Food Alliance Action Team updates: October 2017

Author: 
Ben Hill

Here is a highlight from the myriad of projects the action teams have been working on:

Education

This team is developing a grassroots, statewide public education campaign designed to increase local food purchasing and inform people about the key relationship between viable local farms and healthy economies and communities. After identifying existing education and outreach efforts that can be leveraged in New Hampshire, the team researched statewide local food promotion campaigns in NC, VT, and CT. Marketing and communications advisors are helping the team determine measurable goals, key audiences, and messaging. The team is also working to connect key food system communicators in order to strengthen communications infrastructure to support the campaign.

Market Development

With the assistance of a graduate-level intern hired through the UNH Sustainability Fellows program, the team developed a matrix that outlines the technical assistance currently available for farm and food businesses in New Hampshire through all stages of business development. This matrix will be a resource for business owners, as well as a tool to identify gaps in services provided. The team is working with the Food Alliance Backbone team to develop print- and web-based platforms to disseminate this information. The team has also been conducting research around establishing a farm viability program in New Hampshire without following a fully-funded organizational approach. This work has involved preliminary interviews with neighboring states and will be ongoing.

In addition, the Market Development team is currently writing several case studies to share lessons learned and support farms and businesses interested in food aggregation or distribution. The development of these publications will be followed by a comprehensive plan to circulate these materials, and ensure that they serve the communities who need them.

Food Access

The work of the Food Access team is focused on both institutional and consumer food access. The co-chairs from each group have worked with the Backbone Team to develop a grant proposal to support the launch of a Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRx) Program in three NH Farm-to-School Beacon Communities, and is currently waiting for a reply.

  1. Institutional Food Access: This team is working to collect existing information around contract language that institutions can use to procure local food products. They are curating all existing information and compiling it into a user-friendly format. Additionally, they are developing a template for institutions and farmers to make institutional purchasing accessible and efficient for both parties. To further support institutional purchasing in New Hampshire, the team is currently developing several case studies, in collaboration with Sodexo and Cafe Services, to showcase how farm-to-institution might work in our state.
  2. Consumer: Much of the focus of this team has centered around increasing and supporting ongoing efforts to expand SNAP enrollment, educate New Hampshire residents how to access and prepare local foods, and increase food access through a variety of community health models. The team recently conducted a statewide survey to gauge organizations’ progress or interest in starting a FVRx program. The team will be using these data to create a resource that will assist organizations as they launch these Programs.

Land Resources

The team is currently working with charitable foundations in New Hampshire to establish a dedicated, revolving fund for conservation easements. This would alleviate the financial pressures for organizations to match federal money, which is often stands in the way of an organization securing easement funding. In addition, the team is working with the NH Community Loan Fund to establish a bridge loan program for both conservation easements and stewardship programs. This program would financially support farmers and landowners while they are waiting for grant money from the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The team is planning to continue both funding conversations at the semi-annual Land Trust Coalition meeting where they will present the ideas as new/innovative funding sources. The land trust community has been largely absent from farmland conservation in New Hampshire, and the team has already made significant progress in bringing them to the table.

The team is currently creating a guide for offering peer-to-peer easement workshops, where they will compile example flyers, questions, and other materials to create a model for others to offer similar events. They are currently working with the Food Alliance Backbone Team to secure funding for offering a series of workshops during the spring of 2018. The team is also in conversations with One Percent for the Planet to create new sources of revenue to support farmland conservation.

Fisheries

The Food Alliance Backbone Team recently convened the first Fisheries Action Team meeting on September 5th, 2017. The meeting brought together fishers, scientists, non-profit organizations, and others to identify ways to enhance the local fisheries industry and increase access to New Hampshire markets. The group discussed the need for a cooperatively owned/managed processing facility, the need for consumer education and marketing, better connections with buyers and restaurants, and growing the industry through training and mentorship. The group prioritized researching the potential of a processing facility as a first step and the Backbone Team is now working to identify existing processing facilities (e.g., produce, meat, seafood) and their funding models, as well as other potential project partners, including members of the Market Development Team. Representatives from the Fisheries Team will work closely with the Education Action Team to ensure that any local foods promotion and education includes expanding markets for New Hampshire fish.