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Increasing Local Food Purchasing at Blue Mountain Action Council

29 Apr 2022, by Admin in Produce Purchasing
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BMAC Food Bank is engaged with multiple programs that aid in food waste reduction and support local agriculture systems. Food banks are highly dependent on donations from grocery stores, individual contributions, and government contracts for fresh produce. BMAC operates a weekly grocery rescue program, collecting donations of food including produce from grocery stores like Albertsons, Safeway, and Walmart. For a more consistent supply of produce, BMAC contracts with WSDA, Charlie’s Produce, and Linc Food Hub for produce boxes. These boxes meet the basic needs of clients and provide fifteen pounds of various produce including apples, potatoes, onions, and squash. Using funding to purchase from local farms allows BMAC to expand the produce clients receive and support the local agriculture system. Funding sources have allowed purchases of mixed greens, zucchini, cilantro, basil, cantaloupe, watermelon, nectarines, peaches, plums, pears, blackberries, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, sweet corn, carrots, beets, and more. This variety is essential in providing food with dignity.

Farm to Food Pantry

BMAC is involved with the Washington State Farm to Food Pantry Partnership (F2FP). In collaboration with Harvest Against Hunger, BMAC contracts with seven farms in the Walla Walla Valley to buy their produce post-harvest. F2FP is an essential program at BMAC. Through F2FP, BMAC is able to purchase local produce for our clients. This program supports local agriculture producers in the Walla Walla Valley, provides our clients with local and high nutrient-dense food, and strengthens our relationships with producers increasing donations. 

Fundraising

F2FP, like many programs, requires matching funds. BMAC is supported by individual donations, fundraising events, and farmers promoting the program with a donation support on their websites. Some farm partners have the infrastructure to host fundraising events and have many connections in the community. BMAC was able to have a fundraising event for F2FP at Frog Hollow Farm this summer. Donations came in from multiple sources, including proceeds from flower sales and a percentage of food truck sales went to the program. BMAC also had a stand at the event to chat with the public and inform them of the impact this program has on food security in their community.

Grant Opportunities

Applying for grants from WSDA, USDA, or non-governmental sources to buy local produce is another way to receive funding allocated to purchasing locally. USDA Farm to Food Bank, WSDA Flexible Funding Grants, WSDA Farm to School Purchasing Grants are all well-funded opportunities that make local purchasing easier. 

Connecting with Farms

Use pre-established connections. Ask farmers in the local network who they know that may be interested in selling to a food bank. Many BMAC partner farms started out donating their excess produce and were later offered a contract when funds were available or were recommended to the local purchasing programs by other farmers already connected with the organization.