Monday, April 23, 2018

Farm to Food Pantry– a win-win for farmers and food pantries

Nichole Garden
Food Assistance 

The Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Food Assistance programs, in partnership with Rotary First Harvest, is kicking off the fifth year of its Farm to Food Pantry initiative. The goal is to make more fresh produce available to hungry people by connecting local farms to food pantries. This initiative also helps promote a community-based food system, increasing the viability and success of both agricultural producers and emergency food assistance providers.

What is the Farm to Food Pantry Initiative?

WSDA contracts with Rotary First Harvest of Seattle to coordinate the allocation of grant funds. These funds are distributed to lead agencies involved in the emergency food system that, in turn, use the money to buy produce directly from local growers. These lead agencies are asked to obtain matching funds from private groups, in some cases doubling the amount available to purchase produce.

What’s New?

WSDA has launched a Farm to Food Pantry Seal that lead agencies, food pantries, farmers, and donors can use to display their participation in the initiative. The seal was created as part of a collaboration between WSDA and Farm to Food Pantry participants. Elements included in the seal  came from the feedback we received when speaking with the farmers, food pantries and lead agencies that will use it. This seal is meant to give farmers a marketing tool for their produce and food pantries a tool to leverage additional donations.

What Impact is the Initiative Making?

Since our pilot in 2014, WSDA has invested $98,467 in the initiative, with $77,000 of that going directly to farmers. Farmers also received $52,181 in local match and SNAP-Ed funding for a grand total of $129,181 targeted for farm direct purchases. This resulted in food pantries receiving over 395,882 lbs. of purchased, donated, and/or gleaned, nutrient dense produce to distribute to low-income families in the state of Washington.

Next Steps

This year, WSDA has carved out $33,000 in existing state and SNAP-Ed funds to pay local farmers in 18 Washington counties. These counties include: Asotin, Chelan, Clallam, Clark, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Island, Jefferson, King, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skagit, Snohomish, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman, and Yakima. In addition to the 12 lead agencies participating in 2017, Opportunities Industrialization Center in Yakima and the South King County Food Coalition in Des Moines are joining the initiative for the first time.

Where can I Learn More?

More details on the initiative, with feedback from the participating food pantries and farmers are included in the 2017 Farm to Food Pantry Report. Visit our Farm to Food Pantry webpage  to review the report, past reports and learn more about our project.