Emergency Food Response Coalition 2020 Event

Goal: Bring together emergency food providers and food system leaders for a dialogue around building capacity, identifying efficiencies, and developing innovative strategies to respond to COVID-19 and support each other during these dynamic times.

Objective: Document resources and generate new ideas to reinforce existing efforts and support emerging models by:

  1. Identifying improved efficiencies of resources across organizations:
    • Volunteer recruitment and training
    • Food sourcing and distribution
    • Online platforms for communications, data tracking, and food sales
  2. Identifying barriers and update assumptions to effective operations
  3. Creating new models of distribution to support community members to maintain self-sufficiency during these changing times to reduce impact on emergency food providers.

Common Threads: Scale, geography, target population/consumer demographics, barriers to service (language, trust, representation), social equity, and local food systems. How does this disaster relate to previous disasters and to future ones?

Executive Summary: This event occurred as a result of several months’ planning for an entirely different event. It was the intention of this coalition to organize an assembly of county wide food systems participants to further discuss the Kincade fire and record the conditions and responses in comparison to the 2017 fire storms. 2/10/2020 Conference call with Michelle Romero, Red Cross coordinator for emergency food response was held to continue to develop the agenda. On March 9 the planning committee began discussing the potential for a “Plan B” event as news of Corona virus COVID-19 began to cancel group events. A survey was developed to be more targeted in data gathering for this session and front load as much data gathering in advance of the event (for both attendees and folks who can’t make it to the event). Meeting invite included a link to the survey. After the coalition meeting of March 9 the survey was emailed with invitation to our mailing list and achieved several responses. On March 13 it was becoming increasingly clear we were not holding a physical event and the coalition discussed creating a web-based conference call. An added value provided was around coordination and facilitation, developing a good roll call list, building info facts sheets, resource guides.


WEBINAR: Connecting Across the Food System for

COVID-19 Emergency Food Response

March 23, 2020  9:00 am – 12:00 pm

SECTION # 1: Sonoma County

  • County of Sonoma Emergency Operations Center – John Kessel
  • Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) – Holly Harris

SECTION # 2: Emergency Food Access

  • Catholic Charities – Juan Torres
  • Sonoma Family Meals – Heather Irwin
  • CERES – Cathryn Couch
  • Petaluma People Services Center – Elece Hempel

SECTION # 3: Local Food Distribution

  • Farm Bureau – Tawny Tesconi
  • FEED Sonoma – Tim Page
  • Farmers Market LIFE & Petaluma Bounty – Suzi Grady
  • Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) – Evan Wiig
  • Farm Trails – Carmen Snyder
  • Farm to Pantry – Melita Love


Thinking about our panelists in the first sections, where do we see gaps…

  • Demographically, reflecting back on the consumer demographics John shared?
  • Geography?
  • Barriers to service
    • Prior to this event (language, trust, representation, transportation to food, ability to pay)
    • Specific to this event
      • Reduction of workforce (paid and volunteer) and impact on capacity
      • Increased demand for home delivery of meals and groceries (for retail and subsidized/free food)
      • Potential disruptions of supply chain
    • New models: CSAs, curbside, multi-farm boxes, wholesale sales to emergency food providers, expanding EBT access


  • Resources
  • Next steps
  • Evaluation

Section 1: County Wide Context

Julia Van Soelen Kim| UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County| Food Systems Advisor

Contact: jvansoelen@ucanr.edu

  • The local food system is often an invisible food system, yet it is a critical piece of the local economy, especially in an emergency. Due to COVID-19, Sonoma County is seeing effects in both the local & global food supply chain. Even in local grocery stores, shelves of products that would normally be full are empty (dry beans are all purchased and toilet paper is out of stock)
  • Consumer & food habits are changing rapidly. Additionally, people’s access to food is also changing rapidly as well. People are cooking a lot more at home and availability to certain products like beans, rice, yeast, etc. are diminishing. Due to the diminishing supply on the local level this has also had effects on the food system. The setup and clientele of Farmers Markets has changed in response to this new demand and also this health emergency.
  • Farmers Markets are also adopting new protocols adhering to social distancing practices to safely serve their clientele. Inventory is not displayed out, but behind the booth. All booths are 6 feet or more apart. Customers place orders. One employee is the cashier and the other is the bagger. Those who are providing emergency food response are also likely making similar changes to their operations including curbside pickup or delivery.


John Kessel | County of Sonoma Office of Recovery and Resiliency

Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Ops Food

Contact: john.kessel@sonoma-county.org

  • Timeline of Coronavirus in Sonoma County: COVID-19 first detected in China December 2019. March 2, 2019 Sonoma County Health Officer declared a local health emergency.  Emergency Services also declared a local health emergency and both were ratified on March 4 by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors (BOS). March 17, Health Officer issued a Shelter in Place Order and on March 19 Governor Newsom issued a Stay at Home order. Both orders appear to be the same.
  • # of cases of COVID-19 in Sonoma County change rapidly. The EOC is tracking information on local cases of COVID-19 their resource page: https://socoemergency.org/
  • County Task Forces are joint operations that pool everyone together in emergencies that can coordinate resources & response on a particular topic that may be multi-jurisdictional or multispecialty. e.g. Homeless Task Force that organizes shelter + provisions for the homeless population. The Food Task Force: The EOC covers the entire county, including unincorporated communities + local jurisdictions, including the cities, school districts, tribal partners, transportation partners, and other agencies. Unlike other natural disasters, pandemics can last for months and they can have different waves of infection so response and recovery can blend together. There is no set date for response to end and recovery to begin and therefore emergency food response needs require a long-term plan unlike a fire where you might feed people for a few days. This also allows for response to be extended over time if necessary.
  • Sonoma County & COAD partners coordinate food responses by identifying different food scarcity populations that need to be served, community food providers that provide service, how to respond to unmet resource needs, and how to fund/staff scaled up organizations and coordinating entities.
  • County Response is a “top down effort”, but recognizes the community’s grassroots “bottom up” model. To address this, the County & COAD are focusing on expanding/scaling up capacity of the existing infrastructure rather than creating new systems.
  • Identifying Demographics:  allows EOC Food Task Force to develop a system to address all needs in the community that may require different systems. Umbrella approach system of response so no one is left out- coordination with grocery stores/restaurants, the Sonoma County Office of Education/School Districts, Redwood Food Bank, Aging and Adult Services who work with senior population, Food providers: SR Catholic Charities, Petaluma Bounty, Council on Aging, Ceres Community Project.
  • Group 1: General Public that are able to secure food on their own. May include seniors, youth, anyone in any context who may only have issues locating or procedurally how they purchase food. Group 2: General Public not able to secure their own food due to lack of resources such as money (low income), transportation, location. This group can include seniors or anyone. This population will likely grow over time as we saw during the Fires and PSPS. E.g. Day laborers, those who are still working but reduced hours at a cash basis job or become unemployed. Group 3: IHSS Support Services Group- those with functional challenges such as disabled people. Group 4: Ages 0-18 who receive meals 2 times a day from the school system. Infant care can also be included in this demographic, such those receiving WIC programs. This group cannot be included in the general public as they have one meal at home for dinner, but don’t have capacity for other meals.


