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November 2012 Update: Community Food Systems, a year in
An overview of the first year of MMT's Community Food Systems special focus program is presented here.
January 2012 Update – Community Food System Grant Summaries
This update provides additional information about Meyer Memorial Trust's Community Food System program and grant projects.
Expected Outcomes/Impact from MMT Investment
All four planning grants and four implementation grants projects share key characteristics that should contribute to the following outcomes for communities at the conclusion of three years:
- Broader and deeper public awareness of and interest in the multiple benefits of producing and consuming local healthy food
- More local coordination through food councils and producer working groups to address communities’ specific infrastructure needs and expand capacity to produce and consume local food
- Increased capacity of small and mid-size farmers/producers to respond to local/regional demand rather than relying solely on commodity-based farming
- Improved nutrition for low-income rural families
- Increased federal SNAP/Food Stamp benefits to support local economies
- Increased sustainable farming and ranching practices, leading to improved environmental impacts and healthier food
- Increased federal funding to Oregon communities to support food system work (leveraged with MMT matching funds)
- Cross-region communication and learning through convenings to help expedite all of the above
One-Year Planning Grant Projects
ACCESS was founded in 1976. It is the designated Community Action Partner and Regional Food Bank for Jackson County. Programs are created to help low-income residents achieve self-sufficiency, including nutrition programs for food insecure individuals and families, medical equipment for those who lack insurance, housing and support services, and employment assistance.
As a community, southern Oregon has begun to work together toward a more self-reliant community food system. Over the last five years, food related activities include developing community food share gardens, implementing a new farmer incubator program (supported by MMT), creating an online farmers market that accepts Oregon Trail Cards (SNAP/food stamp program), convening two Hunger Summits to set priorities for the region, investigating opportunities for a meat processing facility, and cultivating land recently acquired by the Josephine County Food Bank to grow produce that will serve the community.
As significant as this work is, these efforts need to engage a broader community vision. ACCESS in partnership with Thrive and Josephine County Food Bank will take the lead to engage food system stakeholders—farmers, retailers, food businesses, government, non-profits, food security organizations, schools, community members, and local funders—to create a community food system strategic plan that will outline their shared goals and specific objectives for food production, nutrition education, food security, and economic vitality.
Additional partners include Rogue Valley Farm to School, Oregon Food Bank, OSU Extension and Small Farms programs, Rogue Farm Corps, Rotary First Harvest, and the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.
Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation and Development (CPRCD)
CPRCD is a member of the national network of Resource Conservation and Development (RCD) areas. The national program was established within the US Department of Agriculture to empower rural people and their communities. CPRCD has served residents in Benton, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, and Polk counties for the last 25 years. It works with diverse groups of local volunteers to carry out activities that lead to sustainable communities, prudent land use, and the conservation of natural resources. For several years, it has been working to develop local food markets within its service area.
A market analysis of Lane County’s local food system, published by the University of Oregon, reports there are opportunities to increase food production in the county, but the lack of infrastructure to get food from production to distribution is a major barrier. Further findings suggest that modest investment in strategic areas of infrastructure could leverage private investments that could significantly impact local food production.
CPRCD and local partners will take the lead to address barriers in food processing and the capacity to store harvest for commercial distributers. CPRCD will use MMT funds to match public funds to support a project that will develop a plan to build a prototype processing facility to clean, package, and store produce. It will also focus discussions and events within the community on developing Lane County’s food system infrastructure.
Potential partners include Ecotrust, Eugene Water and Electric Board, Institute for Natural Resources, Lane Council of Governments, McKenzie River Trust, McKenzie River Water Council, Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides, OSU Extension, Oregon Tilth, Springfield School District, Upper Willamette Soil & Water Conservation District, and Willamette Farm and Food Coalition.
