The COVID-19 crisis continues with no discernible end date. With the resulting surge in unemployment, school nutrition program closures and increased dependence on support networks, demand for food assistance has skyrocketed.
*photo from Pigeon River Farm
At the same time, many farms are struggling to afford production while facing their own reduced demand. While billions of dollars in relief has been promised to support farmers, this funding is expected to mostly benefit larger producers. Farms are also considered ineligible to relief offered to other small businesses and many traditional sources of loans and funding are inaccessible.
The sudden and unexpected reduction in demand has also lead to unwanted, and unprecedented, food waste. Dairy farms for instance, whose products, like milk, require further processing to go from cow to table, have even had to dispose of their stock due to supply chain disruptions and predatory practices by processors. Seeing a need for rapid innovation to rectify these tragic circumstances, nonprofit farm certifier A Greener World has launched a nationwide, community-based fundraiser, ‘Help Farmers Feed Hungry Families.’
A Greener World identifies, audits, certifies and promotes practical, sustainable farming systems by the agricultural industry and informing consumers. In an effort to match excess supply on farms with unmet demand from food banks, AGW initiated a peer-to-peer fundraiser: 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.
Pigeon River Farm in Clintonville, WI saw egg sales drop 90% in three weeks as their biggest customers closed to customer traffic. The farm had been donating their Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW eggs to Interfaith Food Pantry in Portage County. Despite the pantry’s generous efforts to help defray costs, the farm was losing money in the process. However, if Pigeon River Farm were to receive enough donor support, they could continue to serve local food insecure neighbors through this crisis, cover costs of production and remain in business to serve future customers.
April Joy Farm in Ridgefield, WA is also raising funds to provide eggs to Fruit Valley Family Resource Center, a community school which is also home to a Head Start childcare facility for preschoolers where 87% of the students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. Donations to this fundraiser will ensure Pigeon River Farms and April Joy Farm are able to continue offering high-quality, nutritious, pasture-raised eggs to community members in need–and that other farmers and food banks have the same opportunity.
“We’ve all seen the heartbreaking images of farmers having to dump milk or leave produce to rot in the field,” AGW Executive Director Andrew Gunther says. “This is hard for farmers, made even more distressing when so many are facing real food insecurity. While our traditional supply chains are very efficient, they can also be unwieldy–and when they stop, they stop hard, putting a lot of volume on hold. But animals are not a part of the supply chain you can put on pause–they still need to be fed, and they still produce. Many of the supply chains we’re working with are shorter and more nimble, allowing them to be more responsive to changing needs. A laying hen is not a part of the supply chain you can put on pause–you have to keep feeding her.
We realized we have the relationships, experience and administrative resources to help get food to people who need it while helping to keep farms in business. This Earth Day we [had] the opportunity to support sustainable farming and food security. We call on anyone with a few extra dollars right now–especially those who may not need their stimulus check–to give what they can to help farms and families get through this. We want farms to weather this crisis along with people, and to ensure the long-term health of our sustainable regional food systems.”