Shawano County’s F.R.E.S.H. Project is growing and providing fresh food to those in need as well as nutrition information, thanks to a $263,283 grant over three years from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation, supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners.
By Barbara Mendoza, executive director, The F.R.E.S.H. Project
More people in Shawano County have a problem getting the food they need than you might think, especially healthy food. Large sections of Shawano County are “food deserts,” areas with low household incomes and limited access to food.
We’ve conducted several surveys over the past several years and found that many residents don’t have enough food in their homes and can’t afford to eat nutritious food.
The F.R.E.S.H. Project is a coalition founded in 2017 of native nations, county government, community organizations, farmers, the faith-based community and committed individuals who’ve come together to fight food insecurity by providing accessible, affordable and sustainable food for everyone living in Shawano County.
The F.R.E.S.H. Project is funded in part through a 3-year grant from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation, supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners.
The grant is used to plant eight gardens throughout the county; with two educational gardens. We partner with a local school and a youth center and teach the children about eating their colors, healthy eating choices, and planting and cooking techniques.
We present a six-week cooking class for the kid’s summer camp beginning July 19 and also a two-week cooking class for the guests of SAM25 (Shawano Area Matthew 25, Inc.’s emergency shelter.
We provide monthly community dinners throughout Shawano County serving those in need, and have more than doubled our Share the Bounty program from eight tables in 2017 to 18 tables in 2018, sharing more than 12,000 pounds of produce.
Last year we grew six gardens on land donated by local farmers and organizations, and this summer we’ve added two more.
Volunteers helped plant, maintain, harvest and deliver food to shelters, food pantries, and elderly centers. In addition, area gardeners and farmers donated approximately 5,000 pounds of home-grown fruits and vegetables to share within the community.
The F.R.E.S.H. Project Mobile Market is a produce aisle on wheels that stops throughout Shawano County to visit the towns, villages and communities that have limited access to fresh, affordable, and healthy foods. Investing in the Mobile Market enables us to launch a 14-week pilot program to provide locally-grown and sustainable foods to Shawano County’s 25 Towns, 11 Villages, 2 Cities and 2 Tribal Communities.
Communities like Birnamwood, Tigerton, Pella, Gresham, and areas in the City of Shawano are all food deserts. Shawano County is approximately 75 percent rural and many residents do not have the transportation means to get to a store that offers fresh produce at an affordable price.
The Mobile Market is a means to serve the underserved portions of the County. In addition, we offer two types of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) boxes for sale. For seven weeks from late June through late September recipients will receive a box containing $200 worth of meat, vegetables, and fruit for $10.
Along with the Market, there is a refreshed opportunity to educate local communities about the food itself – how to grow, how to cook, how to preserve and store, making healthy meal choices, etc. We want to connect with local families to grow a stronger community.
We continue to promote our Buy Local directory working with our local producers to gather information about their farm. We provide handouts on the benefits of buying local to WIC clinics, food pantries, local government offices and local churches.
Our Winter Market is smaller and runs from December – March, featuring recipes, cooking demonstrations and educational topics such as eating healthy on a budget.
See the Fox 11 News report on the F.R.E.S.H. Project:
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