The other day, I was asked to share with a new partner how Petaluma Bounty supports and helps improve emergency food outlets. First, let me back up and describe what I mean by emergency food outlets. That is a catchall term I use to describe any group that provides groceries (shelf stable to produce) or prepared meals to people in our community.
The Redwood Empire Food Bank does the heavy lifting for Southern Sonoma County as well as a good portion of Northern California; the breadth of their work is astounding! They also rely upon local partners to provide distribution sites, volunteers, and outreach capacity/relationships to food insecure community members. Petaluma Bounty mostly interfaces with the local partners of the Redwood Empire Food Bank and works hard to improve services for all local stakeholder, including farmers.
For several years, COTS played the role of the local distribution hub, with refrigeration, storage, and a commercial kitchen to produce high quality meals. Recently, they have had to streamline programming so that they offer food to their clients and have had to cut back on providing food to those in our community that are housed and still food insecure. Now that new partners are coming online to fill in the gaps of service, Petaluma Bounty has been asked to share how we interface with local pantries and what support they can expect from us.
Petaluma Bounty is a hub of activity related to community food security. Not a food bank or pantry, Bounty is a small group of community organizers, facilitators and farmers that, over the past ten years, has played a large role in shifting the local conversation from just hunger relief to addressing underlying systemic problems for long term and lasting change toward hunger prevention.
Our work goes beyond conversation to measurable and lasting impacts including: expanded economic opportunities for local farms; improving the quality of food pantry offerings; food waste and greenhouse gas emissions prevention; food miles saved; inspired school and youth visits to our farm; improved attitudes toward healthy food and lifestyles; increased knowledge of sustainable farming techniques, self-sufficiency skills, and the importance of food security for all; advocacy and organizational culture shifts for direct service providers; policy and advocacy for local and state laws; successful job-training and leadership development of at-risk youth; and increased number of CalFresh customers served at local farmers’ markets.
Specific to the emergency food distribution system, some of the services described below grow or shrink depending on community need as well as volunteer and funding capacity. But generally speaking, Petaluma Bounty provides the following for emergency food service providers:
-Raise awareness of food insecurity in Southern Sonoma County and inform all community members what they can do about it.
-Publish and distribute the Food Resource Guide to our network of service providers and low-income community members.
-Donate extra produce from the Bounty Farm.
-Maintain a group of volunteer drivers that make regular donations from farmers’ markets and a few local farms.
-Harvest produce in community (gardens, orchards, farms) through Bounty Hunters gleaning program and donate.
-Educate gardeners and farmers about where to donate extra produce and safe handling techniques through flyer distribution and gleaning trainings.
-Support pantries and emergency food distribution sites by sharing updates on documentation requirements, regulations, etc.
-Advocate for pantries and emergency food distribution sites when necessary at local, county, and state level.
-Working to become a trusted community partner to low-income community members and solicit input about food choices, improvement of services, emerging and changing needs.
-Ability to coordinate and facilitate emergency food provider meetings.
-Offer to share bulk purchase discounts and leverage capacity in volunteer recruitment, coordination, etc.
Thoughts, questions, ideas? Let us know!