The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted food insecurity and the vulnerability of our food systems at large. With more and more folks unemployed or with reduced income, accessing healthy food has become a challenge for many Oregonians. To make sure that the food bank system in Oregon has enough food to support this increased demand, while also providing more options for agricultural producers, the Oregon Food Bank has made funding available for regional food banks across the state to buy from local farmers.
This is a great opportunity for farmers to connect with their local food banks on a level beyond donation and build relationships that could continue into the future. This is a limited opportunity and the funding for these purchases is only guaranteed until June 5th so farmers are encouraged to apply as soon as possible! This post will be updated if we become aware that the program is being extended or increased.
Each regional food bank is handling this opportunity differently, and FoFF was able to talk with some of the food system advocates from around the state to get a picture of how some communities are approaching this opportunity. If your region is not listed below, fill out this form from Oregon Food Bank to be contacted by your regional food bank. This form is not intended to be used for farmers looking to sell to food banks in the Portland Metro Area, as they have already completed all their local purchasing for the time being.
In Lane County, the regional food bank is Food for Lane County (FFLC) and they are contracting with local food system nonprofit Willamette Farm and Food Coalition (WFFC) to handle the local sourcing program. Abigail Blinn is coordinating the effort and it is broken down into a few steps:
- Farmers need to apply through the WFFC portal
- WFFC and FFLC have made a commitment to prioritize BIPOC, LGBTQ, young and beginning and historically disadvantaged farmers through this process. After this consideration, farmers will be considered in the order their applications are received so be sure to apply soon!
- This portal will accept new applications from now until June 5th.
- When accepted, Blinn will help farmers through the technical process of the FFLC invoicing and orders to get them set up within the food bank system.
- FFLC will then work with the farmer to arrange pick up or delivery of the products to their warehouses in Eugene.
At this time, the program in Lane County is focused on fresh produce, but will be open to staple crops (beans, flour, etc) and meat as time progresses. For more information or questions about the application, contact Abigail Blinn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (717) 398-5907.
Applegate Valley (Jackson and Josephine County)
These two counties are served by different regional food banks: ACCESS in Medford for Jackson County, and the Josephine County Food Bank in Grants Pass. ACCESS is currently seeking produce from local farms packaged in sizes suitable for one household
The Rogue Valley Food System Network is helping to coordinate small producers for this program across the Applegate Valley. Because food banks are used to dealing in large quantities (500lbs of a crop at a time for example), smaller producers across this region may need to band together to fill the need in a more efficient way. If you are interested in helping to aggregate produce from small growers or have cold storage space (restaurant coolers, farm pack sheds, refrigerated trucks, etc) and would like to join in on this effort, please contact Rhianna Simes with the RVFSN (email@example.com). This is an opportunity for the producers and community to come together to take advantage of this opportunity to get food from the field to the fork.
Tillamook County and the North Coast
In the north coast region of the state, the food bank is also working with existing organizations to try to streamline this process. Food Roots is accepting food through its local food consignment grocery store, FarmTable. As of now, since the store is operating limited hours in order to promote social distancing, the remainder of the eligible produce and products, at the end of their work week, are sold to the Tillamook Food Bank.
To participate in this program, vendors should apply to vend at Farm Table. Check their website for specifically eligible products, but they accept a wide variety of agricultural products from Tillamook and neighboring counties. The food bank is specifically interested in:
- Fresh Produce – especially if you have something other than leafy greens, there are a lot of greens right now!
- Frozen ground beef
Other products can be considered on a case by case basis. For more information, contact Julia Wentzel (firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-815-2800).
Thank you to all the wonderful farmers, growers, food system nonprofits, and frontline grocery folk who are making this program possible. You are all truly keeping Oregon a great place to live and farm through this crisis!