate the solar panel project, and he is the Rotary project manager for the installation. Broad feels that this is “a very worthy collaborative project” to reduce the food bank’s operational costs in an innovative way. 

Grid Alternatives opened their Sacramento office in 2015 and Becca Russell, Grid Alternatives North Valley development programs manager, said the food bank solar panel installation is the organization’s first project for another non-profit in this region. Russell said, “Because the food bank also serves low-income families by providing essential needs, we thought as a collective we can really do something together to help these communities. We’re excited to be able to work on this project.”

The solar panel installation is scheduled for February 2019. The Rotary Clubs plan to host a celebration at the Orangevale-Fair Oaks Food Bank after the installation is complete. Food Bank executive director Keith Wright, Rotary project manager Nick Broad, Grid Alternatives development programs manager Becca Russell, SMUD board member Brandon Rose, County Supervisor Sue Frost District 4, and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley are expected to speak at the celebration.