Holly Harris | Community Organizations Active in a Disaster (COAD) | Administrator and Liaison to EOC

Contact: hharris@capsonoma.org

  • COAD is a group of local agencies providing service during disasters: schools, faith-based organizations, government agencies, private businesses, rotary members, etc. COAD acts as a hub of information, service coordination, and direct line of communication with EOC about needs and resources to/from the County & COAD members. Level 1 members: agencies provide service, Level 2 members: those who can provide support or need to be kept in loop through emails about resources and future training.
  • COAD is organized into different functional groups: Packaged/ Prepared Meals; 2. Functional/ Medical Needs; 3. Government Support (Policy & Funding); 4. Retail Food Groups: a. Chamber of Commerce, b. Economic Development; 5. Overarching: a. Environmental Health
  • COAD helps members develop Continuity Of Operations Plan (COOP). They also notify the group & county if there are disruptions to the COOP for example some organizations have volunteers that are at high risk for COVID-19 and are not able to perform at the same capacity. COAD communicates this to the group and county who put out a call for volunteers and/or other types of support.


Resources Shared by Christine Sosko| Sonoma County Environmental Health Services

Contact: EHS at (707) 565-6565 or Christine Sosko at (707) 565-6521 | csosko@sonoma-county.org


Suzi Grady| Petaluma Bounty/Petaluma People Services Center| Farmer and Food System Advocate

Contact: suzi@petalumabounty.org

  • Groups recognized in the EOC planning overview: Those that maintain self-sufficiently throughout the crisis; 2. Older adults: a. Self-isolating but otherwise independent (can afford groceries, able to cook, need curbside service, special hours, take out), b. Need economic assistance for groceries, c. Need meals delivered; 3. Access & Functional Needs: a. Over 60, b. Under 60 do not qualify for MOW 4. School-Aged Children: 18 and younger served with Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or Summer Food Service Program (SFSP); 5. Infants; 6. Low-income: a. Receiving services already in the safety net, b. Self-sufficient with low reserves; 7. Unhoused, 8. Medically-challenged/sick: a. Those already experiencing health challenges prior to COVID19, b. Those temporarily sickened/ incapacitated due to illness.
  • Disruptions to the Food System on both the global & local scale have also affected farmers and producers especially their outlets.
  • Visual of Food System: Food Production Chains do not include emergency food providers or direct to consumer Farms.
  • Each emergency food provider & consumers rely on different supply chains. This has larger impacts on consumer interface with the food system and emergency food system supply chains.
  • Consumer interface with the Food System: Grocery store: a. Large corporate owned, b. Locally owned, c. Corner stores; 2. Prepared food: a. Restaurants, b. Deli’s, c. Cafeterias, d. Catering, f. Food trucks; 3. Farmer Direct: a. CSA’s, b. Farmers’ Markets, c. Farm stands; 4. Emergency Food Providers: a. Free or discounted groceries, b. Prepared meals; 5. Home Grown
  • Consumer interface with the Emergency Food System: Grocery stores: a. CalFresh/EBT, b. WIC; 2. Prepared food; 3. Farmer Direct: a. CalFresh/EBT, b. WIC, c. Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Vouchers, d. Nutrition Incentives; 4. Emergency Food Providers: a. REFB + partner pantries for groceries, b. Free and Reduced Meals/ Summer Meals Program, c. Senior Congregate Dining Sites, d. Meals on Wheels- COA + PPSC, e. Discounted groceries at REFB Value Market, Petaluma Bounty sliding scale farmstand and CSA.
  • How to support Emergency Food Providers? We must focus on helping the public remain self-sufficient so that Emergency Food Providers and their supply chains do not become overwhelmed. This approach must also focus on maintaining supply chains that are struggling financially by supporting local farmers, food system workers, and consumers so that the emergency food supply change can remain intact.


Section 2: Emergency Food Access


Juan Torres| Catholic Charities Diocese of Santa Rosa, Assistant Director of Community Connections

  • Core services: Food Distributions to low income individuals that include vulnerable populations like senior citizens, young families/immigrants in Sonoma, Lake, Napa, & Mendocino County. Operations focused on several sites in Sonoma & Lake County that are adapting to changing needs.
  • Food comes from their main partners the Foodbank, but also supplements with food from other partners like Farm to Pantry and Singing Frog Farm CSA box program promoting Cal Fresh & CSA flex program
  • CC nutrition education through the Cal Fresh Healthy Living Program to go virtual.
  • CC responded to past disasters with Disaster Cal Fresh funding to keep the local food system going and currently waiting for more information about COVID-19 response funding.
  • Enrollment benefit enrollment along with Cal Fresh will increase due to crisis.
  • New Services- Due changing population food insecure individuals (particularly seniors, individuals with disabilities, individuals are homebound, mentally unwell individuals) CC is adapting with staff coordination of home deliveries.
  • An issue with CC is that most programs are volunteer based and most volunteers are 65 years old (high risk). To deal with this they are recruiting new volunteers, but also taking time to train them so that they are safe.


