little girl
Gail Cafferatta, President,
NOAH Pantry

Start a Food Pantry

Join the Redwood Empire Food Bank’s
“Neighborhood Hunger Network”  

The Redwood Empire Food Bank (REFB) defines ending hunger as providing sufficient resources in all areas of the county for anyone seeking food assistance. We accomplish this through our own direct service food distributions as well as through our partnering agencies which create a network of pantries, kitchens, shelters, group homes, child care facilities and other programs in all areas of Sonoma County. The REFB is the hub of 178 Agencies with 276 programs located in every city, town and unincorporated area of Sonoma County. Agencies shop at the REFB to support their programs.

How to Start a Food Pantry

Who can be a partner pantry?

Any 501(c)3 or faith-based organization can apply to be a food pantry. The partner pantry must agree to distribute food to low-income people, free of charge, donation, or exchange of services.

How can my organization get started?

First, your organization needs to apply to be a member agency of the REFB. Download an agency application and other relevant materials here, and please feel free to call the Redwood Empire Food Bank at, 707-523-7900, with any questions you may have. Ask for our Agency Relations Coordinator, Lina Hernandez, or email,

pdf icon New Agency Cover Letter
pdf icon Agency Agreement
pdf icon Agency Application
pdf icon Program Application
pdf icon Agency Shopping Guidelines

Additional information:

Key Points of Safe Food Handling Everyone Should Know
Feeding America's Good Samaritan Act

Who will we service?

You should determine the need in your neighborhood and develop your program to suit that need. For instance, if working families need help you should consider being open after work.

How does a food pantry work?

Organizations store and distribute food from a room or designated space, which serves as a mini grocery store. Clients visit the pantry during selected times and choose items that they need and/or are given pre-packed bags of staples.

Where does the food come from?

As a member agency, your organization can shop at the REFB's warehouse to access the food you need.

How much food does a pantry typically give away?

The ideal weekly distribution is 20 pounds of food per household. If your organization can distribute more than 20 pounds per family, it is always appreciated.

How are pantries funded?

Pantries are primarily funded with donations from current supporters or their faith-based congregation.

What kind of space and equipment is needed?

You will need a permanent space to safely and securely store food off the floor and from which to distribute the food. The space should have basic temperature control (between 45-85°) and adequate ventilation. Food must be separated from non-food items. The following items are also helpful: refrigerator and/or freezer, shelves, table, sign-in desk or card table, contact phone with message machine, handcart, box cutters, covered trash can, grocery bags, and pantry sign.

Who do we contact to submit an application, or if we have more questions?

Please feel free to call the Redwood Empire Food Bank at, 707-523-7900, with any questions you may have. Ask for our Agency Relations Coordinator, Lina Hernandez, or email,

It will be extremely helpful for you to visit a couple of pantries to observe how they operate. Give us a call and we will give you some suggestions.

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