Sunday, 14 July 2024

Rural Food Project in need of donations, volunteers to help feed the hungry

This is the second installment in Lake County News' ongoing series, Feeding Awareness: Food Insecurity in Lake County.

LAKE COUNTY "Do you live in Lake County?" and "Are you hungry?" If the answer to both questions is yes, Rural Food Project is here to help.

"We don't put people through a lot of hoops to get food," says Hedy Montoya, who heads the program in Lake County.

Part of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, Rural Food Project is a program that distributes food to the hungry throughout Lake and Sonoma counties. There are currently two sites in Lake County where food is distributed once a month.

The Rural Food Project distributes every third Wednesday of the month at St. Joseph's Church in Middletown and every fourth Monday at St. Peter's Church at Kelseyville. Both distributions are held from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and people typically begin lining up at 4 p.m.

During the distribution, volunteers hand out boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables and nonperishable foods. Each box of food lasts approximately ten days for a family of four.

The program began in Middletown in July 2002, and in September 2006, it opened in Kelseyville.

The Rural Food Project purchases food for 18 cents per pound at the Redwood Empire Bank in Santa Rosa. The approximate cost per month to feed people is $1,800, and this is slowly increasing.

According to Montoya, the food primarily goes to the working poor. She finds that around the end of the month, these people are choosing to use what's left of their money to pay bills rather than eat. The other major recipients are seniors who end up prioritizing utility bills and prescriptions over food.

The registration process is minimal and doesn't include much more than a few questions.

Since July 2006, 1,075 individuals have received donated food at least once approximately 150 families. In Middletown in March, 89 boxes of food were given to 247 people. In Kelseyville, 55 boxes of food were given out to 239 people.

Montoya is the only paid staff member of the Rural Food Project. Everyone else who contributes is a volunteer. Montoya says there are around 20 people she knows she can always ask to volunteer. Among the many generous volunteers, a few especially stand out in her mind as they have been there to help on an ongoing basis since the program's beginning five years ago. This includes Judy Knight, Julie Sears, Bettye McKinstry, Merna Scott, Carolyn and Bill Tobin Jr., and Bill Tobin Sr., who is 99 years old this year.

In 2006, Montoya won the Stars Marla Ruzicka Humanitarian Award for her efforts in feeding the hungry. She credits the volunteers of the program: "The volunteers have made it all possible. I stand on their shoulders. They do such incredible work," she says.

Montoya doesn't want anybody getting burned out, however, so she is always looking for new volunteers to organize, pack food, distribute, and drive loads of food to and from St. Joseph's pantry.

St. Joseph's Church in Middletown is the only Rural Food Project site with a pantry, so emergency food is available. People may call (707) 987-8139 to arrange pick-up or delivery.

The biggest issue, though, explains Montoya, is trying to figure out ways to create money to feed the poor. United Way and FEMA used to provide grants to the Rural Food Project, but these are no longer a guarantee. "We're looking at any other feasible way of doing it," she says.

"Government funding is down immensely. Grants are no longer as available as they were, so we're looking to the private sector and business to help. We used to get a lot of help from the government in terms of providing food, but everything is being slashed.

"Most people don't know that we're here and we're doing this work," she adds.

The Rural Food Project is currently looking for assistance to buy a covered trailer that can haul food from Middletown to Kelseyville. Over the past couple months, it has rained on Kelseyville's distribution night and much of the food got wet in the open beds of the trucks that are currently being used.

The next Rural Food Project distribution in Middletown will be held Wednesday, April 18. The next distribution in Kelseyville will be held Monday, April 23. In May, due to Memorial Day weekend, Middletown's Kelseyville's distribution will be held on the third Monday, May 21, rather than the fourth.

Monetary donations may be mailed to the following address. All donations to this address will go toward Lake County's program:

Catholic Charities

18713 Spyglass Road

Hidden Valley Lake 95467

Memo: RFP Lake

St. Joseph's Church is located on the corners of Bush and Highway 175 in Middletown. St. Peter's Church is located on Main Street in Kelseyville. To learn more about the Rural Food Project, including information on donating or becoming a volunteer, call (707) 987-8139.

E-mail Penny Dahl at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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