Heather Irwin | Sonoma Family Meal, Executive Director | heather@heatherirwin.com

  • Sonoma Family Meal is a Prepared Food Provider and small non-profit. They are disaster focused organizations working with chefs & restaurants to prepare safe food for the “in-need” populations in commercial kitchens according to local and federal standards.
  • During the fires, they operated their commercial kitchen in Petaluma with hundreds of volunteers, food supplied by local farms/producers. No large public feedings like the fire for COVID-19.
  • In response to COVID-19, Sonoma Family Meal made the decision not to operate large commercial kitchens. Instead they are working with local restaurants and providing 200 meals a day to nonprofits that can best get food to people who need it. These restaurants also adhere to social distancing and have reduced “skeleton” staff.
  • Nonprofit Partners: Single Thread, Mateos Cocina Latina, Gerard’s Paella and more coming online.
  • Some restaurants, such as Single Thread have reached out to patrons to contribute to a donor fund for paying their staff and keeping the restaurant going through this crisis and also to purchase products from local farmers/producers. These prepared meals go out to the Council on Aging, Corazon, Graton Day Labor, Community Action Partnership, several women’s Shelters, & Petaluma Bounty.  This model allows restaurants to avoid bankruptcy. Restaurants work with skeleton crew, food is safely prepared, and restaurants are paid for this work.
  • They have purchased $10,000 gift cards at Lola’s market and are working with Corazon and other partners to distribute. Working with Feed Sonoma to deliver to Council on Aging.
  • Small nonprofits need grants or additional funding to continue to pay for services to support these local businesses. In order to pay local, Sonoma Family Meal cannot ask for donations from these farmers/producers as they are also affected by this crisis. Sonoma Family Meal did not qualify for $800,000 from the Community Foundation. Instead they are asking for grant funding and encourage people to donate directly to restaurants.


Kathyrn Couch | Ceres Community Project, CEO

  • Ceres primarily serves patients in Sonoma & Marin County with acute health challenges who lack family support to prepare meals.
  • Families are provided 7 – 21 medically tailored meals/week for everyone in the family.
  • Ceres is changing the eligibility for this service to include those who are at higher risk (cancer survivors, those with respiratory illnesses) for contracting the virus and complications/mortality.
  • Research supports that when medically fragile and chronically ill are provided medically tailored meals these groups are much less likely to need to visit the ED or hospital. In response to COVID-19 it is essential to keep space hospitals available for those patients.
  • As part of a Food Needs Assessment for all of their clients to identify insecure patients and increase food support with either additional meals or meals + groceries hopefully by 3/30.
  • Ceres is working with IHSS to support most medically fragile patients who have lost their caregivers or don’t have close family support to provide 21 meals a week.
  • Also working with PEP Housing to support patients who are diagnosed with COVID or may have been exposed with 21 meals a week. PEP housing has 500 clients in Sonoma County.
  • Ceres currently serves 2,000 meals a week and works to scale up services for IHSS and other medically fragile populations.
  • Ceres has lost 75% of volunteers, many of their volunteers are over 65 and are not volunteering. Ceres has hired 4 additional chefs and is pivoting to a model of smaller, but more skilled staff so that there are no more than 10 people in the kitchen at a given time.
  • Moving toward 2-3 staff on every shift, allowing mostly professional chefs and “varsity” volunteers to work in order to best manage safety and other COVID-19 best practices to reduce risk.
  • Focus on leveraging capacity for most medically fragile, low income community populations with no family support to ensure they get medically tailored nutrition that can protect them and keep them out of the hospital.
  • Locally source most food and currently have no changes to their supply chain.


Elece Hempel | Petaluma People Services Center, Executive Director  | elece@petalumapeople.org

  • PPSC has 60 different programs that serve primarily low-income individuals and families.
  • As Suzie Grady mentioned: they also have a bounty farm that works on access to food and food distribution for low income families.
  • PPSC provides meals 365 days a year even on Saturdays and Sundays. They do not deliver frozen meals, which is critical to seniors.
  • Meals on Wheels: This program is still open & adding additional routes to deliver meals to seniors throughout South County (including residents in Bodega Bay, Cotati, Penngrove). PPSC is working to get the MOW clients enrolled in the You’re Not Alone program for additional support to seniors during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Congregate Dining: The Senior Cafe is closed for sit down dining, but Petaluma seniors can still come by to pick up a meal Mon – Fri between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm. We are still signing up new participants for congregate meals. Call (707) 765-8488 to RSVP for meals. Previously this congregate dining also provided a social connection to seniors, this model has shifted to a daily phone call from a background checked volunteer – where they speak with seniors and refer any needs to case management or relay the information to a family member.
  • Some seniors are with their families and no longer require meals, but still request a daily call.
  • They are adding two new routes to additional services. PPSC has been contacted by seniors who were low, but not very low income who were able to get by previously, but have need now to have their meals delivered.
  • Currently only paid staff are in the kitchen preparing the meals. Food is delivered by volunteers. Food is packaged in paper bags and everything is wiped down. People must RSVP a day in advance for pick up.
  • I-RIDE program: Have started service to pick groceries and medications for seniors in the community.
  • Care-giver support group: have adopted a video chat method that is a HIPPA compliant zoom.
  • Also continuing with behavior health programs for most vulnerable in our community.


Q & A 1 

Mimi Enright | UCCE Sonoma, Community Food Systems & Master Gardener Coordinator

Contact: menright@ucanr.edu

Overlapping COVID-19 response to the 2020 Census?

