Farmers in the Greater Lehigh Valley will have a new venue to sell their goods.
It’s all because of a record $500,000 grant that The Two Rivers Health & Wellness Foundation of Easton awarded to the Kellyn Foundation of Tatamy to establish an initiative to drive change in the local food system.
The Farm to Neighborhood initiative has been tasked with developing a link between area farmers and neighborhoods that are considered “food deserts,” which are urban areas that don’t have a grocery store selling fresh produce within one mile.
“Some of these areas may have convenience stores, but they don’t sell fresh produce,” said Paul Brunswick, executive director of Two Rivers.
He said when people don’t have convenient healthy food, they often opt for easier-to-obtain convenience foods that are less healthy.
He said the latest census statistics show that there are more than 35,000 people in Northampton County living in what is considered to be an urban food desert.
He said while many urban downtowns have active farmers’ markets, transportation often is an issue for the people who most need fresh produce.
The produce vouchers his organization gives out each year so that low-income people can buy fresh produce usually only have a cash-in rate of about 60 percent.
Add that to that many of the region’s smaller farmers don’t have the staff to man all of the farmers’ markets that take place throughout the Lehigh Valley, and there is a disconnect between those who have produce to sell and those who would benefit from buying it.
The Farm to Neighborhood initiative will have program organizers bridge the gap by going to local farms to buy produce at a business-sustaining price, store it in a refrigerated commercial kitchen that will be established somewhere in the Easton area and then delivered to the neighborhoods most in need.
The $500,000 grant to create the program is Two Rivers’ largest grant to a single program.
To date, the foundation has donated more than $4 million to support local health initiatives.