Giving Thanks 1

Past Sacramento Food Bank program recipients find joy in returning the favor.

Many people may find themselves in need of help at some point in their life. Maybe they require assistance with feeding or clothing their family, or they want to further educate themselves to get a better job or improve their current situation.

Not all who get help find themselves in a situation to give back by helping others through the same services that once helped them. However, two past recipients of aid from the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS) have been able to do just that.

Lorena Carranza was a student at the Food Bank’s free English as a Second Language classes. Now she is helping to educate parents as SFBFS’ parent education manager. Nematullah Sarvary was once a participant the Food Bank’s Refugee Resettlement Services and is now helping others as SFBFS’ refugee resettlement assistant.

Lorena’s Story

Carranza moved from Monterrey, Mexico, to Sacramento in 2000, and at the time did not speak English. After caring for her newborn daughter born in 2001, she decided it was time for her to learn.

“When coming to this beautiful country, you have dreams — you want to do better in life, you want to provide the best for your family, and the first step is definitely learning English and getting those skills,” Carranza says.

After finding a flyer promoting ESL classes at SFBFS, Carranza recalled being shocked to find out that not only were the classes completely free, but the Food Bank also provided other free services such as a playcare program where her daughter could stay while she took her classes.

“Back in Mexico we don’t have anything like the Food Bank,” Carranza says. “So I was so surprised, so amazed to learn about the services.”

A few months after taking ESL classes, SFBFS had a job opening for a receptionist. Carranza applied and it’s been almost nine years since she has been working for the Food Bank. Most recently she held the position of parent education manager where she taught parenting skills classes on a variety of topics, including prenatal, postpartum and general parenting tips. Carranza will take on the role of CalFresh manager in December and will help families apply for CalFresh benefits.

Carranza says she gives thanks every single day for the help she received from SFBFS and for being in a position now to help other families in need.

“I cannot believe that I’m actually able to do this because I have been there — I was in need when we came to the U.S., just like many families who are coming from other countries or Mexico,” Carranza says. “One of my goals is to inform families that there is help, they are not alone. There are a lot of people that care about them.”

Nematullah’s Story

Originally from Afghanistan, Sarvary and his family were relocated to Sacramento through SFBFS’ Refugee Resettlement Services. In partnership with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, the service works with refugee families upon their first 90 days in the United States, providing them with housing, food and clothing, as well as assisting families with enrolling for benefits, ESL classes, job placement and other services.

Sarvary says the Food Bank’s Refugee Resettlement Services was a big help to his family, even going above and beyond.

“They helped me with providing housing, food and all these things,” he says. “Where they placed me in Sacramento, I’m very happy. Where I’m living is a calm area in a good neighborhood.”

According to Sarvary, the SFBFS refugee service provided him with transportation to apply for different social services and job opportunities. Additionally, his wife was able to take advantage of the Food Bank’s free ESL classes and playcare program for his children.

Now Sarvary is giving back to other refugee families as a refugee resettlement assistant for SFBFS. Sarvary provides transportation for clients so they can apply for benefits, Social Security numbers and other things they may need for their family during their first 90 days in the United States.

Sarvary says he is very proud to be able to do for other families what the Food Bank once did for his family.

“I’m very happy that I have the opportunity to help those families that are in need,” he says.

Ways You Can Help

The Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services will hold its annual Turkey Drive from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Nov. 20 at its Main Oak Park Campus at 3333 Third Ave., Sacramento. The collected turkeys will be distributed to families in need on Nov. 23. In 2014, the Turkey Drive collected 9,344 turkeys.

The Food Bank will hold its annual Run to Feed the Hungry on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26.

For more information and to sign up, go to