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Holiday Hunger 

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It's that time of year, when food and family are at the front of most people's minds. But what about the 13.1 percent of Sonoma County residents that live in poverty? For the Redwood Empire Food Bank, this depressing reality, combined with the fact that the median income for its food recipients is only $930 a month (the average apartment rent in the county is $1,213 a month), has translated into a steadily increasing demand for food-assistance donations. "Our 2010 Hunger in Sonoma County study showed that the economy is taking a very heavy toll on our neighbors," says the food bank's executive director David Goodman. An 85 percent cut in federal emergency food funding in 2011 has resulted in $47,000 in lost funding for REFB, making the need for donations all the more essential.

REFB recently kicked off its annual Winter Food and Funds Drive, with the goal of collecting 225,000 pounds of food, or 625,000 meals, to feed the 78,000 county residents that turn to the organization for help each month. The drive continues until Jan. 31. Food items needed include pasta, peanut butter and cereal; canned food donations of tuna, soups, stews, vegetables and fruit are welcome as well.

Don't feel like shopping and dropping? Goodman says that a $1 cash donation actually becomes $4 worth of food relief. This year's food drop-off locations include Whole Foods Market, Safeway, Oliver's Market and G&G Market. Food can also be donated, and checks mailed, to Redwood Empire Food Bank, 3320 Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa, CA, 95404. For more information, call 707.523.7900 or visit www.refb.org.

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