Building Resilience in Appalachia

by Community Food Initiatives
Building Resilience in Appalachia

Here at CFI it has been a busy few months building resilience in Southeast Ohio. We are happy to share with you several program updates that have been helping us continue on the quest of building resilience in our region. 

  • This fall in October our Gardens Program Coorindator Basil Stein gave seven workshops in all Athens County Public Library locations. The workshops discussed how to use food scraps and leftover greens to plant microgreens and other scraps in jars to grow new edible foods.

  • Our Donation Station is on track this year to match the poundage that we distributed to low socioeconomic individuals last year via local partner food pantries and other locations. As of November, we have distributed 62,000 pounds of produce.

  • In September, 3 members of our staff, 1 community member, and 2 Ohio University students had the opportunity to attend the Nourishing Networks Train the Trainer Conference at West Virginia University Jackson Mills. We had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Nourishing Networks curriculum and connect with other food access specialists from across the state of West Virginia to discuss best practices and best ways to reach food insecure individuals. We are excited to be planning and organizaing our first Nourishing Networks trainings to be held in Nelsonville in early 2020.

  • Our School Gardens curriculum has made its debut in two local elementary schools, which includes doing hands on gardens work with 126 first graders allowing them to spend time in the school garden and discover new fruits and vegetables. Our Gardens Program Director and Sprouts volunteers have already taught over 28 lessons to the first graders.

As this is the season of gratitude, we here at CFI are thankful and gracious for all those who take part in sharing the harvest with us. Whether it be donating to our campaign or contributing volunteer hours, we are all very thankful that you have shared your harvest with us during this year. We hope all our well-wishers have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

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A bountiful carrot donation from Vest Berries!
A bountiful carrot donation from Vest Berries!

What a great summer it has been so far this year at Community Food Initiatives! We are in the heart of our busy season here at the end of August, and we are excited to share the updates on how we are building resilience in Athens County and Southeast Ohio.

Donation Station is having a great growing season so far! Donation Station has distributed over 31,000 pounds so far this year and has invested $5,800 in the local food economy by purchasing directly from farmers. Furthermore, we have received over $12,000 in in-kind produce donations from various sources, and we have had commitments from various organizations that will support buying fresh produce throughout the fall and winter seasons.

Our Gardens Program has been building resilience in many ways throughout this summer season. We have been leveraging our Donation Station plots in our Community Gardens in order to provide additional produce to local food pantries. Our Gardens Team has also created, published, and distributed a School Gardens Curriculum which supports teachers in incorporating gardens curriculum into their gardens. Finally, our Gardens Program Director Molly Gassaway visited Blooming View Montessori for a garden workshop with their preschool class. The kids tasted different veggies from the garden, learned about how things grow, and then they headed outside for some hands-on activities in their very own garden beds. 

Community Food Initiative’s Food Access Mapping project, also known as SEO Foodlink, is on an exciting journey forging a new partnership with West Virginia University Food Justice Jab and Ohio University Geography Department. We are excited about what this means for our food access map and what new additions this may bring to the project.

Learning about the garden in the classroom!
Learning about the garden in the classroom!
Watering the garden at Blooming View Montessori
Watering the garden at Blooming View Montessori
Our dedicated staff loading the trailer of produce
Our dedicated staff loading the trailer of produce
Look at this delicious produce!
Look at this delicious produce!
Learning to eat fresh local watermelon!
Learning to eat fresh local watermelon!
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N'ville Community Dinner
N'ville Community Dinner

The growing season is in full swing and we’re busy back in the gardens with weekly work parties, and at the Athens Farmers Market and Chesterhill Produce Auction, at each event twice weekly.  Because people are growing and donating more food, and we’re purchasing more food, we have more to distribute! We’re back to distributing locally grown/produced food twice each week, and we’ve also been able to do some special distributions of greens to partner organizations that provide free meals.  All of this programming happens thanks to your support! When we ensure that everyone in the community has access to locally grown/produced food, whether through immediate access to food or through garden access and education, we’re not only supporting individuals facing food insecurity, but also working for transformative change through promoting continued interest in our local food system.  


Some big events have happened since kicking off this campaign:

  • We hosted our seed and plant-start giveaways, distributing over 4,000 plants and reaching hundreds of families throughout the region.
  • We collaborated with Athens Public Libraries to host bucket gardening workshops, where participants learned how to garden even without garden space.  Attendance was great!
  • We helped sponsor the Nelsonville Community Dinner, sharing an awesome meal featuring locally-grown food with over 150 people.  It was an awesome event, and inspiring to see several organizations work together to make it happen.


Thank you again for your support!  We only create transformative change with engagement from the entire community, and we know our community is both invested and expansive.


With much gratitude,

The CFI team

spring distribution
spring distribution
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Organization Information

Community Food Initiatives

Project Leader:
Susie Huser
Athens, OH United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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