The Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC) has awarded $50,000 in Food System Support Grants to 11 conservation districts in the state.
The SCC launched the Food System Support Grants to advance activities recommended by the Washington State Food Policy Forum that address food system vulnerabilities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our food system faced difficult challenges in the last year as the pandemic changed consumer’s access to food,” said Carol Smith, SCC Executive Director. “To meet this challenge, conservation districts quickly stepped in to develop additional tools to more directly connect local farmers to their communities, including supplying food to food pantries and direct sales to consumers.”
Funded projects will, among other activities, improve food access from local farms, make farm access information available in Spanish, and expand consumer and farmer participation in local food hubs.
“These grants will allow that work to expand and continue,” added Smith. “This serves as another example of how conservation districts serve their communities, in addition to the environmental work they are most known for.”
SCC Food System Support Grants were awarded to:
- Thurston Conservation District (TCD): TCD will participate in local food coordinating efforts aimed at increasing markets for producers and connecting consumers with producers. TCD will also collaborate with the Southwest Washington Food Hub by increasing outreach to local farmers with the goal of growing participation in this new marketing platform.
- Lewis Conservation District (LCD): LCD will support work by the Southwest Washington Food Hub on their e-commerce site, translation services to make their website, applications, and policy guidelines more accessible to Spanish-speaking farmers, and a budget to use to market e-commerce and food security programs on social media.
- Underwood Conservation District (UCD): UCD will partner with the Gorge Farmer Cooperative to expand farmer participation and distribution. Other activities will include facilitating connections between local farmers and the Gorge Farmer Cooperative, purchasing a refrigerated trailer used as a mobile pick-up site for online order distribution, and the purchase of a SNAP/EBT machine.
- Spokane Conservation District (SCD): Funding will be used to expand the existing South Spokane Farm Corridor website and create two new websites. One will be a farm-finding map, giving consumers the ability to find a farm based on the product desired; the other will be a website for the Spokane Valley Farm Corridor, the second of four corridors that SCD plans to create.
- Ferry County Conservation District (FCCD): FCCD will update and redistribute the Northeast Washington Farm to Table Buying Guide by including an insert in the free monthly local newspaper to the tri-county area. The guide will list known local producers and farmers, farmers’ markets, businesses and markets that support local food systems, and services such as meat packers and educational sources for landowners.
- Pacific Conservation District (PCD): PCD will set up distribution of farm fresh produce through a partnership with the Southwest Washington Food Hub. Because there are limited produce farmers in Pacific County, support of the Food Hub will establish a food distribution route to offer local food access for consumers.
- Snohomish Conservation District (SCD): SCD will focus on providing resources for low-income communities and communities of color. A component that is a significant need is improving communications around supporting local farms and serving those in need. SCD will lead development of a Communications Hub that will be accessible on their website.
- Kitsap Conservation District (KCD): KCD will connect farmers to markets and work with community partners to conduct outreach in the county. The funding will support and expand existing food system activities at KCD such as the Kitsap Farm to Food Pantry Program, the Kitsap Farm to Freezer Project, the “Pantry-on-the-Go” Mobile Food Bank, and the “Meet Your Local Farmer” initiative.
- Whidbey Island Conservation District (WICD): WICD will engage local farmers into the Whidbey Island Growers Association by offering three FarmWalk events, creating and distributing short videos to highlight these FarmWalk events, and by creating and distributing monthly e-newsletters to disseminate pertinent information to farmer audiences.
- Mason Conservation District (MCD): MCD will develop a gleaning program serving Mason County and the City of Shelton. Gleaning is the practice of collecting fresh foods leftover from local farm and garden harvests, markets, and other valuable resources, and will help prevent the unnecessary waste of quality food by providing to low-income populations who are often unable to buy nutritious, local foods because of cost or availability.
- Stevens County Conservation District (SCCD): SCCD will provide a canning safety and education workshops to serve two counties, Spokane Tribe of Indians and Colville Confederated Tribes. SCCD will coordinate with the Northeast Washington Hunger Coalition, and by partnering with SNAP-ED, they will be able to hand out relevant and nutritious recipes.
Funding for these grants was made available by the Washington State Legislature in their supplemental budget.
More information about food system vulnerabilities and opportunities in light of COVID-19 can be found in the Early Action Implementation Report developed by the Washington State Food Policy Forum, which is co-convened by the SCC and the Washington State Department of Agriculture.