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June 20, 2018
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Community Events Calendar June 15, 2018 through June 28, 2018 Community Events Calendar June 8, 2018 through June 21, 2018 There is never enough water to waste Local farmer’s market ensures a good time Join the Sonoma-County Neighborhood Food Project Community Events Calendar June 1, 2018 through June 14, 2018 Arts Education Innovation Grants awarded Welcome to the Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce Community Events Calendar May 25, 2018 through June 7, 2018 Community Events Calendar March 2, 2018 through March 15, 2018 Community Events Calendar May 18, 2018 through May 31, 2018 The formation of the Cotati Chamber of Commerce Welcome to Cotati’s RE/MAX marketplace RPPS stress fireplace safety amid string of fires Attending Cuatro de Mayo Friday evening Jeopardy party Community Events Calendar May 11, 2018 through May 24, 2018 Community Events Calendar February 23, 2018 through March 8, 2018 Happy 99th birthday Rohnert Park 12 showcases art Community Events Calendar May 4, 2018 through May 17, 2018 Post fire debris cleanup by government close to completion The 5th annual Rotary award night Ribbon cutting for Lobos pantry Feb. 23, 10 a.m. Community Events Calendar April 27, 2018 through May 10, 2018 Rotarian of the month Gerard Guidice Scouts race Pinewood cars Sonoma County celebrates bike to work month Community Events Calendar February 16, 2018 through March 1, 2018 Community Events Calendar March 30, 2018 through April 12, 2018 Scooby’s manic Monday by Bella Fiber Circle Studios holds ribbon cutting RCU community fund to give $7 million in grants An exchange of culture and tea Community Events Calendar April 13, 2018 through April 26, 2018 Community Events Calendar February 1, 2018 through February 15, 2018 County of Sonoma to open Resiliency Permit Center What do bunnies, bounce houses and backyard fun have to do with Easter? CHP recognizes telecommunication professional City OK's Peace Garden Community Events Calendar February 9, 2018 through February 24, 2018 Community Events Calendar March 23, 2018 through April 5, 2018 A room full of presidents Community Events Calendar March 16, 2018 through March 29, 2018 Annual Easter egg hunt Scouts meet for breakfast Community Events Calendar April 6, 2018 through April 19, 2018 Community Events Calendar March 9, 2018 through March 22, 2018 Rotary awards celebration First Spanish Baptist Church needs a new home

Free lunch in RP and Cotati aims to combat summer hunger

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
June 15, 2018

This summer around 1.7 million children in California will experience summer hunger according to the California Association of Food Banks; however, one local Sonoma County food bank is hoping to reduce that number with their summer lunch in the park program in Cotati and Rohnert Park at La Plaza and Alicia Park.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank based program aims to serve around 39,000 meals this summer for children under 18 from low-income families who usually rely on school lunches during the academic year but struggle during the summertime.

According to statistics from the California Association of Food Banks, 17 out of 20 low-income students will fall into the “summer nutrition gap” and according to the Sonoma County Hunger Index, on average at risk families missed three meals a week in 2017 and it is estimated that 26 million missed meals that year — a staggering statistic.

That is why the Redwood Empire Food Bank is partnering with the Santa Rosa Unified School District to prepare fresh lunches daily for their annual lunch in the park program this summer.

“It started in 2004 when the former executive director worked with similar organizations like the Salvation Army and identified that there was a need for this in Sonoma County,” said Itzul Gutierrez, children’s programs manager for REFB.

According to Gutierrez the food bank started the program off with simply providing resources and information on where people could find food programs, however, it eventually blossomed to working with the Santa Rosa Unified School District to give out freshly made meals.

And the program, which started June 4, doesn’t just serve a basic meal. Each meal is different and nutritious, hot and healthy.

For instance, meals can range from lasagna to pizza or a grilled cheese sandwich with carrots and applesauce or a bacon and turkey club sandwich with a bean salad.

“They have a protein, starch and greens and on Friday we have cold meals (such as cold cuts), but it changes throughout the week and Wednesdays we have pizza, the kids love that,” says Nina Rodriguez, programs coordinator. 

Rodriguez estimates that last year the food bank served around 36,000 lunches throughout the summer. 

“Around 20,000 low-income families are eligible for free or reduced fee meals and around 31,000 qualify for lunches throughout the year,” she said.

When asked if hunger is an issue that people may not be aware of in Sonoma County, Rodriguez exclaimed, “Definitely. It is a bigger issue than we think. I think there are a lot of people who also don’t know of the resources available to them and that we have healthy food.”

In addition to the healthy food the lunch in the park will also start having fresh produce available for families. 

“We’re excited to be here in Cotati and RP,” Gutierrez said of the program.

Lunches will be served in other Sonoma County locations in addition to Rohnert Park and Cotati and will usually be served between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday. For exact dates, times and locations, visit www.refb.org/summerlunch2018 or call (707) 523-7900.