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Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin partners with farmers

It may be winter in eastern Wisconsin, but Farm Link is preparing for another season to help feed the hungry by providing nutritious foods for area food pantries. Photo courtesy of Springdale Farm.

Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin partners with local farmers to bring fresh, healthy produce to local food pantries.

The project is called Farm Link, and it works to increase supply and develop demand for local foods in under-served areas in the Fox Valley. The project’s efforts will focus on building mutually beneficial relationships among farmers, the food bank, local food pantries and their clients, and the community.

Thanks to a grant awarded through the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation, clients of local pantries enjoy fresh, organic produce from Springdale Farm. Through the Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin Farm Link program, Springdale Farm grows dedicated acres of food for the food bank and is able to distribute that product in bulk, saving resources and expenses associated with the traditional sorting and packaging for wholesale markets like grocers.

“Our Bright Idea Fund grants committee chose to award a grant for the Farm Link program because it creatively addressed the question of how to make high-quality produce available to everyone in a cost effective, environmentally friendly, sustainable way,” says Carolyn Desrosiers, community engagement manager at the Community Foundation.

Every few weeks Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin food banks and pantries receive the fruits and vegetables that the farm is contracted to grow as well as any surplus.

“By contracting with local farms, we can provide fresh, high quality fruits and vegetables for our hunger relief network each season,” says Liz Wollenberg, donor relations manager, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin. “We can also guarantee the farm a sale of that product for a price that makes sense for the farm and our organization.”

Wollenberg says that through contract growing, Feeding America can connect farms like Springdale Farm with the pantries in their communities that can receive bulk product for their countywide pantry network. “As we continue to build out the capacity for doing this, we shorten the distance that the bulk product travels, drastically reducing the costs associated with delivery as well as packaging, and get the product to the people who need it almost directly after harvest.”

The staff at Springdale Farm works to provide nutritious food to families in Wisconsin. The Plymouth farm—the first-ever community supported agriculture (CSA) in the state—was established in 1988 by Peter Seely and his wife Bernadette. With 13 hoop houses and 40 acres of farmland, the farm produces winter squash, melons, cucumbers, zucchini, potatoes, onions, eggplants, and more. Bernadette is glad that they have the help of Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin to distribute food to the pantries.

“It’s important to us that we not waste large quantities of food. When we have excess, we want to share that with local people,” explains Bernadette. “We sometimes have 1,000 pounds of food that we are trying not to waste and that’s too large for the pantries who can take maybe 10 pounds at a time.”

This unique program is important to eastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley because it will remove economic and logistical barriers for small-scale farmers to make their produce more accessible to their local communities.

Aside from accessibility, Farm Link will also work to drive consumer demand through pantry training and consumer education.

You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support.


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