Roseville’s FamilyGreenSurvival is up for the challenge.
Written by Laura Petersen
Photo by Rachel Valley
I t all started with a dare.
FamilyGreenSurvival, that is, a Roseville-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to end local hunger, says founder and president Gopal Kapur. In 2008, when he was volunteering at local food banks, Kapur’s Rotarian buddies challenged him with finding meals that were both affordable and nutritious and could feed the region’s working families who struggle to put food on their tables. The India-born engineer who thrives on problem solving took the dare seriously. He spent the next six months searching for the most affordable, nutritious, tasty, easy-to-prepare meals he could find. He honed recipes by consulting with chefs, physicians, and nutritionists. Mothers and children taste-tested the dishes. Kapur knew the food would have to taste good, smell good, and look good if it were to compete with cheap convenience food. “My idea was two things: If my family won’t eat it, we won’t pack it,” Kapur says. In those early days, 20 Rotarian friends and family members packed the bagged meals, a series called BagOfLife, with individual packages for breakfast (GrandHotCereal), lunch, and dinner (SoupOfLife, LeanMeanBeanProtein, and NuttyQuinoaPilaf). Each BagOfLife-branded offering is designed to provide a complete meal serving, containing a high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and natural fiber using ancient and whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, herbs, and spices. The word green in the organization’s name indicates its goal for BagOfLife: While not organic, all of the vegetarian ingredients found in the bagged meals are produced in the U.S. and minimally processed, with no artificial colors, additives, or preservatives, and contain healthy foods that support the body and mind. The bags are designed to supplement food provided by other regional food-assistance programs and only require boiling water and cooking time to prepare. Hungry for answers Nearly 40 million Americans live in poverty. As a result, millions of people living on tight food budgets have become nutrition poor, according to FamilyGreenSurvival, which also provides free-of-charge nutrition education in the community. (Kapur also teaches this topic through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of California, Davis and Sierra College) “One in five children in our community is food insecure,” Kapur says. “One in seven adults in our community routinely face food insecurity.” A decade after its founding year, the organization continues to make a difference. Kapur regularly receives letters from mothers and doctors thanking him for providing breakfasts to families. That feedback keeps motivation and momentum high for the project. By contracting with Katadyn North America Foods, a Rocklin-based packinghouse, FamilyGreenSurvival now can produce 8,000 bagged meals a year, equaling 32,000 meal servings. Volunteer labor means no payroll to worry about, and all donations are funneledback into production and distribution. Kapur hopes to double production soon. This November, the organization will hold its first fundraiser, the Imaginary Dinner Gala. Guests will enjoy music and magic while being served empty plates at the dinner table. People are invited to use their imaginations to conjure up favorite meals and libations. The idea behind an imaginary dinner is to understand hunger by giving from a place of empathy rather than sympathy, Kapur says. For every dollar raised, the organization provides two BagOfLife meals to hungry Sacramento-area neighbors. “We need people to come together and fund raise and tell neighbors and friends. It’s a mindful step,” Kapur says.