Napa Valley Food Bank

The Napa Valley Food Bank has reduced its monthly utility bills by 30 percent, which equates to feeding 2,000 people a year, thanks to an innovative program developed by the Gasser Foundation and Sustainable Napa County (SNC). The program combines SNC grants with available rebates and incentives from PG&E to enable local nonprofits to cover the costs of energy efficiency upgrades with zero out of pocket expense. As a result, the organization begins seeing a positive return on their very next utility bill. 


“More than 90 percent of our budget comes from individual, community donations,” said Shirley King, program director, Napa Valley Food Bank. “And they don’t want their donations to pay for lighting or refrigeration — they want to feed people.”  It’s challenging for nonprofits to raise funds for operations; King is thankful for the support she received from SNC and the Napa Energy Watch program. 

The Napa Valley Food Bank assists people to become or remain self-sufficient by lessening the stress of meeting their basic need for food. The Food Bank provides food to low-income individuals, families, seniors, foster youth and to other nonprofit organizations serving those less fortunate. Through its partnerships, the Food Bank maximizes food resources to address food insecurity in Napa County.
“Participating in the building and operations assessment helped us to significantly reduce our operating expenses,” said King, noting the 30 percent decrease in the Food Bank’s monthly PG&E bill. “Thanks to the support of the Gasser Foundation and Sustainable Napa County, we can redirect scarce financial resources from utility bills to clients and services," she said.  
Napa County Energy Watch completed an energy review of the Napa Valley Food Bank in August 2012, and made a number of recommendations to save energy and reduce costs.  
First, a lighting audit was performed, and lighting retrofits recommended and implemented in the offices. Then the compressors in cold storage (the Food Bank’s commercial-size refrigerator and freezer) were replaced with energy efficient ones, and strip curtains were added to the cold storage entrance. “Every time a forklift entered the cold storage unit, we were wasting energy,” said King,  “The strip curtains have cut down our energy loss considerably.” 
With limited staff all working at capacity, King - who is celebrating 14 years with the Food Bank this year - was nervous about taking on participation in the program; however, she knew it was important to find ways to help her organization’s budget. She found the experience positive. “Bill Bennett with the Energy Watch program served as the project manager and made the whole process seamless,” she explained. “In addition to implementing a number of changes, they also made several recommendations — including researching and recommending a local company to contract for maintenance, which is something we just hadn’t had time to do.” 
“It feels good to know that not only are we being good stewards of our environment and our community, we are also good stewards of our organization’s funds,” she added.
If your nonprofit is interested in participating in the Napa County Energy Watch program, click here for more information.

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