Mountain Food Security Project to research what happens if two counties are cut
MFSP organizers will find out in October if the project will receive a $25,000 community food project grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Community members will supply an equal amount from in-kind donations of time and services.
The grant will fund an assessment of food security, defined as the access of all people, at all times, to enough food for an active, healthy life, according to the Placer County food security program at ceplacer.ucdavis.edu/Nutrition,_Family_and_Consumer_Sciences/News_Article_Series_on_Food_Security.htm.
“The point of this project is to find out … to what extent we’re vulnerable to not having access to enough food,” Powell said last week.
In Northeastern California, access to food is almost totally dependent on oil. Right now it takes “10 fossil fuel calories to produce every one calorie of food we eat,” she said.
Organizers are also interested in bio-terrorism and emergency preparedness, she said. The effort actually started when regional food bank groups started discussing emergency food distribution and realized there was very little information available.
A food policy council will guide the year-long assessment of actions that would increase food security through participation of a variety of stakeholders, “whoever has a strong interest in being involved,” Powell said.
With the application due next week, organizers sent out a recruiting letter to roughly 50 people in both counties, asking what kind of contribution each could provide.
The planning project includes research and assessment of the food system on a two-county level, with some data collected from Modoc and Sierra counties.
“It will look at every aspect of the food system, from the producer all the way through to the consumers,” she said. “Our goal is to involve the community in the greatest way possible so issues important to people rise to the surface.”
The grant application focuses on low-income people and their access “to nutritious, sustainably produced foods.”
If the application succeeds, Powell said project participants will send out surveys in November to low-income people, agricultural producers and food distributors. It will also set up focus groups and host community forums.
The group will then apply for another grant using data from the assessment to back up applications for further projects, she said. Projects will be identified by the community.
“It could be storage, networking, distribution systems locally or creating new markets for agriculture producers that allow low-income people to have access to affordable foods,” she said.
Other groups have come up with “amazing innovative projects” including community-supported agriculture, where people buy into a farm at the beginning by paying a lump sum and then share in what the farmer grows every week.
“They share the risk. If a hail storm destroys the crop, participants get nothing. If it’s a bumper crop, they’re set,” Powell said. “Statistically it’s more efficient to have a small-scale farm. Small-scale farms produce more food per acre and you don’t have to transport it so far.”
Examples of the data collected include: geographic residence of low-income families, poverty data, food consumption statistics, use of federal programs, nutrition services and programs, emergency food sources, community gardens, and ag production and distribution data.
Powell said participants are trying to look for needs, gaps in food services and opportunities for innovative partnerships to provide what’s needed.
“We want to identify the assets of our community and what we can work with,” she said.
Anyone interested in participating may reach Powell at 283-3611.
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