So, you may have heard that we’re in a pandemic, yes? Last year, our work on the Local Food Promotion Program Feasibility grant was to wrap up in March 2020. But due to Covid-19, we asked for and received a sixth month extension on the final reporting. That report was submitted in October. Below is a 2 page overview of that report.
In other updates, many of the Downtown Farmers Market regulars chose to not do farmers markets in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions being incompatible with the product mix and/or booth set-up. Many pivoted to selling more product direct from their farms, often utilizing online ordering. Many also sold on the Hayshaker Farm Online Marketplace, which reached almost 20 local and regional producers during the height of the season. A rising tide lifts all boats, and we did our best to support each other through the storm.
Plans for pursuing a small commercial kitchen space in which to make salsa and hot sauce were put on the back burner as many of us simply did our best to learn new point of sale systems, increase online sales traffic, keep harvests coming in, and waited to see what the year would bring next.
The Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank, the lead agency on the Feasibility Report, also had to focus on increased community need in 2020. Their work last year included:
- Distributed approximately 3 times the amount of food compared to 2019, serving an average of 1,200 households on a weekly basis.
- Utilized the National Guard continuously since April with an average of 25 soldiers on food bank missions every day.
- Spent over $60,000 on fresh local produce through the Farm to Food Bank program.
- Developed last mile delivery for 5% of Walla Walla County and 10% of Columbia County population on a weekly basis.
- Expanded the Food Bank warehouse space by 300%, cooler space by 450%, and freezer space by 150% in the last 6 months.
New in 2021, the Blue Zone Project has come to Walla Walla. What began as a New York Times bestseller by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner has evolved into a global movement that’s inspiring people to live longer, more active lives with lower rates of chronic disease. The project in Walla Walla plans to focus on Food Policy. Establishing a local Food Hub is considered to be Highly Impactful. Hopefully we’ll find some renewed energy around this project moving forward, with their community events and focus groups.
In the mean time, the Walla Walla Grown group of farmers continues to work together towards less capitol intensive more agile systems with which to expand our offerings and feed our community. The work continues.
We do not anticipate any more regularly scheduled meetings of the Walla Walla Valley Food System Coalition in 2021, due to covid and poor attendance in the months preceding the covid outbreak. But if that changes, we’ll be sure to update you here!
© 2021, Walla Walla Valley Food System Coalition.