Fresh and Healthy Food For All

FRESH AND HEALTHY FOOD FOR ALL

Good health is out of reach for anyone without ready access to fresh and healthy foods. To tackle this challenge in bountiful Columbia County, Berkshire Taconic has engaged a wide-ranging group of partners in all aspects of the food economy to help create a more equitable food system.

A first of its kind and scope in Columbia County, Fresh and Healthy Food for All is a five-year project funded by two anonymous donors and designed to transform the food system over time for the benefit of all residents, especially low-income families and seniors. It was developed after careful consultation with over 80 local community members involved in food-related industries across Columbia County—including farms, food pantries, distributors, food retailers, community-based organizations and county agencies.

CURRENT GRANTMAKING (YEAR 3)

Funding for the third year of projects totals $211,949:

  • Hawthorne Valley Association in Ghent received $100,000 to build on the many projects it began during the first two years of grantmaking through this initiative. These projects include the expansion of Long Table Harvest's gleaning program, which delivers produce to food pantries throughout Columbia County, and funding to support the September 2018 launch of Rolling Grocer 19, a mobile market that brings a fully stocked grocery store directly to consumers in Hudson throughout the week, with plans to expand it to other locations in the county. Additional projects underway include implementing a community-driven pilot project for the mobile market in New Lebanon and preparing initial research and building community relationships in the Stuyvesant/Valatie area. Hawthorne Valley will also begin planning for its Community Food Hub project in Hudson, which received funding through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
  • The Sylvia Center in Kinderhook received $75,000 to expand its healthy cooking classes to young people and their families in Columbia County. The Sylvia Center aims to help young people adopt eating and cooking skills, habits and attitudes that drive healthier lifelong behaviors. In the second year of the initiative, the Sylvia Center reached into the Germantown Central School District for the first time while also maintaining classes in Hudson. This year, the classes in Germanton will be taught by teachers during classroom time. In year three of the program, the Sylvia Center plans to expand its program to the Taconic Hills Central School District. It will also teach family and teen cooking classes in Philmont’s new Market Coop, which is located within the school district. Over the five years of the initiative, the center hopes to bring healthy cooking programs to all six of the county’s school districts.
  • The Field and Fork Network received $36,949 to support a Double Up Food Bucks program at two locations in Columbia County: the Copake-Hillsdale Farmers Market and New Lebanon Farmers Market. The program allows shoppers to get more fruits and vegetables when they spend SNAP EBT Card dollars at these markets.

THE PROJECT IN CONTEXT

One in 10 of Columbia County’s estimated 62,000-plus residents live in poverty and about 13% are food insecure, or lacking sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food. One-third of those struggling to avoid hunger are seniors and children. Half of the county’s public school students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Over the last decade, the number of grocery stores in the county has shrunk by nearly one-fifth. Due to store closures and a lack of reliable transportation, approximately 15% of the population is without ready access to a supermarket. At the same time, the food sector has increasingly shifted to serve the demands of seasonal residents, weekenders and tourists.

About one-quarter of the land in Columbia County is dedicated to agricultural production, a number that has declined by 11% over the last five years on record.

RESOURCES

Fresh and Healthy Food for All in Columbia County, NY: Preliminary Findings — an adapted and abridged version of a document prepared for Berkshire Taconic by Karen Karp & Partners.

Mapping Variations Across the County (all maps © Ben Kerrick / Karen Karp & Partners, 2015):

HOW CAN I SUPPORT FRESH AND HEALTHY FOOD FOR ALL?

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TheSylviaCenter

During the second year of the Fresh and Healthy Food for All Initiative, the Sylvia Center hosted cooking classes in the Germantown Central School District for the first time to help young people adopt skills, habits and attitudes that drive healthier lifelong behaviors. Photo by John Dolan