Petaluma Bounty seeks to raise awareness to the reality of Food Insecurity

Petaluma Bounty Community Farm is working to raise awareness of Food Insecurity while working to end hunger for families. Photo courtesy of Petaluma Bounty, Petaluma, CA

Since 2007 the vacant lot on Shasta Avenue in Petaluma, CA that was an empty field, became The Bounty Community Farm thanks to the generosity of Gottfried Stonitsch and his family. For the past 13 years this community farm not far from the Petaluma River has yielded more than food. It has helped to rebuild and sustain a community by reaching out to families in need.

But now as the “Secure In Place” ordinance due to the Coronavirus has been extended into summer, Petaluma Bounty, Petaluma People Services and others want to get the word out that Food Insecurity is increasing.

May 1 initiated the start of CalFresh Awareness Month. CalFresh is the Federal food assistance program for families in need. Each year the CalFresh Awareness Month presents an opportunity for Petaluma Bounty to reach thousands of people in Sonoma County.

Yet with millions furloughed from work and with out income, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the need has increased significantly.

“In California, ​55,624 people applied for CalFresh​ in just the third week of March, said Petaluma Bounty’s director Suzi Grady, which is an ​increase of more than 59 percent from the same time period last year.”

This increase will no doubt grow as the “Secure In Place” ordinance continues.

“On a local Sonoma County level, there were nearly​ 2,000 new CalFresh applications​ in March 2020, noted Grady which is a 90 percent increase from March 2019. ​These numbers are unprecedented, she added. They indicate the dire need many families are facing during these increasingly insecure times. However, they also point toward an opportunity for informed outreach efforts about the nuts and bolts of CalFresh, how you get it, where you can use it (like at farmers’ markets), and what it is,” said Grady.

For a county like Sonoma which has a rich agricultural tradition, the ability to bring fresh produce directly to the people is feasible. Perhaps more so than in some large densely packed urban areas. This is where the help of a farmers’ market is vital.

To emphasize and further share the many benefits of CalFresh on a local level, “we’re raising the Market Match amount at all FM LIFE farmers’ markets to $20 for the month of May,” said Grady.

Petaluma Bounty a community farm works to help families in need. Photo courtesy of Petaluma Bounty, Petaluma, CA

“In other words, if you spend $20 of your CalFresh EBT at the farmers’ market, you’ll receive an extra $20 for a total of $40 to spend on local produce, said Grady which effectively supports small farmers and increases economic access to nutrient-dense foods.”

Grady noted a program like CalFresh is there to help those in need.

“Applying for CalFresh is not as difficult as many people think, she said. For people who have regular access to the internet, they can apply online, at the CalFresh web site via the California Dept. of Social Services.

A part of the Petaluma People Services Center, Petaluma Bounty is improving the quality of food offered by emergency food distributors. Petaluma Bounty is also working in partnership with many other local, county and state programs and agencies to assist in this unprecedented pandemic crisis situation.

For those who do not have Internet access, service providers such as Redwood Empire Food Bank, the local Sonoma County Human Services Department among others can help by phone. Petaluma People Services and Petaluma Bounty is also just a phone call away for those who need help. To learn more visit Petaluma Bounty web site. Or call, 707-775-3663.