Addressing Food Insecurity
Communities where access to healthy food is limited are considered “food insecure.” Here in the Hudson Valley, food insecure neighborhoods and rural areas exist against the backdrop of what is arguably one of the most agriculturaly rich regions in the United States. While farmers markets, farm stands, and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) are abundant during the growing season, and while fresh produce is available in larger grocery stores, these options are not readily available in neighborhoods where transportation and financial resources tend to be scarce.
Fortunately, a network of community organizations is working to provide Hudson Valley residents with healthy food on an ongoing basis. Food pantries and area farmers want to collaborate to dispense as much locally grown produce as possible. How can more fresh local food be made available through these channels, and how can it be distributed effectively to those in need?
These are the challenges that the Local Economies Project has set out to help address with a multi-year grant to the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley. A key component of the grant project is the “Food Bank Farm Stand” program, initiated in partnership with Food Bank of the Hudson Valley for the purpose of increasing local produce distribution to food pantries around the region.
In September of 2014, the project launched its first “Food Bank Farm Stand” at People’s Place in Kingston. Tomatoes, tomatillos, corn, greens, squash, peppers, parsley, and cilantro from farms all over the Hudson Valley were distributed free each week to qualified patrons who came ready to fill a shopping bag. This winter, produce is being made available indoors in Kingston at Ulster Community Action, and on the third Wednesday of each month at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. Outdoor “Farm Stands” will resume as the weather gets warmer, and plans are in the works to add a Poughkeepsie location later this year.
The $1.4 million three-year grant from LEP is also enabling Community Foundations to distribute funds to local non-profit organizations working to address food insecurity. In 2014, $150,000 in grants were awarded to eight area non-profits, and the 2015 funding round has been completed, with an additional $150,000 distributed to an even larger list of local non-profits. In 2015, the Community Foundations announced the launch of Applehoni, a new food product to be featured in stores across the region in 2016. Conceived as a fundraiser for the non-profit Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, Applehoni is a new natural honey alternative made from Hudson Valley apples and infused with natural flavors.
Through partnerships like these, and with the generosity of our region’s farmers, fresh food can be not only a luxury of a privileged few, but an accessible option for everyone.