Food often comes from the heart. Sure, it fills bellies and nourishes bodies. But it also creates comfort and peace beyond physical needs and soothes the soul.
It’s one thing that bonds us across cultures and connects us. It is a constant across all stages of our lives and all times of year - but especially during this time of year when we reflect on blessings and opportunities.
‘Tis the season for giving, and these organizations across Appalachia are giving back where it matters most - right in the tummy. Whether supporting those who are growing our food for generations to come or getting food into the hands of those who need it most, these groups are ensuring the common thread amongst us all - food - is supporting those across the mountains.
Check out these food nonprofits and the good work they’re doing during the season of gratitude:
Focusing on the Appalachian area of Ohio, Rural Action was founded in 1991 to address social, economic, and environmental injustice. “Rural Action’s mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. We do this work by focusing on sectors identified as important by our members: food and agriculture, forestry, zero waste and recycling, environmental education, watershed restoration, and energy,” according to its website.
“Farm to Family started as a mobile farmer’s market in a converted school bus in June 2009, delivering local and organic Virginia-grown produce and products, and has grown to a year-round indoor market, USA Farm Shares and now the urban BusFarm,” according to the website. The bus is a mini, mobile farmers market all on wheels that can visit individuals near and far. The retrofitted school bus not only distributed locally grown produce, meat and dairy products, but it also helps educate the community about food security.
Grow Pittsburgh teaches people how to grow food, grows food through urban farm sites, and supports gardens at area grade schools. This work is carried out through the school garden curriculum, teacher training, workforce development for youth, adult workshops, and more throughout Allegheny County.
The Wild Ramp
The Wild Ramp is an indoor, year-round, nonprofit farmers market that began as an effort to combat the rising climb of obesity in the region by increasing fresh, local food access to all. “In 2012, our vision was evident: to grow and operate a sustainable farmers market for locally grown and produced food and artisan items. As we have grown, we have expanded our retail market, added new programs such as The Harvest Kitchen and SNAP Stretch and implemented new services such as our Online Food Hub. It is most important to us that we provide the opportunity, support and space for local producers and the community to come together for a common goal of growing and supporting our local food economy,” the website reads.
According to its website, Glean Kentucky was founded in 2010 by three individuals seeking to attack two problems: food waste and hunger. By gathering - or gleaning - excess produce from places like stores, farms, markets and even gardens, the organization works to redistribute food to those in need. Not only does the program reduce local food waste, but it also supports more than 100 feeding programs. “Since our inception, we have served as a vital link between local food sources and dozens of feeding programs. We glean nearly a thousand times a year, and yet we’ve just scratched the surface of diverting wasted food,” the website reads.
Table, a 501(c)3 in Orange County, North Carolina, takes a unique approach to making sure kids are fed and educated about nutritious food. The program is a “one-of-a-kind food distribution model delivering food directly to children at their home every week, ensuring transportation is never a barrier to accessing food,” according to the website. Furthermore: “We serve children of 7 different ethnicities and accommodate their dietary needs by adjusting their bags of food for allergies, vegetarian/vegan requests, and ethnic & religious special diets. Our bags of food contain 50% fresh produce, with a majority of it coming from local farms when available, and 50% healthy nonperishables based on dietary guidelines.”
These selected organizations are just several in Appalachia working tirelessly year-round to support food in the region. That may look like assuring food gets to those who need it most or preserving food traditions for the future. During the season of giving, these organizations could benefit from the generosity of communities.