The region’s largest food bank is expanding its school pantry program in southwest Santa Rosa to include Roseland Elementary School, where the majority of kids come from economically disadvantaged families.
Once a week, all parents of enrolled children can pick up to 25 pounds of food, including produce, meat and other staples needed to prepare balanced meals at home when they pick up their kids from school, said David Goodman, the food bank’s executive director.
The organization got a $50,000 grant from the Morgan Stanley Foundation to offer the pantry program at the school on Sebastopol Road, an area ranked one of the most disadvantaged by the 2014 “Portrait of Sonoma County.” Goodman said about 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch at Roseland Elementary. He expects to serve at least 100 families through the school pantry program, many of whom have multiple children enrolled. Nearly 680 children attend the K-6 school.
“It’s staggering. I don’t think people can imagine it,” he said about the number of families who face food insecurity in the area. “They’re making tough choices between paying the rent and eating food.”
School officials could not be reached for comment.
The Redwood Empire Food Bank has been providing other services in the area, such as the summer lunch program for children. Goodman said the school pantry program will provide an additional “safety net” to ensure kids are fed.
Poor nutrition can have lasting effects on children, he said. It can result in lifelong health problems including anemia, heart disease, diabetes and tooth decay.
“Whatever happens to children at this point in their lives will affect them for the rest of their lives,” Goodman said.
It’ll be the second pantry program in the Roseland School District. The nonprofit already offers food to all families with children enrolled at Sheppard Accelerated Elementary School, as well as seven other schools in Sonoma County and one in Lake County.
Redwood Empire Food Bank is the largest hunger-relief nonprofit serving the North Coast. It raises about $8.5 million annually, leveraging those funds to distribute about $41 million worth of food from Sonoma County up to the Oregon border, Goodman said.
He said it wouldn’t be possible to serve the families without support from organizations like Morgan Stanley Foundation, which has awarded a total of $225,000 to the food bank over the past five years. He also said staff and managers at the Morgan Stanley branch in Santa Rosa regularly volunteer at the food bank, helping sort produce and putting together food care packages.
“We are delighted to extend our support through this grant and provide even more children with the foods they need to learn, grow and thrive,” George Shick, the branch’s managing director, said in a statement.
You can reach Staff Writer Eloísa Ruano González at 707-521-5458 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @eloisanews.