Media Release- Bend Bulletin
The High Desert Food & Farm Alliance is starting on a three-year path to expand programs and create new ways to increase access to fresh, healthy food in Central Oregon.
The Bend-based nonprofit’s planned growth was made possible by a recently announced $362,000 grant from a program through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Project. The alliance was the only recipient of the grant in Oregon.
“The big picture is we are just trying to really increase access to fresh food and have folks who might be food insecure eating well,” said Meiko Lunetta, program coordinator at High Desert Food & Farm Alliance. “Eating well should be for everybody no matter your economic situation.”
The nonprofit, which hired its first employee in 2015, focuses on supporting a strong food system in Central Oregon. A food system includes growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming and disposing of food.
Lunetta said the grant will support that mission in multiple ways.
Specifically, part of the funds will go toward buying season extenders for local farmers. Season extenders such as greenhouses and garden covers help farmers create an environment to extend their growing season.
“It’s great for small farms looking to take that extra step,” Lunetta said.
Along with helping to expand the growing season, the alliance will encourage the farmers to grow extra rows of vegetables that can be donated to local organizations to feed those in need.
“We are trying to get some farmers on board with growing some extra food intentionally for donation,” Lunetta said.
In addition, the organization plans to use some of the grant funds to create ready-made produce bags for local food pantries. The produce bags will include staples such as canned foods and pasta boxes, but also be filled with vegetables. The bags will be a ready-to-eat meal similar to Blue Apron, a national meal kit service, Lunetta said.
The grant will also help expand funding for the alliance’s cooking classes held in schools, senior centers and churches across the High Desert.
Along with the new and existing programs, the organization plans to continue building toward long-term goals, including a community-wide food recovery program.
The food recovery program would collect unserved, still-edible food from cafeterias in hospitals and schools and donate it to local pantries.
Overall, Lunetta said, the alliance is constantly finding ways to strengthen food security and the entire food system in the region.
“It helps folks feel pride in eating food produced in Central Oregon,’ Lunetta said.
Reporter: K. Spurr