Find the Executive Summary below; download the full 19-page document at EFR Report Final 2018-8-14.

Prepared by: Phina Borgeson, Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative; Mimi Enright, UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County; Suzi Grady, Petaluma Bounty; Melita Love, Farm to Pantry; Julia Van Soelen Kim, UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County

Executive Summary

As the October fires cooled, members of the Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition and the Sonoma County Food System Alliance saw the need to analyze how the emergency food response unfolded during the disaster. To improve efforts during future disasters and to minimize the number of community members who transition from short-term emergency food assistance to long term chronic food insecurity, they invited persons involved in the recent emergency food response to a gathering on February 8, 2018.

After careful mining of the information garnered through intensive conversations among more than 30 people from all aspects of the emergency food response, here are our recommendations for next steps.

  • Survey participants represented at the gathering and stakeholders not represented to get more information and seek greater clarity on their needs. While the convening did include representatives from most sectors (farmers, food distributors, chefs and cooks, volunteer organizers, communicators/networkers, and civic leaders) many others who are food security leaders and were involved with the emergency response were not present. Our data reveals the need for more details and a more thorough survey that includes the question, “What did you need during the disaster [information, resources, contacts, knowledge] that you didn’t have?”
  • Identify a county-wide coordinator for emergency food response. Lack of coordination of food, related resources, and volunteers, as well as slow and ineffective communication at the County level, were repeatedly identified by participants as opportunities for improvement; also, the communication/coordination between in-county and out-of-county relief efforts needs to be improved.
    • Connect food security representatives with the Care and Shelter Coordinator for the Sonoma County Emergency Operations Center, and include emergency food response in the shelter drill on Sept. 6, 2018.
  • Develop an emergency food response assessment with a strategic plan that: ○ Identifies and expands capacity of existing governmental, nonprofit, and faith-based organizations to respond in times of disaster. Scenarios for what could happen in future emergencies provide a way of testing the capacity and 2 integration of disaster plans at a variety of levels.
    • Builds on existing community and neighborhood food security networks and relationships. There was a “spontaneous outpouring” of food and food-related help which is to be celebrated and integrated in disaster planning and built upon to reduce general food insecurity.
    • Leverages the strengths of our local farm and food-based businesses and helps to ensure their future sustainability. There was great generosity, but not without an impact on the economic sustainability of small scale farms and businesses. Taking steps such as establishing systems to track emergency food donations and to compensate farms and businesses appropriately would help ensure longer term health.
    • Bridges the noted gap between larger centralized operations and smaller scale, grassroots, or new/spontaneously organized grassroots emergency food efforts. While greater coordination is needed, participants also noted that there is benefit in seizing opportunities to help, even when it occasionally means “going rogue.” The challenge to emergency food response planners is balancing centralized efficiency with grassroots speed and effectiveness.
    • Creates an emergency communication plan/platform that is endorsed and sustained by the County Office of Emergency as well as community efforts. Two related themes emphasized in our data were coordination and communication. Prompt communication with all County residents is needed.
    • Provides a directory or inventory of existing emergency food response resources. Mapping and networking resources for safe storage and preparation of food such as cold storage, generators, commercial kitchens, transportation, etc. will also help identify where more are needed.
    • Prevents more people from slipping into long-term food insecurity. The fires disaster raised new awareness in some quarters about pre-disaster food insecurity. More data is needed on what has happened since October.
    • Identifies methods to strengthen the overall resiliency of our local food system. It is a shared responsibility to keep in mind the big picture and to promote goals which build on the best of Sonoma County’s agricultural heritage and neighborly culture.

The organizers of the Emergency Food Response Gathering hope that this report will be useful to the Sonoma County Office of Recovery and Resiliency, the Board of Supervisors, and other Sonoma County leaders, as well as emergency food providers, local food system and food security advocates, and their networks. Comprehensive data from the gathering is located at: and a list of questions for further investigation:

Download the full 19-page document at EFR Report Final 2018-8-14.

3 thoughts on “Sonoma County Emergency Food Response Gathering – Summary of Findings and Recommendations, August 2018

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