Aug 15, 2018
The Hudson Valley is abundant with fresh-grown food and establishments specializing in it.
The Hudson Valley is abundant with fresh-grown food and establishments specializing in it. When one considers how viable our region is for agriculture and culinary enterprises, it seems unreasonable that one in every ten of our valley residents could go hungry. How do we get the food from the growers, producers and retailers to those who need it the most? And how do we reduce the staggering 40% of food waste occurring along the food supply chain? Thanks to a collaboration with Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley (CFHV), HVADC is now sponsoring a unique regional solution to that local feeding dilemma; FeedHV.
CFHV is a nonprofit foundation whose mission is to strengthen communities by offering donors the means to establish charitable legacies, by making grants, and by providing leadership to address community needs in a manner that is responsible, responsive and lasting. Building on the successes of their Farm Fresh Food Initiative, the Foundations gathered food producers, volunteers and feeding agencies two years ago to discuss challenges they faced in their work. With an eye toward creating solutions, one key issue stood out: how to better link the ample food of the region with those who need it most.
“In conversations with grantees and key stakeholders, it became clear that the logistics of getting food to distribution centers was inefficient. With a simple technological solution, our partners could better facilitate donations and feed our community,” said March Gallagher, President & CEO of CFHV. “With this insight, we were able to work with generous foundations, individuals and families to invest in software that would do just that.”
In the fall of 2017, CFHV launched FeedHV, as in “Feed Hudson Valley,” a web-based and mobile application powered by ChowMatch. FeedHV links the donors of prepared but unserved food and fresh produce (including farms, restaurants, catering services, grocery stores, hospitals, universities and more) with nonprofit organizations that offer food assistance programs (such as food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters) through volunteers who gather, harvest , transport, and process donated food.
“Building on the work of groups and individuals rescuing and gleaning food in the region, the Foundations sought a partner with hands-in-the-soil experience to administer the application,” continued Gallagher. “Given their reputation among local farmers, and commitment to creating a prosperous community consciously investing in viable food systems, HVADC offered an ideal administrative lead for FeedHV. In conjunction with their Hudson Valley Bounty program, FeedHV will continue to strengthen relationships between agricultural producers, culinary businesses and the region at large.”
With HVADC breaking grounds into food justice and emergency feeding systems, additional staff capacity was required to implement the software. In February of 2018, HVADC hired Carrie Jones Ross to serve as program administrator for FeedHV for HVADC. Ross also works on HVADC’s Farm to School initiatives, grant researching and writing, as well as The Cultivator. Ross has 13 years of experience in hunger alleviation as well as 16 years as a newspaper journalist in the mid-Hudson region.
Rolling out a program that introduces a whole new concept and way of thinking into the Hudson Valley required strategic development, explained Ross. “For many folks in the Hudson Valley, the phrases ‘food rescue’ and ‘gleaning’ are brand-new to them, and have required a lot of welcomed informative conversations.” Once that framework is established, many people voice concern over liability. “I’m happy to be in this role of educating people, both about our work – and the federally enacted protections that safeguard participants. The Bill Emerson Act protects donors, volunteers and agencies from legal culpability for donations made in good faith to nonprofits. By the end of these meetings, most people find that the app is simple, safe and convenient.”
The ChowMatch software is donor-driven; a donor logs on and initiates a “food run” indicating their donation of unused, unserved surplus food. They are automatically matched with a registered, nonprofit feeding agency within the donor’s desired geographic parameters; and ability to accept that donated food product category and quantity. Both donor and agency are quickly notified of the match, and then an email blast goes out to the network of more than 120 registered volunteers—who have also set their desired geographic parameters-- to let them know that food needs to get moved from A to B in their area. If a “food runner” can transport the food, they can accept the run online or within the mobile app. The donor and agency have the ability to communicate privately with the food runner to let him or her know where to park, what door to come in, and other details. All registered volunteers are acquainted with FeedHV’s food safety guidelines and have completed a food safety quiz. All parties have one-click access to their own reporting. Donors can run a single report of all donations made to various feeding agencies that will include respective poundage, dates, and federal tax ID numbers so they can recover their tax credit. Farms seeking to take advantage of the additional state tax deduction through the Farm to Food Bank Bill are able to generate the appropriate reports as well.
Todd Erling, Executive Director of HVADC explains that the software’s licensing covers seven counties: Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Ulster. As of now, the program is operating in Dutchess, Orange and Ulster, and moved 8,130 pounds of food in 24 food runs in the month of June. The program has rescued over 29,000 pounds of food since its soft launch in November 2017, over 60% of which has been produce. As of July 2018, the program has over 120 volunteers, 65 donors and 55 feeding agencies in its network.
One prime example of food rescue transpired in April when Locust Grove Fruit Farm and neighboring Prospect Hill Orchards in Ulster County donated 1,800 pounds of apples from their coolers through FeedHV. Volunteers from UlsterCorps of the Farm to Food Pantry Coalition rescued and culled 600 pounds of apples, which were sent out to pantries intact. UlsterCorps also then processed the other 1,200 pounds of apples into 300 quarts of apple sauce that was then sent out to feeding agencies.
“[Using FeedHV] was great,” said Chip Kent, owner of Locust Grove Fruit Farm. “It was easy. The people who came showed up right away, they brought their own containers, they were very pleasant. I will be doing it again. It was fantastic to be able to help someone and use our apples to feed people that way,” He continued. Kent also explained that his surplus apples usually wind up as cider, goat food and compost.
Learn how to become a donor or volunteer for FeedHV, at www.FeedHV.org, or reach out to Carrie Jones Ross at 518-432-5360 ext. 402.
Photo source: HVADC
Logo Source: Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley