Food bank serves 102,000 summer lunches
By the last day, Aug. 9, a record 102,000 free meals were served by the Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB)'s, "ConAgra Foods Foundation Hunger-Free Summer Program."
Last year, the summer program served more than 92,000 meals. That number was expected to rise to 96,000 meals this year. Serving 10,000 more meals than last year exceeded all projections. However, the increase came as no surprise to the REFB, which distributes 13 million pounds of food annually, up 3.5 percent from the previous year.
"Local families are being pushed to their limit economically," said David Goodman, the food bank's executive director. "They're making the toughest kind of choices; between paying for the basic necessities like rent and utilities, or buying groceries. For more than 24 years the REFB has made great strides in coming up with innovative solutions to address food insecurity in our community. We are committed to taking fear off the menu for families who simply want their child to eat a nutritious meal."
Some 29,000 low-income children rely on school lunches for much of their daily nutrition during the school year, but may not receive adequate nutrition during summer vacation. This summer, children were able to eat a freshly prepared meal five days a week, at one of the REFB's 42 lunch sites throughout Sonoma County - including two in Sonoma Valley.
Over the years, the REFB's summer lunch program has expanded to include recreational opportunities when possible. This summer, the "ConAgra Foods Foundation Hunger-Free Summer Program," included garden based nutrition activities where children were introduced to vegetable gardening and the benefits of eating healthy and fresh food. Also, the interactive "Salsa Bike" toured the sites throughout the summer to teach children how to make fresh salsa or fruit smoothies, as well as to promote exercise utilizing pedal power.
"Every day, we see parents struggling to put food on the table for their families. One thankful father of young twins told us that the free summer lunch program made it possible for him to put food on the table for breakfast and dinner. The REFB is proud to be part of the solution in creating a hunger free community. Plans for the REFB's ninth annual Summer Lunch Program are already under way," Goodman said.