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Rebel Rose

Feeding America doesn't feed rural communities

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2 hours ago, helenjp said:

Yes, distribution. The best thing I got out of belonging to an organic food co-op was the chance to host farmers for the annual conference. It was REALLY interesting - for them, as they said they rarely had the chance to spend reasonable time talking to other farmers with similar goals, and for us, because we got to hear exactly where the shoe pinches.

That goes way beyond charitable endeavours, and represents a real issue for the local food movement in general. 

Here in New Brunswick, where I live, three of the province's major urban centres (Saint John, Fredericton and Moncton) form a triangle, with Fredericton just under an hour and Moncton just over an hour from Saint John. Agriculture is still important here, though much reduced from a generation or two ago. Local-food enthusiasts have been trying to establish some sort of regular run between the three cities, which would enable producers to collectively get their products to restaurateurs, schools and independent grocers in those centres. 

There's a lot of interest, but so far the idea hasn't hit critical mass. There are only a few producers large enough to circulate trucks between the three cities on a regular basis, and the logistics of arranging numerous pickups and dropoffs have so far been insurmountable. When my restaurant was open, I had to drive all over the place myself to secure my lamb, boar, sturgeon and local produce from their respective growers. I was already working 100+ hours/week, so that was a real impediment. 

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18 hours ago, MetsFan5 said:

This topic is a great, yet very sad read and shines a light on things I personally was unaware of. 


  So what can the average person do? I cook a few times a week and otherwise leave "dinner" for my husband and I to pick on whatever we feel like (Campbell's Chicken and Stars in my #1 comfort food) and or eat odds and ends. Most of my grocery stores ask for donations towards various local soup kitchen type organizations but I can't imagine my odd $15-20 a month really helps. 


    Any suggestions how to truly benefit those in need v. paying the exhorbinent salaries of some of the better known charities? What should people be doing to make a difference on a local level if possible? 

Several, and I'll second those made by @Rebel Rose. Perhaps the easiest is to start calling churches near you and ask if they have a food pantry or other feeding program. Overhead is going to be slim to none at such operations, almost all volunteer run. Check out Share Our Strength, a national hunger relief project that works with affiliate organizations in each state. There is a site, charitynavigator.org, that willl give you ratings for all charities, based on how much they spend in different categories. I use it often.


I'll put in a plug for another of my favorite charities, Heifer Project, which works toward sustainable agriculture chiefly in the Third World, but in this country as well. They addressed the issue @chromedome talked about upthread by helping put together and administer a logistics plan for a statewide (in Arkansas) livestock/poultry CSA/cooperative, so I can buy beef raised 250 miles away if I want, and pick it up 20 minutes from home.

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I was thinking of this thread tonight.  I was invited to a reception at Food Lifeline's new Hunger Solutions Center and was able to tour the facility.  They collect and re-distribute about 40 million pounds of food annually to 275 food bank in Western WA.


The place is very large, about the size of an average Costco and they turn everything over at least once a week.  They take in food in any form from half-ton pallets of coffee beans that need to be packed into pound bags to 5 gallon buckets of sour cream that were over-produced to a carton box full of assorted produce.  They have multiple prep rooms, at least two of which can be adjusted to refrigerator or freezer temp and can be completely hosed down.  Huge refrigeration and freezers with storage plus more warehouse space with dry goods & non-perishables.




At first I thought they had a ton of bananas, but apparently banana boxes are their standard unit.  A food bank will order a box of potatoes and get one of these very boxes.  They also do a lot of meals for kids, packed into lunch bags for school.  Figuring out government standards for children's meals is apparently kind of a pain and smaller food banks can't always keep up.  They had banana boxes full of shelf-stable, government-approved lunches.


It does seem that distribution is a huge part of the issue.  Having the large central hub allows them to take things individual food banks can't.  A farmer with excess apples wants to move them 5000 lb at a time, not 50, and the smaller facilities may not have the time or space even to re-pack one huge bucket of sour cream. Hundreds of volunteers a week help break down, sort, and re-pack, and inventory all of the food coming in.  The individual food banks then order to suit their own clientele in terms of what they like and is practical to cook.  


In terms of rural populations, I think it's just hard to get out there. But it is good to see people trying!



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