Describe your nonprofit's mission.
Local Food Hub is a nonprofit organization that partners with Virginia farmers to increase community access to local food. We provide the support services, infrastructure, and market opportunities that connect people with food grown close to home.
Our vision is that the knowledge and choice of local food becomes the norm, not the exception, for all segments of the community, and that small farms have a strong economic foothold in the marketplace.
We offer a smarter, healthier alternative to traditional agribusiness models by reinstating small farms as the food source for the community. We forge close relationships with our farmers and provide essential services that lead to the direct distribution of fresh, high-quality food to institutions, retailers, restaurants, and schools. We create community partnerships that promote knowledge of and access to local food where it is needed most.
What need in our community brought about the creation of your nonprofit?
Local Food Hub grew out of a community-supported discussion that identified a need for greater linkages between small family farms and institutions seeking local food. Farmers were being locked out of the institutional market due to missing infrastructure, delivery minimums, insurance requirements, and time. Institutions and businesses found it challenging to access a consistent supply of local produce, and were looking for one number to call to source locally.
In 2009, a team of farmers, community members, and nonprofit and food distribution experts came together to launch Local Food Hub. Start-up funding came from a combination of county-level economic development sources, local foundations, and an individual donor campaign. Local farmers helped shape the business plan and networked with their peers. Local Food Hub received in-kind contributions to launch, including 3,500 square feet of warehouse space in Ivy, Virginia.
Since our founding seven years ago, Local Food Hub has made strides in our mission to make fresh, farm sourced food available to everyone. Locally sourced food is now accessible to school kids and seniors, hospitals and universities, and restaurants and retailers. Community partnerships and programs ensure that we not only feed but also educate a new generation about the value of eating fresh and local. Family farms, the environment, public health, and the local economy all benefit as a result.
How has your nonprofit made a difference in our community?
Since its founding, Local Food Hub has partnered with over 130 farms, worked with more than 200 customers in 11 counties and Washington, DC; and reinvested more than $5 million in the Central Virginia economy. Through its Community Partnerships programs, Local Food Hub has reached thousands of students through Farm to School programs, and helped over 100 clinic patients and their families access fresh, local fruits and vegetables. With its Growers Services Program, Local Food Hub has assisted over a dozen farms in achieving food safety certifications and worked with 60 partner farms to provide the training and technical assistance necessary to help grow and strengthen their businesses.
How can community members help you achieve your mission?
Our work relies on the support of our community. We encourage everyone to purchase local products when possible, and to request local items in your neighborhood stores, restaurants, schools, and other places where you eat. Get to know your family farms through farmers markets, farm visits, or our website. Start a dialog of food and farming in your family, community, and in your networks. Learn about the needs of your neighbors and consider our local economy when making purchases. Every dollar spent on local produce from our community stays in our community, and helps to secure future farming generations. Help your children, students, and neighborhood youth develop a connection to their food and healthy eating habits by talking about fresh fruits and vegetables, growing them, and celebrating local food and farming.
Tell us a story that has come out of your work.
Growing Food for Health
We live in an incredibly rich agricultural area, yet much of the food consumed here is not produced here and large pockets of food insecurity continue to exist. Meanwhile, small farms are trying to earn a living and find reliable markets for their harvest. With a group of community partners, Local Food Hub started the Fresh Farmacy: Fruit and Veggie Prescription Program to connect low-income health clinic patients in Charlottesville to fresh, local fruits and vegetables. From biometric data tracked by the clinics, last year over 60% of patients showed improvement in blood pressure and/or weight, and many reduced their medications, developed a passion for cooking and exercising, and comment that they feel more energized. One patient in particular was taking nine medications when she began the program. By the half way point, she had eliminated all of her medications due to the improvements in her diet and eating.
Additionally, input from focus groups conducted by the Health Department illustrated the profound impact of this program:
“I learned that you can eat healthy within your community.”
“I’m eating more greens and vegetables and fruit. I feel better during the day. Instead of starch and sugar. Like carrots – I can go wash carrots and chew ‘em on my porch.”
Ninety patients at three free health clinics in Charlottesville are currently enrolled in this biweekly produce prescription program and we are excited to see the results over the long term. Watch a brief video about the impacts of this program at localfoodhub.org/video, and learn more at localfoodhub.org.
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