  • PPSC “You are not alone program” held a video chat with all the people making the calls training them to teach Seniors how to go online and fill out the census.
  • Catholic Charities also is plugging in Census & Disaster Preparedness where they can. Staff are making calls to remind people to keep their CalFresh benefit and also reminding people to respond to the census.
  • Census2020 Information : https://2020census.gov/en.html
  • Census Resources : https://2020census.gov/en/partners/outreach-materials.html


Resources for Restaurant Employees

  • Heather Irwin | Sonoma Family Meal: Developing a fund for restaurant employees and is looking for someone to host the fund, current strategy is a model that allows restaurants to help themselves by keeping as many staff employed by paying them for their services. She reached out to the community foundation and others, but they were not able to host the fund. Open to suggestions.
  • Resource shared in the chat: https://rocunited.org/relief/
  • Guy Fieri is helping restaurants survive during the coronavirus pandemic and has launched a relief fund for laid-off restaurant workers (receive $500): https://rerf.us/


Resources for the unsheltered and very low income

  • Reach for Home| Lori:  Reaching out to restaurants and other food providers to provide food to deliver daily at this point to encampments in the 3 cities in Northern Sonoma county:  Windsor, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.
  • The unsheltered do not have access to kitchens to prepare food. Costeaux Bakery provided breakfast and lunch that was delivered to those in need for the last few days.
  • Redwood Food Bank is feeling the effects of COVID-19 as food is getting sparse because of higher need. Currently looking for other sources for the unsheltered population.
  • Also have an apartment complex of formerly homeless individuals that RFH is also providing service to. Working to provide food service to:  some individuals are on SSI and others have been employed and are not now- as their jobs were non-essential.


Section 3: Local Food Distribution


State of Emergency Food Access System (Julia Van Soelen Kim & Suzi Grady)

  • Adjustment in service delivery models to ensure social distancing protocols (PPSC, Ceres).
  • Some reduction in services due to decrease in volunteers, change in client needs (delivery instead of dine-in), or inability to ensure a safe environment. Some organizations are working to scale up their services.
  • Some agencies are focusing their models to respond to specific consumer demographics (Ceres).
  • Focus on preventing hospitalization, preventing people from needing more services longer term.


Tawny Tesconi | Sonoma County Farm Bureau|  Tawny@SonomaFB.org

  • The Federation of Farm Bureau has 6 million members across the United states. In Sonoma County the Farm Bureau (SCFB) has 1,800 members. Members include various industries and commodities such as production and processing companies, and also agricultural credit companies (American Ag Credit).
  • Press Release from California Farm Bureau Grocers that stated there is a good food supply that has been trying to catch up to the hoarding incidents.
  • There are concerns among food processing employees that they feel uncomfortable coming to work despite the good employee protection programs that are in place. This will impact production as employees stop reporting to work for production lines.


Tim Page | co-founder of FEED Sonoma | tim@feedsonoma.com

  • Local Food Hub for Sonoma County Region. Founded in 2011, supports small farmers high standard growing practices to get food to wholesale customers.
  • Soon to be California’s 1st farmer- & employee-owned fresh produce cooperative. Can Order Feed Bin at: https://shop.feedsonoma.com/
  • Working with wholesale buyers including restaurants, markets, and caterers.
  • Working small with farms that are affected differently. Some farms are having the highest sales at farm markets ever and other farms who have planted primarily working with restaurants and don’t have products that the public is generally used to.
  • Launching the Feed Bin which is a multi farm veggie box program designed to be a massive revenue generator for the farm community and the infrastructure for the food hub.
  • Have made 468 feed bins that are ready now. 200 already sold and 60 are going to the Council on Aging. The goal is to make 2,000 to keep scale production up.
  • This is a unique opportunity for farmers and food supply chain actors across the region who are accustomed to serve restaurants & high-end retail to shift and serve the home consumer and different demographics.


Suzi Grady | Farmers LIFE/Petaluma Bounty/Petaluma People Services Center| Farmer and Food System Advocate |  suzi@petalumabounty.org

  • Serve Farmers’ Markets & farms, low-income consumers, service providers
  • Southern Sonoma County, Farmers’ Markets in Sonoma & Marin
  • Provide Nutrition incentives (Market Match & CalFresh) & technical expertise, aggregate and disseminate information (Food Resource Guide), farm-based community food security and emergency food response, food recovery (Bounty Hunters Gleaning), coordination and facilitation of multi-stakeholder conversations, advocacy for all the above.
  • Changes in service: not waiting until after the disaster to identify how a systems lens will help identify gaps, resources, and outdated assumptions that may cause unnecessary suffering, inefficiencies, or loss. All systems are based on assumptions, for example you would expect your distributor to have full shelves and availability for increased orders can change and it is important for emergency food providers to use adaptive management in dealing with supply chains.


Kelly Smith | Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets, Executive Director

  • Operates 10 farmers Markets in Marin County, 8 in Sonoma County, 3 of those are year-round: Santa Rosa on Saturday & Wednesday at Farmers Lane location, Tuesday Petaluma at the Eastside Community Center has remained open despite the City Shutting Down.
  • Having pivoted to a curbside pick-up model where customers can view a google sheet of what vendors are offering and what pricing is for those products. This google sheet can become an email that is emailed to the organizer to paypal invoice individuals and then the organizer can pay the farmers cash as the products are collected for pickup.
  • Curbside pickup orders: info@ilovefarmersmarkets.org
  • ACEFM (Petaluma, Santa Rosa Vets Building) vendor product list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bp2-iRc1Bmm6a014yHgMm3yJLXRxCWDdHCjg6Vp8-0I/edit#gid=0
  • Interested in creating a delivery program
  • Following social distancing, hand washing/sanitization practices, including with limiting payments in cash


Evan Wiig | Community Alliance with Family Farmers

  • Statewide Nonprofit Organization Serving Family Farmers in Sustainable Agriculture
  • Provide farmers across California with information about food safety, guidelines related to social distancing and farmers markets, to advocacy to keep Farmers Market’s open- as they provide a public service and encourage local governments to enforce regulations to keep farmers markets to be open.
  • Helping farmers adapt to new outlets; restaurants, wholesale accounts, schools are no longer outlets for some farmers. Increased demand for CSAs is skyrocketing.
  • It is hard to determine if these changes will be a permanent shift. Could this also be a temporary emergency relief.
  • CAFF is providing technical assistance and training to farmers with online tools and resources. Working with Farmers Markets to create a streamline process to manage pre-purchase systems.
  • House & Senate voted on COVID-19 stimulus. CAFF advocating for Local Small or Family Farm to be forgotten in this legislation. Aid in the past has gone to the largest producers in America.


