Ohio food banks partner with state, launch program aimed at underserved farmers
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is teaming up with the Ohio Association of Food Banks. The state agriculture agency launched a program for small-scale, historically underrepresented farmers to sell produce to food banks across the state.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture launched the Ohio Community, Agriculture and Nutrition program Friday.
Typically, food banks rely on reduced or bulk food prices and donations to feed as many people as possible, with the new program, it allows the state's association of food banks to pay small, underserved farmers market prices for their produce or meats.
The plan is to then distribute that locally sourced food to the states network of 12 Feeding America food banks.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, the executive director for the Ohio Association of Food Banks, said the program is a win-win for farmers and people in need of food.
“To be able to bring their operations to scale, to provide more healthy, wholesome foods to our hungry friends and neighbors, as well open up new commercial markets for them, that’s what it’s about.” Ham
The program, which is expected to allocate over $11.7 million worth of food from at least 50 underserved producers, is funded through a U.S Department of Agriculture initiative that aims to maintain and improve food and agricultural supply chain resiliency.
Dorothy Pelanda, the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said the partnership just makes sense with Ohio’s agricultural base.
“This collaboration is a wonderful way to help address two important issues with a viable, local solution,” Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda said. “By linking Ohio’s underserved producers with food-insecure communities, we will be able to help our producers to get more of their quality, wholesome, local food to more people who need it.”
The program will prioritize farmers who identify as historically underrepresented, such as women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ or veterans and small or beginner and disabled farmers; they must also operate within 400 miles of Columbus.
Alejandro Figueroa is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.