Op-Ed: Petaluma Peoples Services builds a Bounty to feed families Special
The recent rains and the coming of spring have revealed the bounty of fresh produce and nature’s abundance everywhere. Petaluma People Services Center is pleased to announce the 7th Annual Petaluma Bounty Plant Sale this Sunday, April 23.
As families and communities continue to struggle financially after the 2008 Recession, programs like Petaluma Bounty help feed and build community to alleviate the risks of poverty. Petaluma Bounty is an outreach program of Petaluma People Services Center.
And, even before the Recession hit, efforts were being made to address the needs that were apparent and growing in Petaluma and the Sonoma County area.
Suzi Grady, program director for Petaluma Bounty took a few moments to explain to this reporter how the program was formed and since has evolved.
“Petaluma Bounty grew out of a 2004 Community Needs Assessment commissioned by the Hub of Petaluma Foundation to determine Petaluma's greatest unmet community need. It revealed many seniors, low-income families with young children and individuals were struggling to afford adequate nutrition," she said. "Research with local emergency food providers and Petaluma residents revealed that the demand for emergency food was growing. The response that emerged was Petaluma Bounty. It is a multifaceted community food security initiative, officially launched in 2006 with the Bounty Hunters gleaning program and an initiative to start community gardens.”
According to the non-profit hunger relief organization ‘Feeding America’
currently, 42.2 million Americans live in food insecure households. This includes 29.1 million adults and 13.1 million children. That averages to about one out of every six Americans is living with less than adequate food intake. The term "food insecurity" as defined by the USDA,
is a "lack of access, at times, to enough food for all household members.”
The U.S. Census Bureau, ‘Feeding America’
organization and others, gathered these statistics quoted in 2015. Ironically, rural areas (like Petaluma and Sonoma County) where food production is part of the landscape, the percentage of families lacking adequate food is higher than in urban areas. This is one reason why outreach became critical urging Petaluma People Services Center and others to act quickly.
“In 2008, said Grady, "the Bounty Community Farm, an urban educational farm site, opened its doors to grow food with community for community. On October 1, 2012 Petaluma Bounty became a program of Petaluma People Services Center (PPSC)."
Grady noted that the PPSC was incorporated on December 2, 1976 and is a 501(c) 3 status private nonprofit organization. "PPSC is dedicated to improving the social and economic health of our community by providing programs that strengthen the dignity and self-sufficiency of the individual.”
The idea of a community farm is a natural fit to help address the needs. “As a program of PPSC, Petaluma Bounty's mission is healthy food for everyone," said Grady, "through collaboration, education and promoting self-reliance. We seek to foster a thriving local food system while improving low-income families' access to sustainably grown, local food.”
To get some perspective on how important the Petaluma Bounty program has been, Grady explained. “To date, the fruits of our collective efforts include eight community gardens, over 650,000 pounds of fresh produce diverted into the emergency food system, an urban educational farm and an award-winning programming on nutrition and health. We provide farm education and food literacy programs developed with community input, and innovative affordable local food incentives.”
She went on to say that, “in 2016, The Bounty Community Farm hosted five Sonoma County Eco-Youth Corps summer job trainees, eight college student interns, 22 school and service learning groups; which she noted, amounts to 420 participants. Last year, 16 A.L.I.V.E. sessions were provided to 22 limited income families.” Grady also explained that the acronym stands for ‘Active Living In Vibrant Environments’ and she went on to say.
“Several hundred volunteers completed over 2000 hours of community service, four Community Workshops were hosted at the Bounty Community Farm and 20 at participating Farmers’ Markets. A.L.I.V.E. participants received 85 free CSA bags, the Bounty Farm donated 1000 pounds and Bounty Hunters gleaners contributed another 1500 pounds of fresh produce to local pantries. Through our local affordable food incentives, Bounty Community Farm sold 55 percent of produce at reduced rates through our sliding scale farm stands and provided CSA (environmentally-friendly) bags.
“The Farmers’ Market LIFE Program (which operates at 12 Farmers’ markets across Sonoma and Marin County) distributed over $56,950 in CalFresh benefits. And, that included $44,260 in incentives resulting in a total of $101,210.00 spent on healthy, fresh, locally grown food.”
No doubt, with this amount of results from the collaborative efforts of many, The Petaluma Bounty Program is distinguished for its work. Grady spoke about how California State Assembly Member, Mark Levine, recently honored Petaluma Bounty with a certificate of appreciation. The Farmers’ Guild/CAFF also awarded its honor to Petaluma Bounty with a 2017 Food Advocate of the Year.
Petaluma Bounty staff, Grady noted, have made presentations at local, regional and statewide conferences. Petaluma Bounty has appeared in various media, including publications such as the Sonoma County Food Forum on Social Equity, Foundations & Future- A Celebration of Women In The Food Movement In The Bay Area, and Delicious Revolution podcasts.
This coming Sundays’ Plant Sale reinforces and strengthens Petaluma Bounty and Petaluma People Services Center’s presence in the community. Event begins at 9:00 AM at The Bounty Community Farm, located at 55 Shasta Avenue in Petaluma. For more information visit the Petaluma Bounty web site.
Or, visit Petaluma Bounty's Facebook page.