Kimberly Thomas, the Delivery Coordinator and Job Trainee Manager at the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub, juggles a lot of responsibilities to help keep the operation running smoothly.
“I have about 35 renters that I communicate with on a day-to-day basis that utilize the kitchen. I do kitchen tours for people that are interested in utilizing the kitchen. I keep up with the appliances, order whatever needs to be ordered for the Food Hub, make sure everybody's payments are in on time, make sure everybody's using the equipment properly.
“I oversee the drivers, making sure the drivers get out on time, making sure they're packing the vans with the right food and boxes that need to go out. Making sure that once they return, there's no dents or bruises on the vans, and everything is still on the up-and-up.
“I check in with the drivers on a daily basis. I give them a progress report of how they're doing, because we operate now from a dispatch tracker, where I am able to follow the drivers as they are out on the road and see how they're doing.”
This is just a fraction of Kim’s responsibilities at the Food Hub, but suffice it to say that she’s become an instrumental part of the organization not only as the delivery coordinator and job trainee and kitchen manager, but also as an upbeat leader of the community that is taking shape among food vendors, food delivery drivers, farmers, and the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub staff.
Not long ago, Kim was incarcerated at Santa Rita Jail, but with comprehensive case management and behavioral health support from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) Operation My Home Town, she is now reunited with her family, working a full-time job with benefits, and spreading joy wherever she goes.
“I love to cook. I love to have family gatherings. I am a social butterfly. I am a caregiver by nature. I am just a happy person,” said Kim.
Public Health is Public Safety
Public health is public safety for the ACSO Youth and Family Services Bureau (YFSB). Operation My Home Town (OMHT), launched in 2011, is YFSB’s proven alternative to the cycle of incarceration, reentry, re-arrest, and re-incarceration.
When Kim was released from Santa Rita, she moved into YFSB’s Parents and Children Together (PACT) residential facility, a partnership with the Oakland Housing Authority, to provide formerly incarcerated parents a home and support system to reunite with their children. Kim’s case manager told her about a paid internship at Dig Deep Farms, and although Kim just had carpal tunnel surgery, she wanted to give it a try.
“I was so determined to turn my life around. I didn't care what I needed to do to take a step forward, just to have an honest income,” said Kim. “I ended up working at the farm for six weeks. I was the first intern to graduate from the pilot program, and it was a success.”
“Now, I am the kitchen manager at the Food Hub,” she said. “I am learning so much every day. From where I've been to where I'm at now, even I see the total transformation. If people really want to know if this can work, I literally have been here through the whole process.”
OHMT’s Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) clinical case managers work with formerly incarcerated people to create reentry plans and provide post-release follow-up case management services, including connections to jobs, behavioral health care services, case management, parent education, crisis intervention, juvenile probation and diversion counseling, and counseling to adult re-entering parolees and probationers.
By ensuring people have what they need when they return to the community and that their families care as well, recidivism is reduced, health needs are met, and individuals are able to integrate into communities that were often walled off from them by unmet needs. If the criminal justice system is, ultimately, about justice, then creating a safe community means creating access to essential social safety net resources.
Kim said that her case manager supported her “in every way possible.”
“Not only was she my case manager, but she was also my therapist,” said Kim. “She supported me in any decision making that I needed to do to better myself, whether I needed transportation, if I needed somebody to be an advocate for me, or just anything that I needed help with—she was there to help me to the best of her ability. That woman is an angel.”
Something to Belong to
ACSO’s approach to public safety, called Community Capitals Policing, is rooted in collective efficacy—the belief that a community is safer when people look out for one another. Community Capitals Policing creates pathways for people to succeed—building their self-esteem—and provides positive activities for people of all ages, which results in a stronger, more cohesive community.
“In low-income communities, there's a sense of people feeling left out and not good enough because of where they are,” said Kim. “So if you had something positive—if there was something else that you are able to do, and it makes you feel good, then you are going to want to do more.”
“I feel like what the Sheriff and DSAL are doing—with boxing classes, dance classes, Eden Night Live, Dig Deep Farms—I feel we need more of that, because there's very little for the community to be a part of that's positive,” she said.
“What I love most about my job is knowing that I'm going to make a difference in somebody else's life, because I have been on the other side. I know how it feels to go hungry. I know how it feels to want something so bad, and you just don't have the access or the resources to get it at that moment. And I know how it feels to look at your children, and you're not able to provide something healthy for them.”
“Knowing that I am getting up to go to work every day, learning about all these healthy, beautiful vegetables and fruits that I didn't really know anything about, and knowing that I am putting food into another's child's mouth? That's my day. I did it. I helped somebody.”
Dig Deep Farms Re-Entry Internship Video
People working at Dig Deep Farms talk about what it means to have the re-entry internship program as an opportunity in their lives. Kim is featured at the 1:55 mark!
DSAL is Hiring! Great pay, great benefits, and great people! Come join us!
Are you looking for work?
Would you like to be part of a team that is making positive changes in the community?
If so, visit DSAL’s jobs page for information about several job openings, including:
All jobs include benefits!
Thank You to Our Funders!
DSAL’s transformative work in the community would not be possible without the generous support of all our funders; and we are especially grateful to the following organizations for their recent support:
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors, for supporting ALL IN EATS, the Alameda County Circular Food Economy, and the expansion of Dig Deep Farms at the Ardenwood Historic Farm and at Masonic Homes in Union City;
The Hellman Foundation, for providing supplemental funds to allow DSAL to provide critical services to address the community’s needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
The Alameda County Social Services Agency and the Alameda County Probation Department for providing support for funding jobs for justice-involved people to gain experience and job training at Dig Deep Farms and the Dig Deep Farms Food Hub; and
WelllPath and Aramark, for providing critical matching funds to ensure the construction of the new Futsal Park at the Hayward Adult School.
And of course, none of our work would be possible without funding and leadership of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for supporting Community Capitals Policing at all levels.