Willamette Farm and Food Coalition (WFFC)
WFFC was formed in 2000. It promotes locally grown and raised foods; educates consumers; and connects households, businesses, and institutions directly to Lane County farms. A local food resource guide is published for consumers, and an online search tool assists businesses and institutional food buyers in accessing local product. WFFC is partnering with grass seed farms, transitioning acreage to food crops, a new grain mill, and a wholesale business in building consumer support and market demand for locally grown beans, grains, and flours. WFFC’s Farm to School Program has successfully brought locally produced food into four school districts and educated hundreds of elementary school students about where their food comes from. As the lead state organization for the National Farm to School Network, it provides technical assistance and support to Farm to School programs throughout Oregon.
With all this activity from WFFC and its partners there is room for more. Less than 5% of the $1.2 billion Lane County residents spend on food is being spent on local products. WFFC will work with the University of Oregon Community Service Center to determine a realistic goal for a campaign to increase consumer demand for locally produced foods. They plan to take this consumer education and marketing campaign to a new level by illustrating the multiplier effect of dollars spent on local food. Research will include developing campaign metrics, data collection protocols, and evaluation.
Potential partners include the University of Oregon Community Service Center, Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO), Lane County Farmers Market, Organically Grown Company, Emerald Fruit & Produce, Hummingbird Wholesale, Camas Country Mill, Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, Travel Lane County, Willamette Valley Sustainable Foods Business Alliance, Slow Food Eugene, locally owned grocery stores, school districts, and other institutional buyers.
Yamhill Community Action Partners (YCAP)
YCAP is the regional community action agency that provides essential social services to low-income people, seniors, and individuals with disabilities in Yamhill County. It serves as the regional local food bank, provides housing and housing support services, operates an outreach center for at-risk youth, provides transportation services, and offers a broad range of crisis intervention services.
Local food system efforts in the county have been scattered until the economic recession galvanized concerned citizens to discuss innovative projects to advance the region’s food system. Discussions have ranged from improving access to local farm produce to creating jobs by nurturing food entrepreneurs. YCAP will take the lead in convening a collaboration of businesses, farmers, food processors, food retailers, and consumers to further these discussions to develop an action plan that identifies strategies for a more resilient local economy and community in Yamhill County.
Potential partners include Yamhill County Health, Yamhill Enrichment Society, McMinnville Economic Development Partnership, OSU Extension, Dayton Community Development Association, Western Oregon Waste, Chemeketa MicroEnterprise Resources, Yamhill County Commission, and local farmers.
Three-year Implementation Grant Projects
Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council/COCI (Redmond)
COIC is a regional Council of Governments representing Crook, Deschutes, and Jefferson counties and the cities of Bend, Culver, La Pine, Madras, Metolius, Prineville, Redmond, and Sisters. Its 15-member board is made up of elected officials representing each of its member governments and appointed representatives of private sector businesses and higher education. It is the region’s federally designated Economic Development District.
Key partners: COCI, OSU Extension Service, Sisters Community Garden, Mountain View Hospital, NeighborImpact (the local community action agency), St. Charles Health System, Central Oregon Food Policy Council, Wy’East Resource Conservation & Development, White Diamond Ranch, Bear Creek Elementary School, and Agriculture Connections and Central Oregon Locavore (both small, for-profit entities).
Project Summary and Goals: The Cultivating Local Food project is a community-based effort to increase food security and create economic opportunities in the tri-county region and the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs in Central Oregon. The project’s components grew out of a thorough community food assessment process. Main project goals are to:
- enhance existing community gardens and food skills education
- enhance food production through creation of support structures that extend the growing season
- increase transportation and distribution options for local food
- create and implement a Buy Fresh Buy Local regional marketing campaign
This project includes partnerships with OSU’s Small Farms program and area hospitals (who have developed connections with the Latino community in Madras and the Warm Springs Indian Reservation). For-profit partners are new but show strong interest in helping increase infrastructure for local food (transportation, aggregated ordering systems, marketing, etc.). MMT funding will support current project management and provide support for extending work with community gardens (specifically supporting connections with SNAP/Food Stamp participants and other low-income community members), greenhouse development to help extend growing seasons, subsidized food shares for low-income people to access small farms (CSAs) and farmers markets, and a Buy Fresh Buy Local marketing campaign.
Food Roots (Tillamook)
Formed in 2006, Food Roots grew out of CARE, the local community action agency, to cultivate a healthy food system in Tillamook County. It has a small, dedicated staff that relies on strong partnerships that helped spearhead 12 community and school gardens to date; develop youth education programs (farm-to-school), from preschool through high school, to grow the next generation of farmers; and implement an economic and micro-enterprise program that includes individual development accounts (IDAs) for food entrepreneurs as well as startup advising and financial literacy training. In partnership with North Coast Food Web in Clatsop County, Food Roots also produces the North Coast Food Guide, a paper and web-based guide for consumers to find regionally produced food and connect with those producers.
Key Partners: Food Roots, North Coast Food Web, farmers (both small farmers and traditional dairy farmers), OSU Extension, the Oregon Farm Bureau, schools, farmers markets, Oregon Department of Agriculture/FoodCorps, local governments, Oregon Food Bank, and public health officials.
Project Summary and Goals: This project covers Tillamook and Clatsop counties and reflects a growing partnership between Food Roots (Tillamook Co.) and North Coast Food Web (Clatsop Co.). Both counties offer distinct opportunities for expansion of local food crops/production to build more food security when its small communities become isolated during natural disasters such as flooding. Tillamook ranks sixth in farming among Oregon’s counties but is dominated by monoculture dairy production. Clatsop County is one of the least farmed counties in the state yet has great potential for both vegetable growing and local seafood production as more people discover Astoria as an urban center. Each county’s partners have relationships and resources to compliment the other’s.
Project goals are to:
- establish a formal working relationship between Food Roots and North Coast Food Web and establish a North Coast Advisory Group to direct the work in both counties to maximize opportunities
- develop a viable farmer/producer working group and networks to strengthen the small farmers’ ability to produce and sell local food
- establish a North Coast Small Farms and Gardens annual convening event (modeled on OSU’s Small Farms Direct Market Conference)
- increase SNAP/Food Stamp participation at Farmers Markets by 50%
- incubate a North Coast Food Council or Coalition to help solve infrastructure and other food system challenges
- create a web-based Virtual Resource Bank for farmers (e.g., connecting new farmers to mentors/internships, creating a “tool bank” and “land bank” for new farmers)
- work with the Port of Tillamook Bay to develop 3-5 large-scale hoop houses for season extension/year-round production opportunities
Both Food Roots and North Coast Food Web were started by and are currently managed by farmers who have spent the past few years building relationships among other producers in the two-county region. But the organizations are small and lack the capacity to take full advantage of expansion opportunities. With MMT funding, they can expand staff capacity, bring on more Americorps/FoodCorps service members, and develop a stronger, more formalized relationship, which should position them expand local food businesses, increase low-income access to fresh food, and leverage federal funding. Another key focus area is developing the next generation of leaders and farmers through school-based education, mentoring, and internship opportunities.
Oregon Rural Action/ORA (La Grande)
Oregon Rural Action, created in 2001, organizes community members to address locally identified problems in three Oregon counties. It has 500 dues-paying members that are organized into chapters in Union, Baker, and Malheur counties. Each chapter identifies issues impacting its communities and develops strategies for volunteers to pursue with guidance, training and support from ORA’s small staff. Its work also supports similar efforts in Wallowa County. Currently, the two top priority areas for action are developing local food and energy systems.
Key Partners: ORA, OSU Extension, Union County Fit Kids, Eastern Oregon University, OHSU, and the Northeast Oregon Economic Development District as well as a number of schools, churches, and nonprofits across a four-county area (Union, Baker, Malheur, and Wallowa).
Project Summary and Goals: ORA has identified four key barriers to creating a regional food system in Eastern Oregon:
- isolating geography
- lack of technology, time, and money to communicate and collaborate
- lack of regional facilitation and organization
- underutilization of existing infrastructure, programs and resources
The project seeks to address these barriers by:
- increasing access to OSU Small Farms Program in Eastern Oregon
- increasing use of Foodhub and other web-based tools to connect consumers to producers
- expanding Farm-to-School programs
- increasing community gardens and developing a formal network
- increasing value-added production through rentable certifiable kitchens
- supporting farm succession planning through web-based resource tools and internships
- establishing a Regional Food Systems Working Group out of individual county food policy councils to solidify a strong food system infrastructure across the region
ORA uses in-depth community organizing, particularly among small farmers and producers in the region. Each chapter has an organizer with deep community connections and several are proficient in Spanish speaking and writing. This project includes a formal evaluation component supported by OHSU’s School of Nursing. ORA is also developing a plan to create earned income streams through memberships, fee-for-service/consulting, and for-profit enterprises (e.g., purchasing a grain mill for the La Grande Farmers Market to process and sell flour from locally grown grains). MMT funding would support extended community organizer time, partner staff increases to support farm-to-school and community garden expansion, development of earned-income strategies, and food policy council support and coordination.
Ten Rivers Food Web (Corvallis)
Ten Rivers Food Web, created in 2004, educates and organizes farmers, processors, buyers, retailers, and individuals to increase and diversify local food acreage, promote local food processing, and expand access to affordable and nutritious foods in Linn, Benton, and Lincoln counties. Its programs focus on improving low-income access to healthy food, improving food literacy through community education programs, and creating economic opportunities for small farmers and agricultural entrepreneurs. In 2007, Ten Rivers in partnership with Willamette Farm and Food Coalition launched the Southern Willamette Valley Bean and Grain Project to help grass-seed farmers transition to organic food production. To date, over 1,000 acres have transitioned, creating thousands of pounds of staple crops produced and sold locally. Ten Rivers also hosts an online Local Food Directory, linking producers with consumers in the region.
Key partnerships: Food Share of Lincoln County, Linn Benton Food Share, Oregon Food Bank, Corvallis Environmental Center, Benton County Health Department, local farmers markets and farms, Oregon Microenterprise Network, OSU, Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE), Rural Development Initiatives (RDI), Samaritan Health Services, Small Business Development Center, and Corvallis Local Foods (for-profit).
Project Summary and Goals: The tri-county “foodshed” has seen the disappearance of food processing and distribution infrastructure over the last 20 years, which has reduced the number of crops grown locally. Many farmers have moved to nonfood products such as grass seed, nursery plants, and other specialty crops for export. The goal of Ten Rivers and its partners through this project is to increase the supply, demand, and access to locally grown products. The specific project activities expand on Ten Rivers’ current priorities:
- Improving low-income access to healthy food through a That’s My Farmer SNAP/Food Stamp Incentive Program to encourage SNAP recipients to purchase fresh food at farmer’s markets in Albany, Sweet Home, Brownsville, Corvallis, Newport and expand to Toledo, Yachats, Lebanon, Lincoln City, and the Corvallis winter market; and increase SNAP enrollment and outreach through food banks, housing developments, and doctors’ offices. Ten Rivers will also partner with doctors to create That’s My Farmer Prescription Program). Expansion of SNAP usage and matches will benefit sales for small farmers and farmers’ markets
- Increase food literacy to generate reliable consumer demand and grow local markets. Ten Rivers has been doing this work successfully in Benton County for the past seven years and plans to expand this work to Linn and Lincoln counties. Strategies include hosting cooking classes, farm tours, specialty dinners, and food fairs
- Increase agricultural economic opportunities through targeted outreach to farmers and food processors as well as increase direct marketing of local food for institutional buyers (OSU) and fisheries. Through a partnership with RDI, Ten Rivers will help facilitate micro-enterprise development classes for at least 15 food entrepreneurs. In addition, Lincoln County will open a year-round farmers’ market and incorporate local seafood into CSAs serving noncoastal residents.
This project has a major low-income focus with SNAP/Food Stamp outreach and incentive strategies. MMT funds will be used to expand Ten Rivers’ staff capacity to include community food organizers in all three counties, support for VISTA volunteers, SNAP incentives (matches), marketing, and educational/promotional activities to link consumers to local food and significantly expand low-income access to locally grown, fresh food; increase institutional purchasing of local food by 20%; strengthen partnerships across the foodshed; create economic opportunities for local farms and food entrepreneurs; and significantly increase awareness of local food options in Linn and Lincoln counties, thereby driving up consumer demand.
Additional Projects from MMT's Responsive Grant Program:
Friends of Zenger Farm (Portland)
This urban educational eight-acre farm is focusing on two low-income neighborhoods (Lents and Powellhurst-Gilbert) for its Neighborhood Food Innovation Project to increase opportunities for food production and economic development in partnership with neighborhood leaders, schools, and other area nonprofit organizations and businesses. The organization received a three-year USDA Community Food Program grant to jumpstart the project in addition to additional land from the City of Portland.
- Create two acres for a sliding-scale community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm that can receive SNAP benefits.
- Create 30 community garden plots, 10 of which will be offered to low-income residents from the surrounding neighborhood
- Expand the Healthy Eating on a Budget classes to serve CSA participants and parents at 5 elementary schools and 3 low-income housing developments
- Expand the Farmer in the Classroom program at 5 elementary schools
- Create the Field to Forks program, an at-risk youth job-training program in farm skills and healthy eating
- Create the Urban Growers Program, training 20 interested growers about basic agriculture, marketing, and growing crops in backyards and on vacant properties.
MMT funds will support a CSA coordinator, an evaluation process, and initial support to subsidize CSA farm shares for SNAP/food stamp participants.
Huerto de la Familia (Eugene)
Formed in 1999 to cultivate community integration and economic self-sufficiency for Latino families by offering opportunities and training in organic gardening and farming and the development of food-based micro-enterprises. Huerto successfully incubated the Small Farmer’s Project, a cooperative of small Latino farmers that grows and sells strawberries to local food businesses and Blackcap raspberries through Organically Grown Company. The project is now a separate LLC that still receives training and technical assistance from Huerto.
Project description and goals: to develop a new micro-enterprise program called Cambios (Changes) to provide business training and counseling to Latino gardeners, growers, and budding entrepreneurs interested in launching or expanding good farm and food business ideas. The training will also be offered to farmers involved in the LLC. Huerto’s goal is to move these individuals from laborers to owners, helping them further integrate into the broader community. The organization will partner with Adelante Mujeres in Forest Grove on a joint evaluation process to assess the impact of its micro-enterprise training on Cambios participants and participants in Adelante’s Empresas Program, which helps Latino women create successful tamale businesses. Other partners include Downtown Languages (to provide English language and computer literacy training) and Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation (NEDCO) to provide financial literacy training and access to CDFI small business loans and an Individual Development Account (IDA) savings program.
MMT funds will support a micro-enterprise manager and part-time communications associate.
For more information about MMT's CFS program, contact:
- Kim Thomas, MMT Program Officer, 503-228-5512, kthomas [at] mmt [dot] org
- Sally Yee, MMT Program Officer, 503-228-5512, sally [at] mmt [dot] org
October 2011 Update
Program Officer Kim Thomas reports on MMT's Community Food Systems program and process, including announcing more than $1.4 million in planning and implementation grants to organizations across Oregon. READ MORE
In 2010, Meyer Memorial Trust commissioned a study of Community Food Systems in Oregon in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of food in developing secure, healthy and economically vital communities in the state. We are sharing it here because there is a lot of information we're sure will interest many others.
The full report – Community Food Systems in Oregon: Opportunities to Build Capacity for Food Security, Health and Economic Vitality – is available for downloading here.
An Executive Summary of the full report is available here.