Big River Farms (formerly Minnesota Food Association) has been a program of The Food Group since 2017. Farmers participating in the education program are from historically underrepresented communities(i.e. immigrants, people of color, women, veterans).
The challenge: How to get more fresh produce to children experiencing hunger.
The response: A win-win-win collaboration between Big River Farms, Lakewinds Food Co-op and community food shelves.
In 2018 a three-way partnership was forged to move organically grown produce from farms to food banks with the support of Lakewinds. Farmers enrolled in the Big River Farms Farmer Education program grew certified organic “kid-friendly” produce, which was purchased with grant support from Lakewinds Co-op and distributed to four food shelf partners of The Food Group and then made available to families experiencing hunger.
The impact was multi-faceted:
- Local children whose families need foodshelf support had more equitable access to fresh, nutritious, organic produce.
- New farmers learning to build independent businesses had a new market for their produce.
- Four local food shelves received 4,138 pounds of organic produce at no cost.
Farm director Amber Stenson summarized the program’s success this way, “Many farmers in our program have expressed a desire to feed people experiencing hunger with the vegetables they grow. But farmers also need to sell their produce at prices where they can make a living. This partnership with Lakewinds Food Co-op allows the farmers to get paid market price for the top quality organic produce while also expanding access to fresh produce for more people.”