Equity in Food Access
While access to healthy food is essential for people visiting food pantries and community meals, CHS also recognizes that many individuals who lack access to healthy food aren't being reached by conventional programs. CHS is committed to ensuring our programming helps everyone in the community through the following initiatives.
Food Equity Project
The Southwestern WI Food Equity Project brings together government and community led organizations, leaders throughout all levels of the local food system from producers to distributors to food pantries, and BIPOC individuals experiencing food insecurity who also have lived experience with disability, mental illness, housing insecurity, lack of transportation, and other common barriers to food access. The purpose of this project is to create a platform for historically underrepresented community members to share their voices and help shape our local food system beginning with Community Hunger Solutions’ programming. The Food Equity Project will create an Accountability Committee composed of BIPOC community members who have experience with food insecurity and two or more additional barriers to food access. The project will build relationships with them by hosting conversations, compensate them for their time to demonstrate the value of their input (and, for many, make it possible for them to provide it), and invite leaders in the food supply chain to learn from their experiences creating a platform for the Accountability Committee to help shape the local food movement in a way that includes all members of our community, not just the majority.
Growing Communities Farm to ECE
Growing Communities is a farm to institution education initiative that provides momentum for locally led farm to institution educational programming by fostering true collaboration that engages the entire community and ongoing support for the longevity of programming. Participants will be offered an optional CSA (community supported agriculture) farm subscription on a sliding scale with the option to pay week to week. The CSA will be delivered directly to childcare sites each week, making it as simple as possible for families to participate. Additionally, Community Hunger Solutions’ Education and Outreach Specialist Dana Sheffen will provide on-site nutrition education at least once per month. What makes Growing Communities more than just another Farm to School initiative? Growing Communities focuses on the entire community, inviting everyone from the geographic area to participate. The first step to the project is a major outreach to learn what the community wants and who wants to participate. When the entire community is considered as a whole unit, the possibilities are endless! After Community Hunger Solutions facilitates the programs that the community wants to see implemented, CHS will work to help the community make them sustainable. Finally, once a community has a robust farm to institution practice, CHS will continue to check in with their progress offering assistance for any challenges they may encounter, ensuring longevity for the programs Growing Communities helps initiate.
Farm to Pantry Initiative
Community Hunger Solutions receives about 150,000 pounds of donated fruits, veggies and dairy products each year for distribution to local partners. Many common and needed items are missing from the commodities donated, however. Items like tomatoes (yes, tomatoes), green beans, peppers, onions, and sweet corn are rarely donated. With a focus on food access and equity, this means that people who visit pantries in our area are still lacking access to a huge variety of commonly consumed foods: foods that are certainly available in excess in our area but, for a variety of reasons, not economically viable for area farms to donate in significant amounts. Also, by purchasing large volumes of storage produce during fall harvest season, CHS can keep a bounty of local food available well into winter! Given proper funding, Community Hunger Solutions has the ability to distribute an additional 150,000# of produce from local farms every year! With our purchasing power, CHS could buy that food with just $40,000. That's money that would go directly into our local food economy every single year, money that farmers can count on for produce items that are currently being left in fields. Unfortunately, direct from farm purchases are not part of our regular operating budget. CHS is currently able to spend about $10-15,000 annually on purchases directly from local farms. The Farm to Pantry Initiative secures recurring funding for the purchase of local foods, ensuring that everyone in our community including people who are food insecure have access to a wide variety of healthy locally produced foods at their pantry so they are sure to be able to fill their bag with items that their unique family will enjoy, improving healthy outcomes for our most vulnerable community members.