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Sonoma Valley’s Comida Para Todos marks its one-year anniversary

Sonoma Valley’s Comida Para Todos marks its one-year anniversary

By Shannon Lee

As everything went into lockdown in mid-March 2020, a community of ordinary people arose to help their friends, neighbors, and families. When it became clear that many households would be unable to access the valley’s food bank network because they don’t allow walk-ups, and many people in need don’t have access to a car, a small group decided to deliver, and Valle de La Luna’s Comida Para Todos or Food for All was born. Folks in need themselves have found ways to help fill the needs of others.

The grassroots nature of this program is reflected best in the words of the volunteers who have been there since the beginning. “We saw that our community was in need. I am a volunteer because I like to help my community,” said Geronima Bataz. “It was 100% volunteer- and community-based from the beginning,” added Mario Castillo. “Es un placer ser voluntaria de comida para todos ya que es una forma de regresar ami comunidad parte de lo que yo tambien he recibido de ella,” said Ana Patricia Ríos [Translation: “It is a pleasure to volunteer for Food for All, since it is a way of returning to my community part of what I have already received.”] Though the COVID pandemic did not create the problems, it laid bare many issues that already existed: the inequities of access, of support, and of priority. Food insecurity, financial instability, chronic healthcare disparities, the ways that job sectors cut along racial lines — all of these have been exposed at their core due to COVID. Comida Para Todos (CPT) started as a small effort to address food insecurity for a modest number of households. In the year since its inception, the effort has grown into several distinct programs that have touched more than 4,000 valley individuals with approximately 50 volunteers. CPT is now aligned financially Comida – from page 1

with the North Bay Organizing Project and is deeply connected to over 25 community partners.

Community leader Maite Iturri describes the origins of CPT in this way: “This work is from the ground up, by the people, for the people. The need for food access was identified by community members and solved by the community with their own creativity and resources … The most vulnerable were left without resources and the mutual aid of neighborto- neighbor is keeping people fed and hopeful. The leadership in our communities of color is amazing and it should be highly valued and appreciated in our valley.”

The first of CPT’s programs was the Redwood Food Bank (RFB) delivery. Each week RFB offers drive-throughonly distributions at various spots around the county. CPT provides home delivery services for families that are unable to make it to those distribution sites. Over 2,000 such deliveries have been made in the past year.

The next program to evolve was the essential delivery. “The idea is that we want to make sure that we’re providing the essentials you would need — that means cleaning items products and food,” explains volunteer Cameron Iturri Carpenter. Every other week, 110–120 families in need are identified via a survey and rotating lottery system. Volunteers gather the items and sort them into household bags that are lined up into driver lanes. Then, a team of drivers comes through to pick up their designated deliveries (about five households per driver), plus a set of essentials for themselves, and delivery instructions with reminders about COVID-safe

porch drop-off procedures. “Through the generosity of free printing from Staples, we are able to also provide up-to-date information on COVID and food resources with each delivery,” offered volunteer Katie Christ.

This biweekly process is now a well-oiled machine, with excellent organization and communications, and incredible behind-the-scenes logistics management. Over the course of this past year, 2,500 deliveries have been made to over 900 unique families. More than 450 individuals are served from each distribution. “It’s our obligation here on earth to make sure that all of our community is able to eat … [Diapers, menstrual kits, and food are] things that people have a right to have. This is justice work,” explains volunteer Celeste Winders. In late summer, an additional element was added to the essential deliveries: local seasonal produce. Community gleaners (such as Katie Christ), school garden supporters (such as Bob Gossett), and local farmers began to coalesce around the idea of gathering valley produce and getting it to these same families. The idea was brought to Dolinsky, Executive Director of the Sonoma Springs Community Hall. Seth quickly embraced the notion and stated that the hall has long acknowledged “the important role farmers and food producers play in our society.” Since August, this wing of the effort has distributed over 10,000 pounds of local produce. Donations have come from Paul’s Produce, Oak Hill Farms, Cannard Family Farm, Moon Hollow Ranch, and Two Moon Family Farm, as well as school gardens and backyard growers.

Grassroots from the start, CPT has its ear to the ground, is nimble, and can pivot in response as needed. When cases rose exponentially in the valley, another program developed, the COVID Stay at Home delivery. These deliveries are specific to items that would be of greatest use when quarantining and ill, and go out as needed. Approximately 150 families have received this box.

Now entering its second year, CPT is going strong and not at all likely to vanish as the pandemic wanes. These volunteers will continue finding and filling the need. If you’d like to support their efforts, please consider making a donation to Comida Para Todos via the North Bay Organizing Project at www.northbayop.org. You can also follow Comida Para Todos on Facebook.

“Es un placer ser voluntaria de comida para todos ya que es una forma de regresar ami comunidad parte de lo que yo tambien he recibido de ella,” said Ana Patricia Ríos [Translation: “It is a pleasure to volunteer for Food for All, since it is a way of returning to my community part of what I have already received.”]

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