Farm to Food Access – a pilot program to secure large purchases of locally grown food for local food access sites in the Berkshires.
In response to the startling increase in food insecurity as well as the frightening changes to local farmers’ businesses in the Berkshires as a result of the pandemic, Berkshire Grown collaborated with several other organizations to augment the emergency food supply in the southern Berkshires with fresh, locally-grown produce, milk, and eggs. We partnered with food access organizations and local school districts, to address the needs of low-income families and the availability of locally-grown food. This emergency response was effective, but not sustainable in the long-term so Berkshire Grown is working with other local nonprofits to develop a long-term solution.
Food insecurity is not just a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Across Berkshire County thousands of under-served and under-resourced people, including communities of color and low-income families live at or below the national poverty level. According to the 2017 census, over 11% of Berkshire County residents live with food insecurity; 2020 saw approximately a 60% increase in the need for food distributed at Berkshire County food pantries, and current estimates are that post-pandemic, upwards of 15% of Berkshire residents will continue to worry about how to feed their families in the future.
In order to establish an organized food supply process that is an integral part of the local food access system as opposed to an emergency response to immediate need, Berkshire Grown is piloting a project called Farm to Food access, in partnership with three food pantries and two other community organizations. The goal is to establish a year-round Farm-to-Food-Access buying exchange between food access organizations and local farmers. This program will formalize a buying system wherein a central organization (Berkshire Grown) establishes advance buying contracts with local farms to purchase fresh, locally-grown food, and in turn, the farmers will deliver that food to a central location where it will be aggregated, stored, and distributed to participating food access organizations.
Farm to Food Access is a collaborative effort managed by Berkshire Grown. Currently we work with Berkshire Bounty, the Community Health Program in Great Barrington, the People’s Pantry in Great Barrington, and the South Congregational Church in Pittsfield, MA. 2021 is the pilot year for this program.
Thank you to the Josephine & Louise Crane Foundation, the Feigenbaum Foundation, the Lee Bank Foundation, the Green Foundation, the Green Pastures Fund, and the Wendling Foundation and the individual donors whose early support has made the first year of Farm to Food Access a viable program.
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