by Meghan McDermott
It sends a tremor through us all: driving along Main Street of a northern Michigan town, the streets and sidewalks empty, the stores and restaurants dark. The view is stark proof of COVID-19’s toll on working families throughout our region and beyond.
Record numbers of laid-off workers will soon put tremendous demands on food pantries, and meanwhile local farmers are also feeling COVID-19’s economic impact as key markets, like restaurants, schools and farmers markets close due to social distancing restrictions.
This week, Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities launched the Local Food Relief Fund, which will assist emergency food providers in purchasing products from farmers in eight counties of Northwest Lower Michigan.
The fund leverages triple-value from every dollar:
1. Dollars will purchase storage crops available now and guarantee purchases into the growing season, creating much-needed stability for farmer budgets.
2. Food pantries will be able to keep shelves stocked, and provide high-quality, nutrient-dense food to families. Healthy food is essential for physical and mental well-being during stressful times.
3. By keeping purchases local, donations will send positive ripple effects throughout the regional economy and strengthen food supply chains for all of us.
One-hundred percent of dollars raised through the Local Food Relief Fund will go to three respected emergency food providers: Northwest Food Coalition, Manna Food Project and Food Rescue, a Goodwill of Northern Michigan program. The partner agencies will then purchase food from local farmers and distribute that food to families.
Fundraising for the Local Food Relief Fund launched April 7, with a seven-day goal of $30,000. To our wonderful surprise, the idea resonated so strongly with people throughout our region that 115 donors hit the fund’s original goal in less than 48 hours!
We know that $30,000 is a fraction of what our farms stand to lose if closings and restrictions on gatherings persist. With that in mind, and fund momentum running strong, we decided to nearly double the target, setting a stretch goal of $50,000, with the fund drive still ending midnight on Tuesday, April 14.
It’s heartening to see our community support and trust local farmers to perform great things at this historic moment. Times like these illustrate societal cracks and gaps like no other, and we know that our local farmers are essential not just in times of trouble, but always. Our consistent support of local food and farms in both the bad times and the good will only strengthen our ability to eat well and be well into the future.
As you make food choices, today and in days to come, consider local farmers first. Sign up for a CSA subscription, ask if your favorite farm stand has an online marketplace, look for local labels in stores, and order take-out from local restaurants still supporting our region’s farmers.
Donate at groundworkcenter.org/relieffund.
Farmers interested in growing for pantries in Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau and Wexford counties should complete this form: surveymonkey.com/r/VNZS3MW.
About the author: Meghan McDermott is the director of programs for the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.
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