Monday, July 18, 2016

Washington's Farm to Food Pantry program delivering locally grown products to food banks

Washington state's Farm to Food Pantry program was launched in 2014 to contract food banks with local farmers for fresh produce. The program, which began with six communities, expanded to 12 communities in 2015, Sheila Hagar reports for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.

The 2015 Farm to Food Pantry Purchasing Report says "one in six Washington residents used their local food pantry last year, meaning about 140 million pounds of food went to roughly 8.5 million clients through 500 of the charitable sites." (Purchasing report graphic: Totals from the 2014 pilot program)
In 2013 Gov. Jay Inslee created Results Washington, a program designed "to make the state’s communities healthier," Hagar writes. "The initiative created statewide goals spanning economy, education, environment, safety, effective government and public health. Specific to Farm to Food Pantry, Inslee’s blueprint called for a 5 percent increase in healthful food options offered to low income families through pantries, farmers markets and meal programs by 2017."

"The plan was financed with existing state food assistance dollars diverted to sustain the new concept," Hagar reports. "Not only does the program benefit low-income families without requiring additional state money, it benefits farmers and supports agricultural conservation practices, state officials say. Washington, however, didn’t want to administer the new program, so it teamed with Rotary First Harvest, the nonprofit offshoot of the Seattle-area Rotary district."

In Walla Walla, Jeff Mathias, director of Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank "said he took the $2,500 received from the state, pledged $1,500 in hoped-for donations and split the total of $4,000 among four Walla Walla Valley farmers," Hagar writes. "In return for their $1,000, each farm has committed to give BMAC at least that much back in produce at under wholesale prices, Mathias said." (Read more)

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