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Bounty a lifeline for food insecure

Emma Logan was the first to respond when she received a notice in late July that a new initiative called getstarted was looking for local home gardeners to grow edible plant starts for Petaluma families in need. Passionate about growing food plants herself, she immediately recognized the unique opportunity to help her neighbors at a time when food insecurity is at an all-time high due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Living in a place that has such a huge portion of our economy built around growing food, it is unacceptable that we have members of our community without true food security,” said Logan, 43. “This gave me a tangible way to do something to help out other people in my community during the pandemic.”

Logan is one of 65 home gardeners who this summer tended a mixture of broccoli, lettuce, and cilantro sprouts, growing them from seed in six-pack start kits provided by getstarted and its partner Petaluma Bounty.

The young plants were distributed to families free of charge at local food pantries to take home, plant, and tend until harvest.

“While these plants alone won’t serve to feed families, this neighbor-to-neighbor program both contributes to supplementing peoples’ immediate and future food needs with on-going, fresh, nutritious produce, and also nurtures many new gardeners, who undoubtedly will experience the joys of growing some of their own food,” said Petaluma resident Cara Storm, director of getstarted. “All of this leads to greater community connection and resilience.”

The cost of living in Sonoma County continues to rise as many find themselves out of work during the pandemic. Even some who work full time find their income simply doesn’t cover their necessary expenses like groceries.

“This is known as chronic or ongoing food insecurity,” Suzi Grady, director of Petaluma Bounty, said.

For those more accustomed to giving rather than receiving, it can be hard to reach out for help.

Food insecurity can affect health. It’s important to consider one of the many ways local organizations and farmers are helping supply necessary nutrition.

“The concept of food insecurity is complex and best understood by addressing malnutrition instead of hunger,” Grady said. She explained that because calorie-rich and nutrient scarce foods are easy to come by and cheap, food insecurity often shows up as obesity or diet-related health ailments because people don't have the means to maintain a healthy, nutrient-rich diet.

The Sonoma County Human Services Hunger Index 2018 report, found that approximately 30% of households in Petaluma were at risk of becoming food insecure due to the high cost of living in the area.

On top of this, because of the disruptions of recent fires, floods, power shutoffs and the pandemic, many families' household savings may have already been tapped out. “Collectively, we have not recovered from the previous disasters, but here we are,” Grady said.

Grady said Petaluma Bounty is working to create a just and resilient food system, in a collaborative, grassroots manner. They believe that all people, regardless of income, deserve access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food at all times.

Petaluma Bounty is working to increase food literacy, the knowledge of how food is grown and where it comes from. They expand the community's capacity to grow its own food by supporting community gardens.

“We are engaging our whole community to become active, informed agents of change of their food system and advocate for policies and governmental services that promote community food security now and into the future,” Grady said. “We believe healthy behaviors are rooted in an appreciation and valuing of the food, land and people that provide for us, and that farmers, and of course farm workers deserve to make a living wage.”

Petaluma Bounty improves the quality of food offered by emergency food distributors with their Bounty Hunters — gleaning volunteers who harvest, distribute, and recover local food to redirect to local food pantries. They’ve distributed garden kits to people on limited incomes in partnership with Daily Acts and the Botanical Bus, and are hosting getstarted, the network of gardeners who are growing extra plant starts to be shared.

They increase low-income consumers’ purchasing power through local affordable food incentives such as Market Match, sliding scale farm stands and CSA memberships, as well as maximizing awareness and participation in federal food programs such as WIC, SNAP and Meals on Wheels.

“We are all in this together, now more than ever,” Grady said. “Now is the time to seek food assistance so that you can be in a position to offer support to your neighbors in the near future.”

Petaluma Bounty reduced cost produce can be found at the Bounty Farmstand on Thursdays from 3 to 6 p.m. at 55 Shasta Ave. and at the Walnut Park Farmer's Market, Saturdays from 2 to 5 p.m.

More information is at www.petalumabounty.org/resources/foodresourceguide.

More information about the getstarted program is at www.getstarted.garden/

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