Sonoma Family Meal

$8,409 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 71 people in 16 months

Sonoma Family Meal came together in the worst moments of the raging California Wildfires to feed a traumatized, recently-displaced population not used to asking for help, but desperately in need. Our Santa Rosa-based volunteer team provides healthy, nourishing, restaurant-quality chef-made meals at no cost for anyone affected by the fires, and anyone who needs a helping hand in the kitchen.

Between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15, we served an estimated 80,000 meals. As of Jan. 1, we restarted our program to focus directly on families who have lost homes. We currently have 35 families who receive 4 meals per week.

We value great food, and since launching have served vegan tofu masala, ahi tuna with farro, stuffed acorn squash and more. All made with ingredients donated by local farmers and ranchers, much of it organic, and prepared by local chefs.

Those local product donations -- organic fruits and veggies from FEED Sonoma (we have a fund to pay our local farmers), pasta from Pasta Etc., bread from Costeaux Bakery, proteins from Victorian Farmstead Meats, and literally hundreds of other other purveyors. We also work with the SRJC culinary program to intake large cuts of meat used in knife skills classes and other food that may have otherwise gone unloved. 

Heather Irwin, a restaurant writer in Sonoma County, created the nonprofit to bring families displaced by the fires together with hundreds of chefs who desperately wanted to help.

What started as a simple plan to hand out prepared meals donated by renowned restaurants like Single Thread in Healdsburg, Two Birds One Stone in Napa and San Francisco's Aster has now turned into a full-on professional cooking operation with a staff of more than 20.

All funds raised will be used to fund our operations to produce meals and go toward paying the local farmers, ranchers and chefs who have so graciously donated their time and ingredients to our cause.

Like any other fledgling organization, we have immediate needs, from buying equipment we can't get donated, to gassing up our donated vans, purchasing pantry items like sugar and flour, paying for extra garbage pickups. This is an entirely volunteer-run organization, so we are dependent on donations like this GoFundMe. Thank you!
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Sonoma Family Meal is back! Since January 1, we have launched a pilot program with 35 families who have lost homes. Working with John and Gesine Franchetti of Franchetti's Wood Fire Grill and Chef Heather Ames in our Petaluma kitchen, we serve four meals -- packed up and ready to go -- to families who have signed up with us. We're adding about 5 new families each week and plan to continue adding families as the need is there.

So, why are we still doing this? The fires may be out, but many families are still living in transitional housing -- whether that's a trailer, an apartment, or even a home they're renting. Our families tell us that they're spending their weeks dealing with insurance issues, re-establishing their lives, sending children to new schools and having to purchase all new things. Many parents also have the added difficulty of balancing full time jobs with all that they're going through.

That's a huge stress, and there's little time or energy to cook healthy, nutritious meals.

"My kids are surviving on Cup 'o Noodles" said one guest, with great embarrassment. This mother also told us that she's lost all of her recipes, and even when she tries to cook, she often doesn't have certain spices, or kitchen tools. "Your meals are the first opportunity we've had to all sit at the table together."

"It's so hard cooking in someone else's' kitchen," said another guest. "I can't even put into words what this means to us," she added. "We've been eating out every night."

These families simply don't have the energy or the time to spend on cooking for themselves. Our mission is to assist them, regardless of their income status.

As families settle into their new lives, they move on, and open a new space for another family.

We have vowed to be here for fire victims, feeding them nourishing locally-sourced food that helps them get back on their feet, shows them that their community is still there for them, and gives them some hope for the difficult days and weeks ahead.

This isn't over. Not even close. And Sonoma Family Meal will continue to serve the needs of Sonoma County families still suffering after the fires.

Our Monday pickup
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Feeding people literal garbage is a crime. But I'm finding it's also surprisingly frequent for someone to say to me, "Well, 'they' should be grateful for anything" as they offer up rotten, disgusting food and processed crap I wouldn't feed my dog. Not okay.

People should be treated like freaking humans. If you wouldn't be glad to eat it, why should anyone, especially someone who is asking for a little help and having a hard time have to be grateful for that stuff? Think how you would feel standing in line asking for meal. And think how you would feel if it was made with love, with amazing ingredients, beautifully packaged and handed to you with a smile and a hug.

A paradigm shift is on its way, if I have anything to do with it.

Why I'm giving up my life (and all of my pto) to this cause over the last three weeks is because of the hundreds of people who have offered up wholesome, organic, beautiful meat and produce to us. These are the heroes. Volunteers who try to make the food look "restaurant beautiful" get it. Chefs like Miriam Donaldson have worked until they could barely walk, leaving behind their lives and restaurants for this cause (don't worry, she's already back on the line at Wishbone). We have dozens of those kinds of people behind the scenes helping until it hurts because they love our county and they love food. We have people working with us who have lost their own homes, have been homeless, have suffered through incredible tragedy and financial problems who come every day and ask how they can help. All of us are draining our paltry bank accounts to make this continue.

We've seen how those with the least are often those who give the most. EVERYONE deserves food with dignity, quality and love.

If you believe in what I'm saying, please donate to our GoFundMe so we can continue what we're doing for our community. This needs to be a disruption, friends. A serious disruption. The fact that we've gotten $2500 is so amazing, but won't even fund a DAY of our work when all the generosity runs out. We can't continue to do what we're doing without financial support to pay LOCAL farmers, meat companies and those who are making this massive operation work and are suffering themselves. This is a local, grassroots effort, not a well-funded machine that moves on to the next disaster when the fires are out.

I HATE asking for help, but I'm doing it now.

Whatever you can donate helps, and remember, you might be the next one standing in line for a meal. How do you want to be treated?
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Sonoma Family Meal has reached 52% of its goal. Thanks to Indonesian Moslem Community, Adair and Kristen & Paul.
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$8,409 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 71 people in 16 months
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