Food Banks as Community Food Hubs in Eastern Wisconsin

Embedding strategies into food systems to improve access to healthy, local foods especially for food pantries

Full Project Name:Eastern Wisconsin Food Banks Serving as Community-wide Food Hubs to Increase Healthy OfferingsPrimary Community Organization:Feeding America Eastern WisconsinPrimary Academic Partner:David Nelson, PhD, Family and Community MedicineAward Amount:$251,134
Award Date
Project Duration:30 months

Project Description Narrative:

Changing a fragmented local food and conventional food system to increase local fruit and vegetable access among economically and/or socially marginalized individuals requires innovative thinking and processes. To address a community prioritized need to increase local healthy food access for marginalized individuals, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin and partners have developed Farm Link, a community food hub operated and managed by Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin (FAEW). Farm Link will serve as a mechanism to connect local producers to institutional buyers and hunger-relief programs, integrating Farm Link into an existing food bank to align resources and provide diverse healthy food options to underserved populations.

Community partners:
Winnebago County Health Department, Live54218, Oshkosh Area Community Pantry, ThedaCare, Bellin Health, Green Bay Area Public Schools, Menasha Joint School District, SLO Farmers Co-op, Ledgeview Farms, Olden Produce

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:

• 154 agencies received product from Farm Link producers across 28 counties; 111 institutional buyers; 23 producers

•123,012 pounds (approximately 656,000 servings) of fresh produce has gone to hunger relief agencies from beginning of project

• Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin (FAEW) has formally adopted Farm Link into long-term strategic plan

• FAEW is implementing a system to track differentiated product (intentional v. indiscriminate) to better understand and make strategic decisions in sourcing products focused on categories referred to as �Foods to Encourage,� including fresh produce, lean protein and dairy, etc.

• FarmLink added new farmers to the system

• Additional regional markets were established throughout eastern WI

• New institutional buyers utilized the FarmLink system

• FAEW adopted change in the strategic sourcing of produce through FarmLink sources

• FAEW created a new permanent position to oversee FarmLink activities

• Food pantries gained significant access to produce from FarmLink farmers

• FarmLink developed partnerships to continue system change over the next several years as FarmLink 2.0 takes shape

Project Updates:

• Developed Farm Link program and processes, establishing partnerships among food producers

• Provided 59 hunger relief agencies across 18 counties with 27,124 pounds of fresh produce, accounting for approximately 124,000 servings going to underserved communities

• Increased local food sales by 360% for fiscal year 2017 while increasing the number of producers selling on the Farm Link Marketplace from 6 to 16 and the number of registered buyers from 24 to 82

• Began implementation of formal adoption of Farm Link into Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, including writing Farm Link coordination and management of local food logistics into the organization's written, long-term strategy and organizational structure

• Project partners conducted presentations at state and national food-related conferences

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