Mention Sonoma County and many people think of good food and fine wine.
Yet, as David Goodman of the Redwood Empire Food Bank will tell you, more and more people are going hungry.
"When I arrived here in 2000," he said recently, "our warehouse on Industrial Drive was distributing 4 million pounds of food yearly. We now distribute over 13 million pounds of food annually."
Goodman's anecdote is a reminder that, according to the latest U.S. Census data, 13.1 percent of Sonoma County residents — about one in eight — have slipped below the poverty line. Before the economy collapsed five years ago, the local poverty rate was less than 9 percent.
There's another, more optimistic message in the Food Bank's growth. It wouldn't have happened if Sonoma County residents hadn't been generous with their time and money.
Many of us have learned that it is, indeed, better to give than to receive. And this holiday season brings many opportunities to help combat hunger in our community.
Catholic Charities distributes 26,000 pounds of food each money to about 4,000 families through its rural food program, which serves communities away from pantries and food banks. To donate food, call 528-2646. To donate money for food, call 528-8712 ext. 160.
The Redwood Empire Food Bank supplies 149 agencies around the region including soup kitchens and food pantries. Donate online at refb.org, send contributions to 3320 Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa 95403, or call 523-7900. Each dollar donated to the Food Bank translates to $4 worth of goods distributing around the community.
The Redwood Gospel Mission provides food, clothing and shelter for homeless men. It also hosts, in partnership with the Salvation Army, an annual Christmas feast with food and gifts for as many as 5,000 people at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. This year's feast is on Dec. 23. Donate online at srmission.org., at 101 Sixth St. in Santa Rosa, or call 578-1830.
Friends in Service Here, or FISH, is an all-volunteer food bank that provides free groceries to 65,000 people a year in Sonoma County. Call 527-5151.
<BL@199,12,11,10>The Salvation Army distributes seven tons of food to needy families each month. It also has its annual red kettle campaign underway. Address: 93 Stony Circle, Santa Rosa 95401. Phone 542-0981.
The Committee on the Shelterless, also known as COTS, provides shelter, transitional housing and training and serves 100,000 meals and distributes 500,000 pounds of food annually. Donate online or see a wish list and volunteer opportunities at cots-homeless.org, or send a donation to COTS, P.O. Box 2744, Petaluma 94953.
Food for Thought, a Forestville-based food pantry, serves AIDS and HIV patients. Donate online at fftfoodbank.org. To volunteer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 887-1647.
The Council on Aging delivers more than 250,000 meals annually to senior citizens and provides social, financial and legal services. You can volunteer or donate at councilonaging.com. Send donations to 30 Kawana Springs Road, Santa Rosa 95404 or call 525-0143.
Other organizations are collecting toys and other gifts for underpriviliged children and families.
Toys for Tots is collecting new, unwrapped toys through Dec. 15 at locations throughout the county. Find drop-off sites santa-rosa-ca.toysfortots.org.
Santa Rosa Fire Fighters Local 1401 is collecting new toys at the Santa Rosa Plaza shopping center through Dec. 22 and local fire stations through Christmas Eve.