Farm to pantry project expands to Ottawa county

The Ottawa county Food Policy Council receives funding to bring more local produce to food pantries.

The Ottawa County Food Policy Council (OCFPC) was recently awarded a grant totaling $100,000 to increase healthy food access and consumption. The OCFPC was one of five organizations awarded nearly $500,000 by the Holland/Zeeland Community Foundation and the Grand Haven Community Foundation. These funds were originally awarded to the two local foundations as part of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund (MHE).

The awarded funds will be distributed among six different projects of the OCFPC. These projects are: expansion of Senior Project Fresh in the county, support for Meat Up Eat Up, community supported agriculture (CSA) to Pantry, County-wide OCFPC marketing, Prescription for Health and expansion of a farmers market gleaning project. All of these projects will enhance the three priorities areas of the Council from the 2015 strategic plan: healthy food for all, eliminating hunger and local food purchasing. Michigan State University Extension plays an active role through the work of the local food purchasing subcommittee of the council and will be overseeing the management of the CSA to Pantry project of the MHE funding.

This project will replicate a similar project which has been piloted with several pantries in Kent county during the 2016 CSA season. The goal of this project is to provide greater access to fresh local produce to pantry goers through weekly CSA share disbursement. Grant funds will be used to purchase CSA shares from two local farmers, which the farmers will drop off at two local pantries to be distributed to their customers. This will ensure that the farmers will still get paid a fair market price for their produce and ensure that families that need healthy local food the most, will have access to it. Funding will continue to support share purchases during the second year of the grant; however, project managers will also be working to provide point of sale equipment to pantries so they can begin accepting SNAP benefits and Double-Up Food Bucks to help supplement the cost of the shares. This is just one of many initiatives around the state that are using the CSA model as a way to provide greater access to local food. Similar projects have begun in Grand Rapids, Lansing and southeast Michigan.

If you are looking for more information about how to integrate CSAs into your pantry operation or are looking for ways to market your CSA program to new audiences, contact your local Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems Educator.

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