Sonoma Family Meal: Healthy, Dignified Comfort Food for Fire Victims.

Erin Havstad’s life lately has been awash in compiling personal property lists, managing a complex home rebuilding process, commuting to work from a temporary home in Cloverdale, and a host of other stresses. One thing she doesn’t have to worry about, since losing her home in Coffey Park, is her family’s access to nutritious meals.

The Havstads were one of 25 families chosen as clients for a pilot program launched by Sonoma Family Meal in late 2017. Every Monday, Havstad drops in to Franchetti’s restaurant in Santa Rosa to pick up an insulated bag filled with a free chef-cooked meal that feeds 4 to 6, plus a loaf of Franco American bread and salad.

Sonoma Family Meal

Sonoma Family Meal was launched as an emergency response in October by Heather Irwin, a local food writer. Irwin used her connections forged over the years to coordinate chefs, kitchens, and thousands of pounds of donations. The ultimate goal is to provide nutritious, delicious, locally sourced comfort food to traumatized fire victims. “Food is comfort,” says Irwin. “Food is emotional support.” In December, Sonoma Family Meal was officially incorporated as a nonprofit and Irwin became the organization’s executive director. A donation of $30,000 from Redwood Credit Union’s fire relief fund allowed operations to resume in January with the hiring of chef Heather Ames. Jon Franchetti donated his kitchen and restaurant in Santa Rosa as a cooking zone and pick-up spot. So far, meals have included vegan tikka masala, beef tacos, and mac and cheese, made with ingredients sourced locally from Umwalle Farms, Petaluma Poultry, F.E.E.D Sonoma, and Grounded Grassfed. Irwin says they plan to add an additional five families per week to the pilot program through a vetted intake process.

“Sonoma Family Meal makes it possible for us to easily sit down around the table and enjoy a real, healthy meal several nights a week,” says Erin Havstad. “The time and energy we would have spent on meal planning, shopping, and cooking is freed up for all of the extra stuff we have to do. We could not be more grateful for the way they have blessed our whole family as we begin to recover.”

Check the Sonoma Family Meal website for volunteer and donation opportunities or to apply to be a participating family:

Good Food Awards 2018

The Good Food Awards honor food purveyors and manufacturers from the United States that are helping to build a vibrant, delicious, responsible, and sustainable food system. It’s no surprise that Sonoma County saw a few honorees make the list, selected from over 2,000 entrants. Here’s the complete list of local winners:

THISTLE MEATS • Milano Salami

BELLWETHER FARMS • Whole Milk Basket Ricotta

LAURA CHENEL’S • Taupiniere

ETHIC CIDERS • Golden Rule


BACKYARD • Citrus and Juniper Shrub Elixir

SHED • Plum Shiso Shrub

SHED • Smoked Trout and Smoked Black Cod

SHED • Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms


Save the Date

Sonoma County Restaurant Week

March 2 – 11 at participating restaurants:

California Artisan Cheese Festival

March 23 – 25 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa:

Healing Foods Basics Class

March 28 at Ceres Community Project, Sebastopol:

8th Annual Empty Bowls Dinner and Auction Benefiting Redwood Empire Food Bank

April 28 at the Redwood Empire Food Bank, Santa Rosa:


Be the first to leave a comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Next Story


Story by Sarah Whitmore

Read this Story