Each week at Vintage House in Sonoma, Lori Saldal helps distribute food for seniors. With a table set outside at the front entrance, and a list of recipients to check, she hands out free meals. While Sonoma is known for its stunning beauty and winery cuisine, many people in the Valley, especially ages 60 and over, struggle to put food in their refrigerator.
According to research, over 7 percent of seniors in the United States are “food insecure” – they don’t have access to enough nutritious food for a consistently healthy diet. Increased inflation of the cost of living, including food prices, and the continued ripple effects of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic have added to the issue of food insecurity for seniors.
“If you’re a moderate-low income earner, the slightest increase in the cost of living can have a big impact,” said Redwood Empire Food Bank Director David Goodman. “As gas prices rise, rent increases and utilities continue to soar, there is less discretionary income”
Because many seniors have health issues and must pay for medications, food is usually one of the first things they cut back on, Goodman said.
Since 1977, the nonprofit Council on Aging has operated the largest meal program for seniors in Sonoma County, providing over 285,000 meals annually. Marrianne McBride has served as President and CEO of the organization since 2009. She said says that prior to the pandemic, Meals on Wheels fed roughly 2,000 Sonoma County seniors per year; an average of 700 meals each day.
The program delivers food throughout the county. The deliveries rely on up to 160 drivers and volunteers per week to get food into seniors’ homes.
Participants simply call the Counsel on Aging office to register and reserve service one week in advance. Participants can drive to a meal site such as Vintage House,, open their window, and they receive a meal pack-up. All meals are overseen by a registered dietitian to ensure the quality of the meals.
And essential volunteers like Lori Saldal, a food delivery driver for the Council on Aging for more than four years, are the final step, getting the food into the hands of those who need it. “I am happy to help in this work,” she said.
For information, or to begin nutritious meal deliveries, please call the Council on Aging at 707.525.0143 x121
— Story and photo by Jonathan Farrell