The genesis of Food For All, a collaborative effort to ensure food security in the Sonoma Valley, out of the uncomfortable reality that from a string of fire and power shut-off disasters, two economic collapses, and a pandemic, local working class Latinos have consistently ended up with the short end of the stick.
A number of local, 100% volunteer, grassroots activists decided to address these issues affecting marginalized communities head on — and bring food (from Redwood Empire Food Bank), and direct material aid to families least likely to be served and needing delivery.
As one of the core members of FFA (Omida Para Todos), D’mitra Smith, chair of the county’s Human Rights Commission wrote in The Sun, “These communities already deal with food insecurity, unemployment, labor exploitation, housing insecurity, transportation issues, lack of access to health care, student achievement gaps, and more when there isn’t a global pandemic. Many also have to constantly manage a fear of deportation on top of all of that, even though they pay dearly into a system that does not represent them. There is no greater injustice.”
In 2016 Sonoma Valley had 6,000 undocumented residents. Of these, many do not have cars to access local food distribution sites, may be elderly, or may be fearful of the Trump ICE regime when seeking any aid or service. Bottom line: when already vulnerable households lose their jobs because of a pandemic, there is clearly a huge need here in Sonoma Valley, one that requires all service-minded groups to meet. FFA has identified a real need and is meeting it. They are addressing the people who fall through the cracks.
Food For All is provided by the people for the people. It’s good work. It’s an aspiration for autonomy and independence that everyone should support. The core group is organized by D’mitra Smith, Mario Castillo, Celeste Winders, Cameron Iturri Carpenter, and Maite Iturri, all long-time caring and involved community members. Maite is the Principal at El Verano School, a major hub of Latino community service and activity.
The FFA group is cultivating community leadership roles with the volunteers who are delivering the food and aid. These volunteers are: Liz Paez, Ana Rios, Araceli De Jesus, Araceli Ruiz, Gero Bataz, Laurie Salmas, Suzy Radillo, Missy Jackson, Vero Rubio, Yazmin Gomez, and Marta Varguez.
In terms of local community and sustainability, FFA is not waiting for equity to somehow be given; they are working from the bottom up to establish a voice and a presence for their constituency. Frankly, this positive development has been a long time coming. Many groups and individuals have stepped up to act as a proxy voice for local disadvantaged communities. Better that the people speak and act for themselves.
It’s true that the Springs area represents a serious pocket of poverty in the county, along with the Roseland area of Santa Rosa. It’s also true that pandemics disproportionately affect poor people. Latinos have a 4.5 times greater chance than Anglos to get coronavirus, and more Latinos work in “essential” jobs that increase exposure, all the while not having the resources to shelter in place.
But we are not talking stats here; these are real people who have been suffering and are now suffering more. Food For All is designed to serve those most in need and to do it in such a way as to give those served a sense of dignity and choice. You might call their method one of “rippling up” of local empowerment.
With limited resources but much desire, FFA developed a survey to ascertain what items locals needed most. After a few runs and delivery cycles, FFA has improved its delivery system, and targeted it to Springs residents in need. FFA is currently delivering 80 to 95 food boxes on Fridays and delivering aid boxes every two weeks to 60 to 70 families and over 300 individuals.
Donate to Food For All
Current needs are:
High priority: Diapers size 1 and 4-6, pull-ups sizes 5T-6T, baby wipes, face masks – can be fabric or disposable, grocery gift cards, gas gift cards.
Medium priority: paper products (TP, paper towels), menstrual products (tampons, pads, liners).
Low priority: canned or dried beans, rice, vegetable oil.
For more information, contact Mario Castillo Guido on Facebook.