Volunteers sought for Petaluma food program

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A year after fashioning a new way to donate food, the Petaluma residents behind getstarted are again looking to supply hundreds of local families with the tools – and plants – they need to grow produce at home.

Meant to augment the food distributed by local food banks with fresh plant starts that locals take home to grow, the getstarted program provided plants to 255 families a year ago, and group leaders are again looking for volunteers willing to nurture plant starts for this year’s giveaway.

“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 Cara Storm, program director for getstarted. “All of this leads to greater community connection and resilience.”

Families will be offered a choice of two different starter packs, either partial sun starts with cilantro, lettuce and onions or full sun starts with cucumbers, green beans and summer squash.

Volunteers are being asked to sign up by March 31 in hopes of distributing 300 plant start packs by late May through local food pantries. Edible plant start kits with small containers, soil and seed packets are provided at no cost, and the starts remain in their containers, so no garden space is needed for volunteers to participate.

Petaluma Family Resource Center at McDowell Elementary School, Salvation Army Petaluma Food Pantry and the West Side Interfaith Pantry at Elim Lutheran Church will be distributing the starter packs to locals facing food insecurity.

Local businesses have also joined in the effort. Petaluma Seedbank and Swallowtail Garden Seed have donated seeds, Grab n’ Grow has donated soil, and Friedman's Home Improvement donated gardening supplies.

This year, the program gets an extra boost as the UCCE Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County joins the effort. Master Gardeners will lend online and phone support as questions or concerns arise for either those starting the seedlings, or later for those who have planted and are tending them in their little garden.

Leah Martinez of Petaluma was one of the volunteers last year. Martinez said she saw it as a unique pandemic-era educational opportunity for her children.

“Being ‘Starters’ was a great way to show my kids about where vegetables they know come from, as well as talk to them about building our community and supporting neighbors who need help right now with getting food,” she said.

Major Mitham Clement, Salvation Army Petaluma Corps Officer said the unique program made giving more special.

“Our food pantry clients were surprised by the offer of free vegetable plants and touched when they heard that neighbors who cared about their situation took the time to grow them,” Clement said.

Get started

Go to for more information and to sign up to be a volunteer.

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