Soup and socializing for Sonoma seniors

Vintage House and Sweetwater Spectrum team up for unusual program.|

Vintage House will launch a new program this summer called “Soups for Seniors,” in partnership with Sweetwater Spectrum and F.I.S.H.

Beginning on Friday, July 13 - and then every Friday following - for at least the next six months, the farm at Sweetwater will donate 100 pounds of fresh vegetables to Vintage House, where a local volunteer chef, Taylor Hale, will use those veggies (along with other donated ingredients like breads and meats) to create a hearty soup - served free at Vintage House to all seniors - potentially freezing extra soup for distribution later.

Sweetwater residents will be involved at minimum with the weekly harvest, maybe other portions of the process as well.

Helped by a recent Rotary grant, Sweetwater has set up a 100-foot-long “hoop house” to accelerate and extend its growing season, overseen by its farm manager Luke Carneal.

For the first lunch, Carneal said that Sweetwater will be donating tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, summer squash, collard, chard and kale.

“We can’t wait to team up with Vintage House and start serving the folks of Sonoma our delicious vegetables,” said Carneal.

The soups will vary week to week and reflect the latest seasonal vegetables. Hale said that she hopes to introduce some cold soups, some soups with meat and vegetable soups with beans as protein.

Kelsey Maddox, programs and services manager at Vintage House, said that she’s excited that the program will gather seniors at the facility for both a healthy meal and socialization.

“‘Soup for Seniors’ will create more social opportunities and also support those who have food scarcity issues,” she said.

She noted that nationwide, 20 percent of all seniors over 65 are struggling to live on their social security, which is all they have for retirement.

“With 11,000 seniors in Sonoma Valley that could easily mean 2,000 or more,” she said. “With our high cost of living in Sonoma and the lack of adequate income, this program is intended as a step forward to foster and support our senior community.”

Sweetwater executive director Kory Stradinger said that the autism residential community is excited to use this project as a way to give back to the community and that he has received very positive feedback to the idea.

“People seem appreciative that two local non-profits can work together on a project that cuts across several generations,” said Stradinger. “Our young adult Sweetwater residents are harvesting the produce and handing it over to the Vintage House chefs and volunteers (of all ages) to prepare the meals, which then benefit our local seniors.”

The Sweetwater farm stand is also open to the community all summer, on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 730 W. Spain St.

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