Nonprofit organizations in Southern Humboldt are teaming up to battle hunger in our community. Many people in SoHum do not have enough food to put on their tables and are forced to figure out how to feed their families on a daily basis. These folks include many working families with young children, shut-in seniors, individuals, the disabled, the homeless and people living on fixed incomes.

The good news is that SoHum’s hunger problem has been recognized, examined, and the wheels are already in motion to address it. The Southern Humboldt Fresh Food Network is a partnership that consists of several SoHum nonprofit organizations. These organizations utilize CalFresh funding provided by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services to help the most vulnerable members of our community gain access to healthy foods and CalFresh services through existing community-based programs. These organizations include the Mateel Community Center, the Southern Humboldt Family Resource Center, and the Southern Humboldt Community Park. This network is unique because it bridges the gap between local food producers and organizations providing healthy nutritious food.

Our work is far more effective through our collaboration. Together we maximize our limited resources to provide healthy nutritious food and CalFresh outreach services to more people than each group could alone. We are able to link a greater number of people to services and make a stronger effort at creating local food security these local cooperative efforts have a greater impact because we can effectively and efficiently provide services in a rural community like Southern Humboldt. By working together, we are making the most out of our available resources and eliminating a duplication of efforts.

In this collaboration, each organization takes a distinct and creative approach in their efforts to end hunger. The blending of these five unique approaches is a crucial part of SoHum’s safety net to promote regional food security and to help folks gain access to the CalFresh program. The work of our Southern Humboldt Fresh Food Network is successful because it goes beyond the scope of what each organization could accomplish individually. The Mateel Meal, a program of the Mateel Community Center, is one of SoHum’s longest operating free meal services. The number of low-income people the Mateel manages to feed is mind-boggling, especially considering every meal is balanced, nutritious and prepared with organic ingredients. From July 1 to September 30 of this year, the Mateel Meal provided healthy meals for 2,057 men, 849 women, 883 senior citizens, and 100 children! There’s no question that the Mateel is the leader in SoHum in the fight against food insecurity and does a phenomenal job with only one chef and a small, hard-working kitchen staff. Volunteers are always welcomed to help. Call 923-3368.

The Southern Humboldt Family Resource Center (FRC) in Redway is also part of the effort to eliminate food insecurity in Southern Humboldt. They blend a unique approach of food and education to address hunger with their clients. They distribute food bags each week to 22 low-income families in SoHum. The fresh food from local farmers is provided to the FRC families in partnership with the Southern Humboldt Community Park as a part of CalFresh grant. These food baskets include excellent nutrition information that promotes and demystifies good eating habits. The FRC also takes its educational efforts to another level by leading workshops and seminars that address hunger and nutrition. The FRC operates a summer program each year that provides lunch and cooking classes, as well as hosting mini-cooking classes at the Redway After-School Program. At school functions and sporting events, the FRC also provides taste testing of healthy food options to help build familiarity with in-season produce.

The Southern Humboldt Community Park’s outreach efforts are focused on providing healthy food, easy access to CalFresh enrollment and nutrition education. The Park uses its CalFresh funding to provide nutrition educational, outreach materials and organic produce from local farmers and ranchers. The Park program delivers fresh healthy food to low-income households that live in the far reaches of Southern Humboldt that are a long distance from available public transit and available fresh food. This eliminates one of the most frustrating barriers to accessing fresh food – a lack of available transportation. In addition the Park’s CalFresh funding provides farm fresh food to the organization that provide cooked meals and food baskets to eligible participants including the Mateel Meal, the Family Resource Center, the Healy Senior lunch, Meals on Wheels, the Food Pantry, Community Cornerstone and also to WISH women’s shelter. In addition, the Community Park also provides offsite application assistance for enrollment on CalFresh, prescreening and retention.

The Community Park’s program fights food insecurity by working with local farmers and recognizing the crucial role they play in creating a sustainable food system in Southern Humboldt. The program’s success relies on the Community Park’s strong relationship with farmers and ranchers. The Park purchases food from Flood Plain Produce in Scotia, Feisty Dog Orchards in Redcrest, Briceland Forest Farm, Shakefork Community Farm in Carlotta, Golden Bee Apiary in Ferndale, Bear River Valley Beef in Ferndale, Organic Matters Ranch in Eureka, and the Garberville Community Farm.

Additional nonprofit partners who play a key role in creating food security in Southern Humboldt are the Healy Senior and Garberville food pantry. The Healy Senior Center in Redway has been at the forefront of providing nutritious meals to Southern Humboldt’s senior population for more than a decade. The Healy Senior Center offers three nutritional meal programs, educational programs, social gatherings, volunteer opportunities and support services for older adults as well as information and assistance for caregivers and family members. Their comprehensive meal program consists of three lunches served weekly at the Healy Center for those able to commute. In addition, they deliver fresh and frozen prepared meal packages delivered weekly through their partnership with the Southern Humboldt Community Park and the Meals on Wheels program. This partnership between the Community Park and Healy Senior Center is particularly useful in delivering fresh food to the far, outlying areas of SoHum.

The Garberville Food Pantry at the Presbyterian Church on Locust Street is open on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10:30am to noon and on Wednesday afternoons from 2:00pm to 4:00pm. Each month, dedicated volunteers provide food to approximately 300 individuals, comprising roughly 135 households. The Presbyterian Church graciously provides the space and utilities and the food is mostly provided by Food for People. The pantry picks up weekly donations from Ray’s Food Place, Shop Smart, and Chautauqua Natural Foods. Fresh organic produce provided by the Community Park’s program has helped improve the diversity of healthy foods available. Food drives, like the Stuff the Truck Drive and the Holiday Spirit Drive and the Letter Carriers Drive in May, combined with local contributors, make it possible to prevent people from going hungry. The Civic Club, Catholic Church, Miranda 4H, and other generous organizations contribute as they are able, and the food pantry is grateful for their support.

While these organizations are making big strides in neutralizing hunger in Southern Humboldt, there is a lot more work to be done. Hunger and poverty continue to rise in SoHum, and these five organizations are attempting to meet this increased need the best they can. We anticipate being hard at work for the foreseeable future in this battle against food insecurity. We hope the community will join our efforts, and support these programs into the future with donations of food, funding, or volunteer time. If you would like to donate or volunteer at one of our partner sites please call (707) 923-2928.

If you, or someone you know, would benefit from participating in the CalFresh program call the Southern Humboldt Community Park’s office at (707) 923-2928 or the Department of Health and Human Services at (877) 410-8809. You can also go online to www.c4yourself.com to apply.