We’ve been hearing a lot about schools getting onboard with the farm to table movement. It’s become clear that in order to combat obesity and disease, we need to drastically change our eating habits, brought about by the fast food industry, the onset of GMOs, the use of harmful pesticides, among others.
Now, the the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) is helping to grow the Sustainable Food System movement in Buffalo, by supporting makers of local foods, small farms, and aligned distribution businesses, during a time when the pandemic is impacting all of these crucial suppliers and resources.
To that end, the BNMC has partnered with four local organizations that will all contribute towards the growth, sustainability, and healthy future of the local food chain supply.
Funding is through “BNMC Fresh: Farm to Hospital Implementation,” an existing three-year grant that the BNMC received in 2018 through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Local Food Promotion Program.
Not only has $20,000 been distributed to these local partners, there is also an additional emphasis placed on improving access to institutional procurement. Moving forward, there will be a push for the following deliverables:
- Ability to replicated these practices across the state
- Food chain transparency – awareness and knowledge among producers and consumers of local food procurement efforts
- Establish and expand community supported agriculture (CSA) and farmers’ market programs
- Enhance knowledge and skill-building opportunities to agribusiness stakeholders
- Additional resources for infrastructure capital improvement; equipment; and data enhancement
“Our grant manager at USDA was very understanding about our efforts to increase healthy local foods in hospitals slowing as our health care partners shift their full attention to caring for our community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marla Guarino, BNMC’s Farm to Institution Program Coordinator. “We were able to redistribute the funds originally earmarked for conferences, travel, and longer-term strategies that are currently on hold, and expand the scope of the initiative to have a more immediate impact on making our local food system more resilient.”
Guarino added, “Implementing these short-term wins more quickly supports the overall goal of the grant – increasing the ability of small farmers and organizations to play a role in institutional procurement, such as hospitals, colleges and universities, prisons, and school districts.”
Due to the sudden need for stepped up Sustainable Food System efforts during COVID, the partners were selected based on their ability to accomplish their projects within 4-6 months. An emphasis was placed on the following: collaborative efforts; minority and women-led; and infrastructure moving toward institutional procurement in the future. Ultimately, the BNMC USDA grants manager signed off on the four recipients, each of whom received $5,000. The organizations are:
St. John’s Baptist Church, God’s Farm’acy Mobile Truck
God’s Farm’acy is a mobile food truck and raised garden initiative that distributes hot meals, fruits, and vegetables for free throughout the Fruit Belt and other underserved communities. The team at St. John’s also uses the truck to offer healthy cooking classes in the community. They used the funds to add refrigeration to the mobile food truck, allowing them to help eliminate food desserts by increasing access to fresh foods and nutrition information.
Received: Funds toward refrigeration for Mobile Truck.
Groundwork Market Garden (lead image): Groundwork Market Garden is a family-owned farm on the East Side of Buffalo. GMG received funds to develop and promote a digital catalog of local farm products available for purchase. This digital catalog will be updated regularly and used to secure business with larger institutions that small farms traditionally do not serve. GMG plans to include all local urban growers into the catalog as a way to procure larger contracts and promote local farms.
Received: Funds for development of digital catalog, on-line marketplace and marketing support
“These funds are helping to bring our farm up to speed with the current trend for local food to be available through online marketplaces,” said Anders Gunnersen, GMG cofounder.“The online catalog will separate our products by retail and wholesale and will be used as a means to sell produce, and as a marketing tool for our farm to reach more people and institutions in the city of Buffalo and Western NY. This project is going to streamline our sales processes and tracking, and better market our products to a much larger and broader audience.”
Produce Peddlers: Produce Peddlers is an online marketplace for buying and selling produce that prevents food waste and saves money. They received funds to reconfigure its delivery van with a refrigeration unit to increase its ability to deliver fresh and local perishable goods to consumers and businesses in the WNY region. When the COVID-19 pandemic closed many businesses, farmers and other suppliers started to back up on product. In an attempt to help, Produce Peddlers opened its marketplace to individual consumers, who were also looking for alternative avenues to source their food that didn’t involve having to go out in public places. Refrigeration will allow Produce Peddlers to handle more goods safely, be GHP compliant, and streamline its delivery methods.
Received: Funds for refrigeration for mobile truck
“The ability to refrigerate our delivery vehicle has propelled our business to new heights!” said Gina Wieczorek, Co-founder, VP Operations, Produce Peddlers. “We are now able to safely transport and deliver all sorts of locally grown and produced food, including animal products, meat and other processed items, to restaurants, schools and institutions all over WNY without breaking the cold chain.”
Urban Fruits & Veggies: Urban Fruits & Veggies is an urban agriculture business with two urban farms and a mobile produce market focused on providing access and nutrition education to underserved communities in the WNY area. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they are growing three times as much as they usually do to support requests for food delivery, and therefore need additional growing supplies, specifically refrigeration equipment. They also need office equipment to facilitate data tracking and growing partnerships with organizations and established programs to ensure they are addressing the social determinants to health.
Received: Funds for computer, laptop and printer