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Redwood Empire Food Bank's drive-thru distribution helps Sonoma County hospitality workers

Cooks, people who wait tables, bartenders, dishwashers, winery tasting room staffers, caterers, hotel employees - a great many individuals who earn a living serving others in Sonoma County’s vital hospitality trade have been hit hard by the business closures and slowdowns of the global pandemic.

Friday was a day for them to be served for a change.

A drive-thru food distribution in Santa Rosa was a gift to hospitality workers who’ve been unable to work, or to work full-time or consistently, as the COVID-19 crisis has shuttered or greatly hampered operations at the region’s restaurants, wineries, coffeehouses, ice cream parlors, hotels, motels, inns, taverns and catering companies.

The giveaway of boxes of appetizing foods was hosted by the Redwood Empire Food Bank, American AgCredit and the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation. It took place in the parking lot outside the American AgCredit offices on Aviation Boulevard.

In a message to idled and under-?employed hospitality workers, David Goodman, the food bank’s CEO, said, “We know it’s a challenging and difficult place to be, to ask for food. You’ve been serving us for so many years, now please let us serve you.”

Many of the groceries placed into auto trunks or back seats at the drive-?thru giveaway came from the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. The government purchases food from farmers and ranchers struggling with the shutdown of so many restaurants and hotels and such, and gives it to organizations such as the Redwood Empire Food Bank for free distribution to people in need amid the pandemic.

The foods included fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, chicken and apple cider. Also in the cartons were staples such as beans, rice, peanut butter and pasta.

“It is incredibly unfortunate, the number of hospitality workers who have been impacted by the pandemic,” said Michael Haney, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation.

“Last year,” Haney added, “the Redwood Empire Food Bank served 1 in ?6 people in Sonoma County and now their service is more essential than ever.”

There will be a similar food distribution, this one for anyone in need, from 9 to 11 a.m. on June 20. That one will take place at the Redwood Empire Food Bank on Brickway Boulevard, a short distance north of Airport Boulevard.

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