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Food to Share: Local Food Solutions for Healthy Minds, Bodies, Communities, Economy and Environment

Food to Share is an integrated strategy for reducing food waste and increasing healthy food access, nutrition, and environmental quality.

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Over the last 2 years, we have been building Food to Share’s infrastructure and relationships necessary for food recoveries, distributions and cooking skills classes, showing the potential to address interrelated health, well-being and community development challenges in under-served neighborhoods in Fresno— issues clearly caused by extreme poverty, food insecurity, poor environmental quality, and limited education, job skills, and employment opportunities for many poor families.

Food to Share has recovered over 1 million pounds of excess healthy food so far and redistributed it to a network of 80 food pantries, kitchens, churches and nonprofits serving low-income neighborhoods. This food includes fresh fruits and vegetables and a variety of staples and proteins recovered from schools, retail outlets and backyard gleanings. This food would otherwise be thrown away and buried in landfills where it decays, releasing harmful methane gas contributing to significant local and regional air pollution. According to CalRecycle, every pound of food diverted from a landfill and consumed in a disadvantaged neighborhood results in a reduction of 2.2 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Food to Share creates direct access to healthy food for thousands of low-income residents, while simultaneously preventing the release of hundreds of thousands of pounds of harmful GHG emissions.

Food to Share is currently averaging 5,000 pounds per week from 13 schools, operating at capacity with two cargo vans and two drivers. Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) staff is recommending to its Board buying 5 new cargo vans (valued at $250,000) to increase our recovery sites to all 94 FUSD schools over the next few years. We are seeking funds to contribute to the required match for the FUSD partnership needed to cover project-related personnel (drivers, program management), van operations (fuel, maintenance, repair, insurance), meetings, and operational supplies such as bins/totes.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Immediate project beneficiaries are underserved children, youth and adults who live in the neighborhoods of Central and South Fresno. These important stakeholders for Fresno’s future live with a 2015 poverty rate of 34% vs. 15.3% for California, and median household incomes around $36,025 vs. $64,500 for the state. Over half of these community residents identify as Hispanic/Latino, under 30% as non-Hispanic White, 9% as Asian or Pacific Islander, and 7% as African American. Most Central Fresno neighborhoods are designated as food deserts. Based upon our relationships in these neighborhoods and confirming current data from Fresno County Public Health Department statistics, we have extreme rates of overweight-obese adults, youth and children, with over 1/2 the population deemed pre-diabetic. With project expansion and replication, future project beneficiaries will include the nearly one million poor and food insecure residents in our valley region.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

We connect, not duplicate or compete. Food to Share collaborates with nonprofits, agencies, and businesses on all aspects of our food recovery and distribution. Food to Share provides a unique role as a connector and convener. We are not duplicating services, but rather connecting and leveraging previously fragmented organizations and disconnected food relief infrastructure. Without Food to Share, the scores of stakeholder organizations with whom we work would not be interacting and the million+ pounds of food we have rescued so far, and the millions of pounds we plan to save in the future, would otherwise end up in landfills. In a reciprocal sense, the effectiveness of critical parts of the community and faith-based food relief system we have connected depend on Food to Share to keep it better organized, communicating, and functioning – and Food to Share depends on the enhanced functioning of this network we have chosen not to duplicate or compete with but rather to link together.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Fresno Metro Ministry (http://www.fresnometmin.org) is a multi-cultural, multi-faith nonprofit organization with a mission of: “Learning, connecting and engaging to achieve healthy people and healthy places”; we focus on increasing access and consumption of healthy food, the quality of the built and physical environment, and overall health and economic opportunities for underserved communities.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Fresno Metro Ministry has fought for social, environmental and economic equity for 48 years. We have evolved from our founding by Christian churches to become a multi-faith and multi-cultural community-based organization with inclusive SHALOM values that include wholeness, completeness, wellbeing, restoration, peace, justice, and prosperity. For us, this holism means that ‘community health’ is urgent for achieving all interrelated goals, and as we have found, food is a priority for health here.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

We believe a city’s prosperity is contingent on the health of all its community members. This requires attention to all forms of health embedded (or missing) in our social-cultural relationships, the conditions of the built and natural environments, and the economic opportunities that are derivative of healthy relationships and living conditions. Adequate and nutritious food is truly a necessary ingredient for mental and physical health, and especially for early childhood cognitive development. Fresno is in the most productive food growing region in the U.S., and yet tragically is ranked the 5th most food insecure metro area. Over 125,000 Fresno residents suffer weekly food hardships. Surveys by Hunger Count Fresno show an annual gap of over 20 million pounds of healthy food for low income residents, as we collectively send millions of pounds of healthy food to landfills, and our poor air quality produces 4 to 5 times the national rate of asthma and other respiratory diseases.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Some key partners:
-Community Food Bank delivers donated/recovered fresh fruits and vegetables to our Food Distributions, and also helps pick-up and store large quantities (over 5,000 pounds) of single recoveries.
-Fresno Unified & Central Unified School Districts give us access to significant amounts of excess healthy food. We anticipate increasing school recoveries over the next few years from about 200,000 pounds to over 1 million pounds per year if we can raise operating funds.
-Food to Share Donors & Receivers now represent a growing network linking 80 existing community service and 50 food donor organizations. Star partners include: Wesley United Methodist Church, St. Paul Catholic Newman Center, Fresno State Student Cupboard, Fresno Rescue Mission, Poverello House, St. Rest Baptist Church, Rapto Divino Church, Uplift Family Services, Masten Towers Seniors, Blue Sky Wellness Center, West Fresno Family Resource Center, and Fresno Street Saints at Sunset Community Center.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Fresno has some emerging cross-sector collaborative DNA to draw from for creating scaled-up solutions. The City recently adopted a new General Plan that offers a policy framework aimed at revitalizing inner city neighborhoods and creating better access to economic opportunities. A new Fresno Community Health Improvement Partnership has been formed and is working across many boundaries and challenges to engage and align disparate efforts to elevate and address the social determinants of health.

Geographic Focus

Food to Share focuses on Fresno, the 5th largest city in California with 520,000 residents.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

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