Carmen Synder | Sonoma County Farm Trails, Director

  • Farm Trails (FT) helps facilitate direct sales between consumers and farmers. 200 farmers/producer members with the goal of marketing local products and educating the general public about the value and importance in supporting the local food system.
  • COVID-19 Response: FT developed a shelter in place resource portal on the website to help farmers move their food and consumers connect to local available food. This portal allows people to purchase gift cards, CSA sign ups, coordinate local delivery & drop points, make purchases through websites, and restaurants who are offering Take Out.
  • Stay in touch with membership to serve as a vehicle to showcase what products producers  are offering so consumers and producers can connect.
  • Shelter-In-Place main resource page: https://www.farmtrails.org/shelter-in-place-food-resources
  • Map Page: https://www.farmtrails.org/find-sonoma-grown/


Connie Newhall |  Farm to Pantry, Executive Director

  • Farm to Pantry (FTP) distributed to 39 nonprofits low income housing 230 tons of produce gleaned from Farms & backyards
  • Volunteers meet 3 days a week at the Food Pantry then are taken out to preselected farms/backyards to harvest excess produce and then to deliver to low income housing in Healdsburg, nonprofits, and community partners such as Catholic Charities.
  • FTP is still able to glean during this crisis, but without the senior volunteers. Many young volunteers are gleaning excess produce while practicing sanitization and social distancing.
  • FTP is able to deliver this produce to Corazon Healdsburg, Redwood Empire Food Bank, all the places they normally would. However, Becoming Independent is not joining due concerns about COVID-19.
  • Limiting the number of volunteers that can go on the gleans to two staff maximum and up to 8 volunteers so that operations can continue.


Q & A 2

Mimi Enright | UCCE Sonoma, Community Food Systems & Master Gardener Coordinator

Contact: menright@ucanr.edu

What is the purchasing process if you are using EBT Cards at Farmers Market and do you still recieve Market Match?

  • Kelly Smith | Agricultural Community Events Farmers Markets: One customer with this EBT Card. She paid when she collected her items and people can always pay electronically, but they would have to be comfortable giving their pin # from the EBT card. Farmers Markets are honoring EBT, Market Match, and CalFresh
  • Steve Schwartz| Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative has funding to match CalFresh purchases from CSA’s, Farms, and Farmers Markets.
  • Heather Irwin | Sonoma Family Meal: have funding for $6500 from CAFF fundraiser after the Kincaide fire that they are working to put forward for purchases from Feed Sonoma.


Social Distancing at Farmers Markets

  • Leo Chyi | Lynda Hopkins’s Office, 5th District: Lynda’s very supportive of farming and agriculture and understands how important farmers markets can be.  We have heard from some community members concerned about safety and social distancing in farmers markets. Do any of your orgs have specific best practices you could share on handling this?  Are there specific things you need to manage this issue?
  • Suzie Grady: We are working with Farmers Market Managers and Statewide partners to identify best practices that can be incorporated in Farmers Markets. Farmers Markets are similar to parks as they are both places people like to come together and be outside. People have not adjusted to incorporate practices. One need is funding from the county for additional foot pump hand washing stations at farmers markets.


State of the Local Food System

  • Farmers’ Markets will remain open for the foreseeable future (FMs and CSAs are essential businesses recognized by state health declarations).
  • Regional sales to restaurants have plummeted, affecting distributors and mid-size farms. Farms that don’t rely on Farmers Markets and who have greater production and distributors are creating new models to help these products reach consumers at new outlets.
  • Direct to consumer outlets have increased significantly (independent grocers, CSA’s, farmers’ markets). Increasingly the need for online platforms to connect products to customers is critical. Many farmers are not familiar with these online platforms.
  • As local restaurants shift business models or close, workers are being laid off. While most restaurants have shifted into catering and take out, this model has not worked for everyone. As restaurants close, more people will shift from the regular food system to the emergency food system.
  • Production is still fairly low for some farms (fruit vegetable farmers especially) for those who are not in a year-Round system. With a sufficient workforce most production will not come online until May or June (assuming sufficient workforce).
  • Employers are paying more for increased food safety and employee protection plans. For some models the new income from sales may be able to cover that, but for many that is not the case. Some Farmers stopped going to Farmers Markets because they struggled to staff their stalls with person handling produce and the other handling cash.


Changing Needs of the Local System

  • Outlets for displaced product from restaurant closures and funds to pay for product. This will keep workers employed and farms on track for the season. If we have a disruption in our supply or demand that will interfere with farms ability to maintain production because more employees will be laid off.
  • Mechanisms to provide curbside pickup, sales, and possibly delivery for people needing to minimize public contact. How can we help local farms and farmers markets offer this to keep more consumers from needing emergency food services? How do we ensure access for people with limited income, ability, transportation, while not adding more cost for small businesses? This may be an opportunity for nonprofit and for-profit models to support each other.
  • There are higher volumes of product than can be immediately shifted to direct-to-consumer outlets.
  • Small scale farms need to be included in federal support for small businesses.


