TINY FOOD A food exchange box opened on University Avenue recently, the latest idea to share goods to cure hunger.
By Pierre Ratte

This past Sunday, Healdsburg’s first Neighborhood Tiny Food Pantry opened. It’s located on University Avenue between Monte Vista and March Avenues. The tiny pantry is a riff on the little lending libraries found around town. Instead of books, people can get or drop-off food any time.

The sign says: “Need food? Grab some. Have food? Place some.” It’s a tiny experiment in community giving. Perhaps, like the book shelters, more will be built?

Not-so-fun facts: Food security is an issue in Sonoma County. The Redwood Empire Food Bank registered 31% more families receiving food distributions in 2023. U.S. food prices were up 6% in 2023. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average California family of four spends $300 per week on food; that’s over $15,000 per year in after-tax dollars.

Courtesy Healdsburg Community Church

With gasoline prices surging, household budgets struggle. Fortunately, there are significant charitable organizations addressing needs in and around Sonoma County.

In Healdsburg, Farm to Fight Hunger gives 100% of its production to charity. In 2023, it donated 29,000 pounds of fresh veggies, which translates to 116,000 servings, plus 23,000 eggs, to those in need.

Farm to Fight Hunger’s idea to grow fresh food for those in need is thriving. Volunteer labor helps make the farm viable. Volunteers are sourced through Farm to Pantry.

Farm to Pantry gleans excess produce from farms and private property throughout Sonoma County. It started with Melita Love’s little red wagon rescuing excess produce from the farmers’ market.

Since then, with Duskie Estes’ leadership, the organization grew to a powerful collection and distribution engine of fresh produce. Since its inception, Farm to Pantry distributed almost 8 million servings; in 2023, it delivered 430,000 pounds of free fresh fruit and vegetables to those in need.

Lastly, Redwood Empire Food Bank prepares meals and distributed free food to 140,000 people during 2023 from 300 distribution sites ranging from the Oregon border to Sonoma County.

Each of these organizations can be found on the web if you have an interest in volunteering. Or place food in the new neighborhood Tiny Food Pantry and become part of a community experiment in local giving.

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