By Pepper Bromelmeier, District Conservationist
What would our society do without food pantries, when people are in need? They provide our communities with a much needed service; food for those without. Unfortunately, due to storage or other issues, they are often stocked with pre-prepackaged, heavily processed, pretty unhealthy stuff! Well, this summer, thanks to the Fresh Food Partnership, that has changed! Recently, the US Secretary of Agriculture called upon the local USDA staff (NRCS-Natural Resources Conservation Service; and FSA-Farm Service Agency) to gather up our communities to donate FRESH food to our local food pantries. Especially in summer, when children don’t have access to the school’s reduced lunch program, families may be relying on food pantries to get by. Having access to fresh fruits and veggies is a welcome change! As we started talking to our partners in local fresh food, (such as ISLAND-the Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design; MSU extension staff, and Providence Farm) we found out that there is a group already doing the “fresh food to pantries” idea, and doing it well! The “Fresh Food Partnership” pays local farmers for their produce, and donates it to the local pantries. Nice! Not only do the pantries get delicious, nutritious fresh food, the small, local farmer gets paid for the produce. Good all around for our communities.
Our local donation to the Fresh Food Partnership came at a time that enabled them to expand to the Mancelona pantry, in addition to the Ellsworth and Bellaire pantries that were already on their Antrim County list! The Fresh Food Partnership donates food to 40 pantries in NW Lower Michigan. If you’d like to participate either as a farmer wishing to be a part of the selling end, or want to donate money to further the cause, you can contact Diane Navarro at the Fresh Food Partnership at (231) 929-3696.
Pictured below are representatives from local USDA agencies (NRCS and FSA), MSU Extension, ISLAND, the Bellaire Food Pantry, Fresh Food Partnership, and Providence Farm (one of the local farmers participating in the Fresh Food Partnership)