Discussion Surrounding Demographics of Consumers 

  • Thinking of the Demographics of Consumers (Self-sufficient, Seniors, Disabled, School-Aged Children, Infants, Low-income, Unhoused, Medically Challenged):
  • What assumptions, descriptions, and variables need to be updated?
  • What historical and new barriers to service need to be considered?
  • How can we help more people stay self-sufficient within each demographic?
  • How can we rely upon and aid retail outlets to support each demographic?
  • Are there additional considerations or compensations to be made for front-line food systems workers?
  • Which geographic areas need special considerations?


Gabriella Orantes | North Bay Organizing Project

  • Gabriella works with frontline food system workers and low income consumers who are experiencing both historical and new challenges from this situation.
  • Focus on connecting different communities and interests by building on existing relationships to keep people in conversation with COAD, County, and at convenings like this since organizations don’t always have the bandwidth to participate in meetings like this. Sharing resources and information in different dialog spaces for these organizations is critical.
  • Several organizations that want to join this conversation are Undocu Fund, Corazon Healdsburg (Just Recovery partner).
  • During this crisis people want distribution lists of where to direct people they are interacting with to services and information.
  • Organizations don’t always have the bandwidth to participate in meetings like this and so sharing resources to different dialog spaces for these organizations is critical. Chat spaces that have been developed because of different disasters for Latino Community and leaders + organizations that provide services to the Latino Community throughout the county.
  • Organizations rely on Trusted Messengers in the community that are outside of the larger service providers that are normally involved in these types of meetings like Catholic Charities and Redwood Empire Food Bank. Also, partnerships that happen outside the time of disaster. Plan to share notes and resources with those who could not make it on the call.


Suzi Grady:

  • It is important to acknowledge when services or systems are not working. For example, if a service provider is not providing a service, perhaps we can come together collectively and find resources that may be able to help.
  • A lack of availability of translated materials in a timely manner have also been a challenge



  • This trend of a lack of translation and interpretation of critical information across the agencies on the county level have been recurrent in all disasters faced including the Kincaid Fire & the Public Safety Power Shut Offs.
  • This is where the Trusted Partners at the grassroots level helped to provide information and translation to the community. This demonstrates the need for these relationships outside of disasters with these smaller organizations.
  • It is also important to identify community leaders, as they are one’s people will turn to for information, but also can provide feedback.  Many people in the community go to KBBF, which is a community driven public media station that provides information in both English & Spanish. They provide translation and interpretation for constituents often when information is only available online.


Julia Van Soelen Kim| UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County| Food Systems Advisor

Contact: jvansoelen@ucanr.edu

  • A thread is that these emergencies have been happening for a number of years in a row; consecutive years, where each of our organizations are slowly getting better to respond with linguistic and culturally competent resources, but we still have so much farther to go. What are your barriers to meeting those needs? How can we help people maintain self-sufficiency in each demographic group? And address historic and systematic barriers to service?


Steve Schwartz | Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative

  • During the 2017 Fires, we saw experience of Disaster SNAP also known as D CalFresh which was that undocumented people were able to apply this program. Undocumented people cannot recieve benefits from SNAP or CalFresh.
  • In response to COVID 19 we are expecting Pandemonic SNAP (P SNAP) and may also get D SNAP from the federal government. These programs have been poorly promoted in the past and it is important to do outreach to people in the Latino Community with a language barrier as they are not used to being eligible.


Guadalupe Gallegos | Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative

  • Guadalupe is a great resource for translation/interpretation for food access work.
  • Currently working spanish language resources.


Juan Torres | Catholic Charities

  • Huge need to bilingual staff among the low-income population service providers
  • Catholic Charities first got involved in disaster preparedness response during the 2015 Valley Fires, specifically in D SNAP. A team of bilingual workers from across the state went into Lake County to provide outreach to the community. This was a rewarding experience and as a faith based organization, they attended masses and were able to access Catholic Community to educate them about this resource.
  • Communicated this resource to 700 people per event.
  • Local Community Centers are also good resources.
  • How far we have come: The Sonoma County Website made drastic improvements to bilingual resources since 2015 as there were no resources previously.


From the chat:


What are people doing to reach beyond geographic boundaries including both urban and rural populations?

Steve Schwartz | Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative

  • Have a network of churches and other faith groups throughout the county that serve as places for people like Tim or Emergency Food Responders to use as places for food pick up. Could also have a CSA pick up site


Adam Peacock | ROC Sonoma County

  • Also working with the Faith community & if there are sites needed for Distribution, many congregations have reached out offering their parking lots across the county to help.


Juan Torres | Catholic Charities

  • There is a serious need in rural communities in South Petaluma & Santa Rosa areas
  • Smaller communities have fewer resources & residents are scattered out through the area so information arrives to them more slowly.


Suzie Grady:

  • It is important to think about the territories of each of these service providers. Different Service providers may not provide the exact same service. For example Ceres Community projects provides medically tailored meals to medically fragile people in a multitude of locations. It is important to check the assumption that service providers are able to offer the same services in all those locations they serve or have the same capacity.
  • How do we shorten the feedback loop so that community members (recipients of services) can articulate that they are not able to get access to service so that agencies can develop strategies in a timely manner to address this lack of access to the demographic they are serving.


Julia Van Soelen Kim| UC Cooperative Extension Sonoma County| Food Systems Advisor

Contact: jvansoelen@ucanr.edu

Transition to next topics.

  • Thinking about the Emergency Food Providers, what destabilizing factors do you see in your agency or industry and what can we do now to support each other?
  • How can we strengthen our local food system to keep more people employed and our farms on track for an abundant growing season?
  • What sort of new models can support more stakeholders of our food system?
  • What are your needs (resources, policy, funding, volunteers) in order to offer the above?
  • Any collaboration ideas or hopes not yet shared or developed?


Heather Irwin | Sonoma Family Meal:

  • Continued difficulty in transportation of perishable/refrigerated foods. Lack of drivers with experience doing this.
  • Getting food to people outside of Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Healdsburg has been very difficult. Council of Aging is able to come in a refrigerated van and can pick up food off plates. When we do delivery, ourselves it is much more challenging since we do not have the same infrastructure.
  • There are also many commercial kitchens that are potentially available as restaurants are closed.


