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CFI helps distribute crates of locally-grown pie pumpkins to the general public. (FILE)

Community Food Initiatives works to grow winter food supply

The Athens nonprofit Community Food Initiatives, or CFI, connects the world with food by ensuring our communities have equitable access to healthy and local food. CFI works alongside local farmers and gardeners to provide the freshest food to those in need.

Currently, CFI is being featured on the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio’s Cause Connecter giving site. Cause Connector connects donors to local nonprofit projects in Appalachian Ohio. 

Community members can donate online until April 8 to support CFI’s “Growing Our Winter Food Supply” project.

Maribeth Saleem-Tanner, executive director at CFI, understands the impacts of Cause Connector. She said preparing the winter food supply is essential for CFI, farmers and the community. 

“As one might expect in the winter, the donation side of (CFI) goes way down because people are not harvesting or growing a lot of food in the winter,” Saleem-Tanner said. “So, normally, the food that we purchase is enhanced and supplemented by everything people donate. And so in the winter, we kind of have to rebalance that, and we want to have funds to invest with growers so that we can be consistent all year long or more consistent — because people are still hungry in February and still want fresh food in February, not just in September.”

Starting the process early of saving funds allows for creating plans with farmers, so they can effectively meet their partners' needs.

Susie Huser, director of outreach at CFI, said supporting local farmers and community members during the winter months is crucial.

“Our food supply at donation station historically (and) drastically dropped during the wintertime. During peak produce season, we have plenty of food to share with all of our food pantry partners,” Huser said. “Everybody knows that people don't stop eating during the wintertime. So, we have been trying to address that gap in our supply by supporting the farmers who want to do extended season growing: specifically raising money to buy local food during the winter.”

CFI aims to raise $7,000 on Cause Connector for the “Growing Our Winter Food Supply” project. Saleem-Tanner said if it fulfills that goal, it will supply food pantries and meal programs during the next season without limitation. 

“It will directly mean that our ability to serve pantries and meal programs in the next year, and the next season will be stronger,” Saleem-Tanner said. “We can plan, and we can know that any pantry, any program that wants to work with us, we can continue providing them food all through that winter season. So, that ability to not have to ration or not to limit our services in the winter months when we have fewer donations, knowing that we have funds and we can plan ahead for that — that will make a difference in who and how many people we can serve.”

Huser said volunteering is another way to get involved with the various ongoing projects of CFI.  

“We use volunteers to do a lot of the work that we do and use volunteers in many different ways,” Huser said. “Other than the donation station, we have community gardens, and we have school gardens. We have another area of programming called Nourishing Networks, and we have Veggie Van, and we have events going on six days a week, sometimes more than one event. So, if people are interested in volunteering, that is an amazing way to help out.”

Other than donating and volunteering, one can shop locally to support our community farmers. Reggie Morrow, donation station manager at CFI, understands the importance of supporting local farmers. 

“Always buy local; if you see a farmers' market, get it there,” Morrow said. “Go to a local grocer instead of going to Kroger or Walmart. Not only are you able to support local farmers, but you can support local vendors and local businesses as well in using their services.”

For more information on Community Food Initiatives and its ongoing project, “Growing Our Winter Food Supply,” visit here


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