A Food Justice Response to Covid-19
Santa Clara University Professor Christopher Bacon, students, and Fresh Approach are starting a participatory assessment of how Bay Area farms and justice organizations collaborate to confront Covid-19.
In response to the pandemic’s threats to food and economic security, Fresh Approach and Pie Ranch developed a new network of farms and community-based organizations that locally sourced, aggregated, and distributed 600,000 plus pounds of fresh produce in boxes that reached more than 14,000 families weekly, while providing much needed economic support to small farmers.
The USDA financed this emergency project through the Farmers to Families Food Box program until mid-September 2020. However, the USDA recently re-directed funds for this program, which is reaching 100 million people, to offer more support to larger corporations that could lower costs and meet new requirements for box content, such as including cooked meat.
This makes it all the more important to evaluate the type of model that Fresh Approach and its partners have developed, in which food is sourced from local farms and delivered through community-based organizations doing grassroots power building work in Richmond, Oakland, East Palo Alto, and East San Jose, which may provide other anticipated benefits and challenges.
The research team includes Professor Bacon, who has led collaborative research with small farmers in Nicaragua supported by a National Science Foundation grant, undergraduate Paige Whittaker from SCU, and Rachael Abraham, a collaborating MD/MPH student at UC Berkeley.
The team will assess the project’s short term impacts on box recipients’ food security, farmers’ economic security, resilience to Covid-19 and the recent fires, changes to environmental management, and new social capital created. The results will help assess whether the Fresh Approach project could be a replicable model for how a regional food system can meet emergency food assistance needs, while also offering another revenue stream for local farmers.
The assessment is still in its early stages, supported by seed funding, and continues to seek additional funding to complete this timely study.
Photo: Fresh Approach