Anna Grant:

  • Since the homeless population is not able to get leftovers or panhandle for their food it is more difficult for them to eat.
  • Looking for space to gather large amounts of shelf stable items like Peanut Butter and Potatoes for the Homeless. Also, additional supply of these critical non-perishable items this population needs. Does anyone have a contact for that?
  • This is all dependent on geographic location people are working in and how much space is needed.


Identifying Next Steps

  • Federal advocacy is needed.  Check with CAFF Action Alerts
  • Next COAD General Member Meeting:  Thursday March 26th, 10:00-12:00 via Zoom
  • Future offerings on Fed to local policy and funding opportunities and needs
  • Hold a future meeting similar to this depending on how this event unfolds. COAD & the EOC are responsible for holding this space today, but we would like to cast a wider local food system net to bring in additional partners because this response will take all of us to meet the demand.


Chat Comments from webinar

Link to slide deck:



General comments during session:

From Sandy:  Does the Feeding Task Force have an email address?

From Julia Van Soelen Kim:

PPE Equipment = Personal Protective Equipment
COOP Plan = Continuation of Operations Plan

From John Kessel: Just as a quick note: Supervisor Hopkins is the AG/Tourism point for the BOS.  Supervisor Rabbitt is the Small Business point for the BOS.

From John Kessel: http://www.farmtrails.org/coronavirus-resources/

From Gabriela Orantes:  What about the census? Are the check in calls encountering challenges or opportunities to bring up census?

From Stephanie Larson:  Question for Heather – is her program going to help all restaurant employees that are unable to work?

From laurie:  this is Laurie from Reach for Home. I’d like to share what we are doing for the unsheltered and very low income in north Sonoma county

From Anna Grant:  anyone have resources for meals for unsheltered?

From paige:  Fund for restaurant workers: (looks like applications are on hold right now…) https://rocunited.org/relief/

From laurie, Reach for Home: we are reaching out to restaurants and other food providers to provide food .  We are delivering daily at this point to encampments in the 3 North cities, Windsor, HBG and Cloverdale.

From Anna Grant: Thank you – i am coordinating with reach for home and we have a need for shelf stable, non refrigerated items to get to the sites in healdsburg/Windsor

From laurie: we also serve very low/low housed populations
if the facilitators could help trouble shoot unmuting me that would be great 🙂

From Dan Bleakney: Elece from Petaluma People Services would like to let everyone know they are a FEMA certified kitchen

From ISFC: Our specific demographics are: seniors getting SFMNP; and kids that could benefit from breakfast programs run by faith groups.  Here at Interfaith Food we have short term funding available now to match CalFresh Purchases from CSA’s farms and produce stands or pop-up markets. Feel free to contact us on this.

From Julia Van Soelen Kim:

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture
Food Hub = Local food distributor aggregating product from smaller local farms

From msw: For any of the presenters or audience, is there a locally based Farm to Food Bank program, where farms are paid for their crop?

From Suzi Grady, Petaluma Bounty: Melanie, no there is not. Interested to learn more

From timothypage:  thank you all . FEED Sonoma announcing the birth of California’s 1st farmer- & employee-owned fresh produce cooperative .. the online site : shop.feedsonoma.com … many thanks!this is the flyer that will be disseminated to all ASAP

From laylaaguilar:  Thanks Tim. Where is delivery/pick up offered?

From heather irwin, ED sonoma family meal: If you want to buy or let others know about the FEED bin, https://shop.feedsonoma.com/Products

From timothypage: we are developing drop locations in real time .. right now : 1. Dragonfly floral , Healdsburg , 2. Made Local Marketplace , Santa Rosa .. working on Petaluma drops (most likely Lunchette) .. and pick up at FEED Sonoma in Petaluma .. also , home delivery is happening … when people go to shop.feedsonoma.com , they can choose from those options .. also , days : tuesday / Wednesday in Sonoma County , Friday / Saturday in the broader bay area

From msw: Thanks Suzi and Heather. I asked because I’ve heard CAFF use the term a couple times in the last month and wondered if there was anything locally. In January I had a brief convo with a national farming organization that was getting its concept together, before the current crisis. I’ll circle back to them to see if the idea has taken shape yet.

From heather irwin, ED sonoma family meal: SFM received funds from a CAFF fundraiser after the Kincade fires. We have $6,500 to spend at this point. We are using for FEED right now.

From Yesenia: Kelly is the purchase process different for those using EBT cards? Will they still be getting market match?

From heather irwin, ED sonoma family meal: can we get a link from kelly?

From kellysmith: http://www.ilovefarmersmarkets.org & spreadsheet is housed here https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1bp2-iRc1Bmm6a014yHgMm3yJLXRxCWDdHCjg6Vp8-0I/edit#gid=0

From heather irwin, ED sonoma family meal:  I think funding would be really useful for all of us; we can’t really wait

From ISFC: To Evan’s point, one thing we’ve been working on with the National Sustainable Ag. Coalition is to see about extending the exemption for CSA farmers that are allowed to do SNAP/CalFresh payments 2 weeks in advance of deliver of the food. We want to see it  extended to a month in advance.

From Julia Van Soelen Kim, UCCE Sonoma:

Direct sales = local food sales that happen directly between farmers and their consumers through Farmers Markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), & other farm stands

From ISFC: Based on our Sonoma County experience with D-SNAP (Disaster-SNAP) in 2017, there are lessons for the country about the length of the sign up window. Not clear yet how this will apply to the currently relevant P-SNAP (Pandemic-SNAP). If you’re interested in advocating on this please contact me next couple of days.

From Suzi Grady, Petaluma Bounty:  Thanks ISFC! That’s Steve from Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative. Steve, can you offer your contact information?

