Monday, November 29, 2021

The numbers are in: Farm to Food Pantry continues to make a big impact

Nichole Garden
WSDA Food Assistance Program

Washington onions are one of many crops bought
thanks to the Farm to Food Pantry initiative. 
Veterans Farm at Orting is a 160-acre swath of land nestled at the foot of Mount Rainier which serves as a farm incubator for beginning veteran farmers by leasing them parcels of land where they can learn to grow and raise food. This year, three of its farmers are growing food for Nourish, a Pierce County-based non-profit contracting with WSDA’s Farm to Food Pantry (F2FP) initiative. This initiative, established in 2014, is a partnership between WSDA and Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) that creates ways for Washingtonians in need to receive fresh food from local farmers and gives an economic boost to the local farms. 

Because of the initiative, Nourish is able to support the Orting farmers by purchasing their food directly. This partnership is mirrored across the state as F2FP continues to grow. 

Each of the Orting veteran farmers contributes a unique mix of products. Mark Jacobs of Jacobs Agro supplies hearty greens, such as collards and kale, as well as onions, potatoes, and tomatoes. Jillian Locascio of Dancing Sprouts Farm sells Nourish a bounty of greens, including spinach and bok choy. Terry and Regina Strong of Strong Roots Farm sent over summer squash, melons, cucumbers, and some of the 22 varieties of cherry tomatoes they grew.

Carrie Little, who manages the farm through the Washington Department of Veterans Affairs, says it’s gratifying to “watch these amazing humans get excited about growing food” as they develop solid relationships with organizations that pay them for their products. And, she adds, the farmers love knowing that their food is feeding community members who need it. Nourish is also happy with the arrangement and has earmarked extra funds to buy even more from the Orting operation. 

New partnerships like these are making a significant impact. According to the Farm to Food Pantry Annual Report 2020, hunger relief organizations across the state combined grant funds with match dollars to purchase more than 105,000 pounds of produce from 97 farms to feed residents in need across 23 counties in Washington in 2020. Participating farms also donated a whopping 448,153 pounds of surplus produce through Farm to Food Pantry.

With even more funding available this year, thanks to a significant investment from the state legislature, WSDA expects those numbers to continue to grow.

Grant applications

The 2022-2023 Farm to Food Pantry grant application is now open. In addition to produce, the initiative will allow purchases of grains, dairy, eggs, and meat during this grant round. Grants will also provide administrative funding to support the coordination of these efforts.

Applications are now being accepted from prospective Farm to Food Pantry regional agencies through November 30. Recipients will receive a biennial allocation, with between $3,500 and $20,000 available from January 1 through June 30, 2022 and between $3,500 and $30,000 from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. 

Washington grown spinach.
Organizations that receive a grant to build new relationships with their local farmer through procurement, or enhance their current relationships, will not do s
o in a vacuum. WSDA and Harvest Against Hunger provide ongoing support, including monthly cohort meetings for participating organizations as well as technical support and resources, such as the Grower’s Roundtable Kit, a contracting guide and farm contract templates, purchasing calendar template, and fundraising guidance.

By connecting farmers and hunger relief organizations and encouraging community investment, Farm to Food Pantry is meeting key goals of WSDA’s Focus on Food initiative: increasing access to fresh, nutrient-dense foods for people experiencing food insecurity; supporting Washington agriculture; and facilitating connections between food providers and producers at the regional level. 

People, no matter what their income, want to know that food grown in their community is feeding the people that live there. This initiative helps make that possible by giving emergency food providers across the state greater flexibility to buy food grown and raised by local farmers. WSDA and HAH are proud to help facilitate these connections.

Apply now to become a regional agency through 2023. Access the grant materials here and contact Maddie Price by email or calling 206-236-0408 x105 with questions about the grant or the Farm to Food Pantry initiative.