The Colorado State University Extension Office and other nonprofit organizations like the FRESH Food Hub, the Lone Cone Library and also Tri-County Health Network are working on efforts to increase access to healthy food.
Last year, the CSU Extension Office started “Grow and Give” as a way to link up at-home gardeners, and those who utilize the Norwood Community Garden, with local food pantries in the area. Henson said the Grow and Give program has been supportive in feeding folks in the region and it’s continuing this year too.
“Home gardeners don’t produce as much food as farmers, of course, but they do make a big contribution to food security, one gardener at a time,” she said.
Also, the FRESH Food Hub is part of the same mission. The Food Hub is managing a gardening plot at Norwood Community Garden and asking for volunteers, or also personal produce donations, to bring to distribution days at all three of the region’s food banks. The idea is that any surplus of home-grown produce shouldn’t be wasted, but used to feed people.
“We also purchase from local producers directly,” said Leila Seraphin, one of the FRESH Food Hub’s co-founders. “Our goal is to develop participatory and proactive models that give all community members access to fresh high quality produce.”
In 2016, the Telluride Foundation started the Local Food Initiative, with a mission to help feed people and support farmers along with the local food economy. While that program was only a three-year program and ended in 2019, it’s had a lasting effect on the Norwood community.
Grow and Give and also the Food Hub’s program of giving to local food banks is carrying on that work. Seraphin said the program is now called Community Food Connection.
She added the more that people who can supply local food into community institutions, the better. That’s because both farmers and recipients of the fresh food are supported.
“The food banks give so much and champion mutual aid efforts in our communities,” Seraphin said. “We are trying to enhance the hard work already being done.”
Anyone who would like to be involved in Grow and Give should contact the CSU Extension Office at 970-327-4393 and those want to grow food to support local food bank distributions through the Food Hub should contact Seraphin at 510 205-4550.
Additionally, the Lone Cone Library is participating in efforts to feed children in the community. In making sure no kid went hungry last year, free lunches were funded through an emergency grant from the Telluride Foundation. This year, the plan is to continue free meals for local kids again this summer through a state grant, also written by the Telluride Foundation.
Tri-County Health Network, too, is working to help the community live better through access to fresh food. The nonprofit is supporting Norwood by enrolling low-income families in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The SNAP program has been honored at the Norwood Farm & Craft Market in the past, giving equitable access to fresh food. Additionally, Tri-County is also teaching the free Cooking Matters course periodically to teach people how to prepare fresh, healthy meals on a budget. The nonprofit also participates in the Food RX program, which puts vouchers in the hands of chronically ill patients to give them access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Both Uncompahgre Medical Center and also the Basin Clinic in Naturita participate in the program by giving away the vouchers.