From Katie Parrish: Resources for Older Adults – Farmers Market/CSA/Local Resource links will be incorporated at the noon page refresh: https://socoemergency.org/emergency/novel-coronavirus/resources-information/resources-for-seniors-and-vulnerable-populations-during-shelter-in-place/

From carmensnyder: Shelter-In-Place main resource page: https://www.farmtrails.org/shelter-in-place-food-resources/  Map Page: https://www.farmtrails.org/find-sonoma-grown/

From Katie Parrish:  Census2020 Information: https://2020census.gov/en.html and Resources https://2020census.gov/en/partners/outreach-materials.html

From Leo Chyi, District 5, Sonoma County: This is Leo with Lynda Hopkins’s Office.  Lynda’s very supportive of farming and agriculture and understands how important farmers markets can be.  We have heard from some community members concerned about safety and social distancing in farmers markets.  Do any of your orgs have specific best practices you could share on handling this? Are there specific things you need to manage this issue?

From msw:  Leo, if you would email me, MelanieWine@gmail.com, I can connect you with organizations that are compiling best practices for farmers markets to manage those issues.

From Mimi: Melanie, Can you also share any best practices that are developed with me, and I will ensure it gets added to a Google drive where we are centrally storing all the developing resources for access by all working in this space?  Thanks! Mimi Enright: menright@ucanr.edu

From Julia Van Soelen Kim:  Demographics referenced earlier:

Those that maintain self-sufficient throughout the crisis

Older adults
Self-isolating but otherwise independent (can afford groceries, able to cook, need curbside service, special hours, take out)
Need economic assistance for groceries
Need meals delivered

Access & Functional Needs
Over 60
Under 60 do not qualify for MOW
Those that maintain self-sufficient throughout the crisis

Older adults
Self-isolating but otherwise independent (can afford groceries, able to cook, need curbside service, special hours, take out)
Need economic assistance for groceries
Need meals delivered

Access & Functional Needs
Over 60
Under 60 do not qualify for MOWSchool-Aged Children
18 and younger served with Seamless Summer Option (SSO) or Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
Receiving services already in safety net
Self-sufficient with low reserves
Those already experiencing health challenges prior to COVID19
Those temporarily sickened/ incapacitated due to illness

From msw: Will do. I’ll check to see the state of communication. The info has been going out iteratively, as this situation is very fluid. I expect a rework after this weekend’s experience with markets reopening in various parts of the state.

From Juan Torres: I can add to the conversation!

From ISFC: Regarding CalFresh Redemption at farmers markets and markets newly serving as a kind of  CSA drop. I think using the CalFresh Vouchers provided in triplicate from USDA Food and Nutrition Service, may be great alternative to (or addition to) EBT machines.

From Sarah: Latino Service Providers is providing bilingual/bicultural messaging via social media, as well as through their Youth Promotors (there are currently 35 youth who are trained in mental health and emergency preparedness). https://www.facebook.com/LatinoServiceProviders/

From Phina: Many congregations are closed to any gathering. Some have even closed their offices, with staff working from home. This may inhibit their being used as drop sites for CSA boxes.

From Anna Grant: I have a need to find a place to gather large amounts of shelf stable items like peanut butter potatoes etc. for the homeless- does anyone have a contact?  Healdsburg. Looking for 90. actual food needed that will be delivered to their camps

From ISFC:  We are doing a survey in next day or two of congregations that want to offer their commercial kitchens; or cold storage to support food security efforts during this time. If you need that please let us know.

From laurie: We definitely need more food resources for Windsor to Cloverdale for the unsheltered

From Caiti Hachmyer: PLEASE, I ask everyone as a farmer, send in a letter and make a call when we hang up

From msw: Just wanted to add a note that during the Kincade fire, evacuees and the population of Cloverdale was cut off from the rest of the county.

From laurie: agreed, Cloverdale has basically 1 resource, the local food bank

From Evan: CAFF’s action alert, specifically related to federal support for family farms but connected to all local food systems, can be found here: https://www.caff.org/covid19congressactionalert

From msw: It was about a week before the rest of the county noticed. Residents were going up to Ukiah to buy groceries.

From paige: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members  Details on what to say when you call:
“Hello, my name is ______________ and I’m calling from _____________.
I am calling today to ask that Representative/Senator_____________ support after the small scale, independent American farmers who sell directly to consumers through farmers markets and other channels.
Farmers markets and the farmers who sell at them urgently need 3 things at this time:
Clarification from the CDC that farmers markets are essential public services as tens of thousands of farmers and millions of consumers rely on them for their livelihood and food access
Inclusion of direct to consumer farmers and farmers markets in the small business COVID19 relief package currently being negotiation in Congress
Extension of the deadline and waiving of match requirements for the current Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program grant Request for Applications.
Thank you,
_ Your Name _ (edited)

From ISFC: If you are looking for volunteers for a specific project/ effort/location please send Guadalupe@interfaithfood.org an email today and we’ll publicize that to our network of faith-based groups.

From Caiti Hachmyer: Another thing that can be mentioned in a call to reps is that grocery workers in many places across the country are receiving hazard pay from employers for their direct contact with customers…federal aid would help provide that to direct sales farmers.

From Yesenia: Is there any Sonoma County COVID-19 food distribution lists available or general updated food lists? Considering making one, just don’t want to re-invent the wheel if there is one available already

From Leo Chyi, District 5, Sonoma County: Yesenia there is at least one list, embedded in soco emergencyhttps://socoemergency.org/emergency/novel-coronavirus/resources-information/food-and-other-resources-for-low-income-and-homeless-people/ is Food and Other Resources for Low-Income and Homeless People

From Leo Chyi, District 5, Sonoma County: Sonoma County also has a volunteer portal with Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership where I know we have referred some individuals interested in volunteering for food distribution help.

2 thoughts on “Emergency Food Response Coalition 2020 Event Notes: March 23, 2020

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