Melissa Tariza

Melissa Tariza, is the bilingual intake assistant at Food For Thought.

Largest percentage of positive COVID-19 cases are Latinx

Food For Thought, the nonprofit food bank that was founded in 1988 to serve the health and nutrition needs of HIV/AIDS patients during that local epidemic is now joining the fight against the latest public health crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic that as of this writing has killed 114 county residents and is continuing to spread at a rate of about 300 cases a week.

The staff and volunteers at the Forestville-based food bank are uniquely qualified to serve individual COVID-19 patients because of their past experience in working with thousands of people with compromised health conditions and very specific nutrition needs.

“Food is medicine,” is the mantra at Food For Thought. They were contacted by the county’s public health agency and asked to accept referrals from them to provide nutrition and dietary advice and free food deliveries. Nina Redman is a registered dietician and she is now conducting phone intake interviews to formulate special grocery or prepared food needs and services.

The large majority of COVID-19 cases are local Latino households because that segment of the local community has been hardest hit by the coronavirus.

“We look to serve the entire household so they can quarantine where necessary and the individual client can focus on his or her health and nutrition needs,” said Kathleen Haack, the food bank’s communications manager.

“During the intake process, we really try to get a complete picture of the unique challenges that the individual and the household faces,” said Redman. “In some cases, in addition to providing food for the entire family, we are also providing diapers. The goal of the program is to help people isolate while they are ill and contagious. This not only helps them stay focused on their health, but it also reduces the risk of the spread of the virus to the community.”

Melissa Tariza, is the bilingual intake assistant at Food For Thought. By the end of August, Food For Thought had served 600 families and households.

Food For Thought will either provide groceries or prepared meals for up to eight weeks after service begins. Whether or not the person receives groceries or the prepared meals depends on their unique situation and ability to prepare meals from the groceries. In some cases, the prepared meals or a liquid nutritional support drink like Ensure may be more appropriate. Food For Thought is encouraging anyone who is at risk of malnutrition to reach out to the food bank at 707-887-1647 ext. 119 or by email to Nina Redman at NinaR@FFTfoodbank.org.

Several other local government agencies and community groups are serving the food and nutrition needs of both COVID-19 positive cases and households suffering from the pandemic-caused economic recession. General information is available at both the Sonoma County Public Health website and at Socoemergency.org.

Along with the rising need for assistance also comes the need for many more volunteers. Along with calls for volunteers at Food For Thought, the regional food bank, Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB) is also seeking volunteers to work at its warehouse to assemble food packages and to work at its regular food drive-thru giveaways. To volunteer at REFB, go to volunteer@refb.org or call 707-523-7900.

Since the beginning of the pandemic-caused economic shutdown in March, the regional food bank has experienced a found-fold increase over its monthly food giveaway totals. Other volunteer food programs also have been started in various communities, including the shared ministry programs in Sebastopol and Healdsburg as well as regular drive-thru food pickups by Corazon Healdsburg.

Food For Thought also holds regular food drives for people to donate food and supplies. The next scheduled food drive is set for Monday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Petaluma Outlet Mall.

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