May 24, 2018

As the Donation Station Enters it's Busy Season...

The Donation Station team at the AFM
The Donation Station team at the AFM

Summer is almost here, and that means the Donation Station at CFI has gotten a lot busier since we last checked in with them. So far this year, we have distributed 15,000 pounds of local produce and food products to pantries and social service agencies throughout Southeast Ohio! At this time last year, we had only distributed 11,370 pounds, so we are well on our way to increasing our reach, in large part thanks to donors like you.

Locally, you can find our Donation Station at the Athens Farmers Market every Wednesday and Friday and at the Chesterhill Produce Auction every Monday and Thursday where you are almost certain to find a few of our volunteers and Donation Station Manger, Caitlin Garrity. Caitlin is from Columbus, Ohio, and has been managing CFI’s Donation Station for about a year: “I have always been interested in working with communities and understanding the how the history of a region can impact it,” said Caitlin. She chose to work at CFI because parts of her family are from Appalachia and, as many of us in the region can attest to, she has always felt a connection to the rolling hills of Appalachia. Caitlin was struck by the “positive, progressive and innovative community development work happing here in Athens County,” and chose to bring her talents to CFI has become an integral part of that network.

Both the rates of poverty and of food insecurity throughout Appalachian Ohio are higher than the national and state averages, and many in our community are negatively impacted by the lack of access to healthy foods. For Caitlin, “food insecurity is the root of negative health outcomes for lots of folks in the region-- leading to bad economic conditions for their families. I think it's at the base of what keep people in poverty.” Our Donation Station directly addresses individuals’ most basic food security needs and directly fights hunger, while also helping to reduce poverty by supporting local farmers and food vendors.

While we receive much of our support and donations from local farmers, as Caitlin sees it, there is room for everyone in our community and beyond to get involved: “I think we provide a space for everyone to participate in giving back to someone who has less. Every week at the farmers market I see the same people put one dollar in our fishbowl- money that we later use to purchase food at the market. Hundreds of people every week add one dollar to our jar. That [adds up to] a large contribution.”

While one dollar or one apple donated to fight hunger in our community might not seem significant, donating through the Donation Station assures that any donation, no matter how small, is a part of a larger system that assures healthy, local food ends up in our food banks and food pantries. From there this food ultimately finds its way to the tables of individuals and families in our region who need it the most.

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Feb 23, 2018

90,000 Pounds of Local Food Distributed in 2017

Rick Vest and AmeriCorps member Janice Brewer
Rick Vest and AmeriCorps member Janice Brewer

When youre hungry, you cant think, you cant work, you cant do anything, said CFI Board Member and Athens County farmer Rick Vest. Rick is one of many local farmers and food vendors who have joined us in our efforts to reduce hunger in our local community in Southeast Ohio. Youll frequently find him donating unsold produce at weekly markets or taking advantage of our Harvest Hotline to donate excess crops during harvest season. Its farmers and food producers like Rick who help make our Donation Station program so successful.

Our Donation Station receives both food and monetary donations each week at local farmers markets and produce auctions from customers and vendors. We use the monetary donations to purchase fresh foods from market and auction vendors. The food that is donated or purchased is distributed to social services agencies in five Southeast Ohio counties.

We started this program in 2007, and our unique model has received widespread support from farmers, food vendors, and pantry coordinators alike. Monna Taylor, the Food Pantry Coordinator at Bishopville Food Pantry in Morgan County often comes to our distributions. She says, Getting fresh produce every week is greatits fresher, tastes better, and sometimes I joke with patrons that I picked it all myself!

The Donation Station is successful because it addresses poverty and food insecurity in our region while simultaneously supporting the growth of the local food economy, working towards a more equitable local food system for everyone. We believe in this model, and we can measure its success.

In 2017, we distributed 90,410.5 pounds of local produce and food products distributed to 41 food pantries and social service agencies in five Southeastern Ohio counties. We also invested $13,632 back into our local food economy by supporting famers and food producers.

We have three goals for 2018 to strengthen our program and extend our reach to meet the needs of our region. First, our distribution goal for 2018 is 95,000 pounds, 5,000 pounds more than we distributed in 2017. Second, in 2018 we will also work to deepen our reach in nearby counties outside of Athens. We currently serve Athens, Meigs, Morgan, Vinton, and Washington counties, with most of our distribution remaining in Athens county. We will work especially closely with pantry coordinators in counties beyond Athens to ensure that their needs are being met. Finally, we will share this model throughout our region. Our goal is to replicate the Donation Station, so that each community can benefit from a similar program buying products directly from local farmers and food producers and distributing those products to people in need.

Nearby Ross County, Ohio launched the first pilot replication of the Donation Station in 2017. In their first year they distributed 11,016 pounds to Ross County food pantries and invested over $5,000 in farmers market vendors. In 2018, our goal is to replicate this program in at least one other community in our region. Your support will help us make this goal a reality, and we look forward to sharing our progress with you! 

The Ross County Donation Station is up & running!
The Ross County Donation Station is up & running!
 
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