In an effort to match excess supply on farms with unmet demand from food banks, the recently launched community-based fundraiser, ‘Help Farmers Feed Hungry Families,’ led by nonprofit farm certifier A Greener World (AGW), has grown to include additional farms and supporters for #GivingTuesdayNow.
With a surge in unemployment, school nutrition program closures and the massive strain on traditional support networks, demand for food assistance has skyrocketed. At the same time, many farms are increasingly challenged to afford production when there is no customer. Some farms whose products are normally processed further (e.g., milk) have even had to dispose of products due to supply chain disruptions and predatory practices by processors. While $19 billion in relief has been promised to support farmers, this funding is expected to benefit large commodity producers. Commodity groups have collectively demanded more funds than are available and there is no information on how independent farms can participate or a timeline for doing so. Farms have been ineligible to relief offered to other small businesses and many traditional sources of loans and funding are inaccessible.
Recognizing the complementary needs of food banks and farms, A Greener World initiated a peer-to-peer fundraiser whereby its certified farms, ranches and producers can coordinate donations to support food delivery to area nonprofits serving community food needs. A Greener World has existing relationships with thousands of independent farmers across the United States and Canada through its certification programs and food labels: Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Salmon Welfare Certified by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW and Certified Non-GMO by AGW. While some farms in the program have done well with online sales during social distance necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, others have struggled to recover lost markets. Farms that depended upon sales to restaurants, schools, and other institutional customers saw once-reliable income disappear overnight.
In time for #GivingTuesdayNow, the fundraiser recently expanded to include two more farms who are donating to their local communities. #GivingTuesdayNow is a new global day of giving that takes place on May 5, 2020 – in addition to the regularly scheduled Dec 1, 2020 #GivingTuesday – as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.
The growth of the fundraiser creates more opportunities for supporters to provide financial assistance to help farms and their communities in need. Hunter Farms in Jakin, GA saw beef sales drop in the last 4 weeks and the farm was left with excess supply. The farm decided to donate their extra Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW beef to help feed those who come to Manna Drop’s monthly food box pickup at Friendship United Methodist Church, a program serving 300 families each month year-round. Lucky Hook Farm in Moses Lake, WA is also raising funds to provide goat’s milk to Second Harvest, an organization which distributes over 2 million pounds of free food each month to help people in need in 26 counties in Eastern Washington and North Idaho. With enough donor support, the fundraiser will ensure the participating farms are able to continue serving local food insecure neighbors through this crisis, cover costs of production and remain in business to serve future customers.
AGW Executive Director Andrew Gunther says,
“There seems to be an insurmountable amount of challenges our world is facing due to the effects of COVID-19, but by connecting farmers with excess supply with their local food banks, we can help to get food to people who need it while also helping to keep farms in business. Farmers need much more assistance than they are currently receiving from the USDA and so we’re turning to our networks and asking anyone that might have a few extra dollars right now to give what they can to help farms and families get through this. By showing these farms we care and that we support them, we can help them to weather this crisis and ensure the long-term health of our sustainable regional food systems.”