USDA Funds to Strengthen Local Food System and Advance Nutrition Security

USDA / Yolo Food Bank event at Yolo Food Bank in Woodland, CA July 27, 2022. 
Photo by Fred Greaves

During a tour and press conference at Yolo Food Bank on July 27, United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack announced the signing of a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of California under the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA), designed to bolster local food and agricultural supply chain resiliency.

“Thanks to these USDA funds, Yolo Food Bank will be able to nourish more neighbors in need through expanded partnerships with existing generous farmers and new collaborations with diverse local farmers,” stated Interim Executive Director Karen Baker. “This investment will create resilient partnerships that will leverage the agriculturally productive region that is Yolo County to ensure consistent access to nutritious and culturally appropriate food for vulnerable populations.”

The funding will enable Yolo Food Bank to create purchasing agreements with local farmers who understand the needs of their communities. Yolo Food Bank currently partners with over four dozen local growers countywide – large and small farmers – who donate and sell fresh produce to Yolo Food Bank on a consistent basis. One partner Yolo Food Bank is excited to expand its partnership with is Three Sisters Garden, a local indigenous-led farm located in West Sacramento’s Broderick neighborhood. It grows seasonal organic vegetables on four small urban farms and provides educational workshops for high promise youth. Yolo Food Bank and Three Sisters Garden are in discussion about a new innovative partnership agreement to provide locally-sourced produce and nutrition education to elementary school-aged children in West Sacramento.

“Three Sisters Gardens is looking forward to expanding its partnership with Yolo Food Bank to combat food insecurity by leveraging the USDA funds,” shared Founder and Operator Alfred Melbourne. “We grow food for the people, by the people — right where we live. These funds symbolize a critical investment in underserved communities like mine and support disadvantaged producers such as Native/Indigenous farmers and farmers of color.”

“Broadening our outreach to diverse local farmers not only creates a more resilient local food economy, but supports our Flipping the Food System initiative which is designed to ensure the food we distribute is accessible, nutritious, and culturally appropriate for all residents,” stated Baker. “Thanks to the generosity of many private donors, Flipping the Food System, an initiative launched in May focused upon uncovering the needs of food system and farmworker families, is already well underway.”

A pilot program to further this initiative – a food distribution specifically designed for farmworker families – is in the works currently thanks to the generosity of Durst Organic Growers, Muller Ag, and River Garden Farms. This pilot program endeavors to inform Yolo Food Bank’s future programs and services designed specifically for farmworkers and food system workers. Over a span of two months, Yolo Food Bank will reach over 350 farmworker families and provide them with nutritious and culturally appropriate food.

“During this time of continued high inflation paired with the lingering socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, collaborative partnerships such as these focused on providing food and nutrition security are absolutely critical to our community’s overall well-being,” said Baker.

Photo by Fred Greaves for Yolo Food Bank

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