Giving to Food-Related Causes: Consider the Bigger Picture
This week, a group of Community Foundation donors gathered at Room 39 on National Food Day to hear from Oran Hesterman, Ph.D., a national leader in sustainable agriculture and food systems and the author of Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All.
As president and CEO of Fair Food Network, Oran looks at the food system as a whole, noting that food affects everything – our environment, animal welfare, health, the economy and education (“because hungry kids can’t learn,” Oran says.) He believes that redesigning our “broken, out-of-control” food system is the key to solving many other issues, such as childhood obesity, which are just symptoms of the problematic system.
Oran is encouraged by the growing popularity of local meat and produce, noting that in 2014 local food sales reached $12 billion, up from $5 billion in 2008. The number of local farmer’s markets is also growing rapidly, as is the number of schools who have direct connections to local farmers for cafeteria lunches. So the demand for local food is here. The question is how to meet that demand.
First, Oran points to “food hubs,” which manage the distribution and marketing of locally produced foods, so farmers can focus on what they do best: farming. He noted that one of the first food hubs in the country, Good Natured Family Farms, started right here in Kansas City, partnering with over 100 small family farms in the area and distributing to area businesses, including Ball’s Price Choppers and Hen Houses.
Second, Oran cites healthy food incentives that encourage low income families to find local, healthy food. An example is Fair Food Network’s signature program, Double Up Food Bucks, which allows EBT cardholders to double their money when purchasing locally grown fruits and vegetables at grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
Philanthropy has and will continue to play an integral role in fixing our food system, but philanthropy needs public partnerships and rigorous evaluation. We can see this at work with the USDA’s Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program, which has provided millions in grant dollars to expand the Double Up Food Bucks program. When combined with millions more in private matching funds, the successful model is moving to the mainstream, including right here in Kansas City.
To sum it up, Oran said donors should never have to choose between supporting hungry families and local farmers. Instead, donors should look for solutions that address multiple problems at the same time.
To see photos from the event, check out our Facebook page.
Authored by: Leanne Breiby, Director of Communications