Local Food Security in Wilmington Gets a Boost

By: Eastern Shore Agriculture Sustains
WILMINGTON, Del. - Aug. 24, 2020 - PRLog -- Half a block east of Market on 23rd Street, in a modest and predominately African American community some may refer to as a "food desert", is an unlikely location for a farm. North East Urban Farm, a venture of Conscious Connections, Inc. a community organization seeking to empower low income and expand fresh food access to residents in Wilmington, Delaware through opportunities in agriculture, established the farm which grows and distributes garden fresh food to about 100 households. Matthew Williams, Executive Director and farmer, directs a team of volunteers and seasonal staff growing everything from Concord grapes and heirloom watermelons to Russian kale and collards. Covid-19 has forced food farmers, like Matthew, to pivot; drop-off delivers are now the norm straining operations that already ran on razor-thin margins. On-foot delivery during the summer demands more time away from the farm, limits production and reduces sales.

"When the pandemic hit, food service and distribution changed quickly. Restaurants closed, cancelling regular wholesale orders with local farmers. Area farmers' markets shut down while everyone worked to pivot to online sales platforms, pre-packaging, and delivery," as stated on Future Harvest's website, a regional non-profit whose mission is to advance agriculture that sustains farmers, communities, and the environment. In response to the pandemic-induced dislocation, Future Harvest launched the Feed the Need (FTN) campaign which awarded last month 22 mini-grants to community-based, farmers across four states: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia including Washington, D.C. The North East Urban Farm was one.

"Of the 102 applicants for the first-round of funding, these awardees had the strongest impact statements," said Steven Jones, Future Harvest vice-president and one of the FTN grant reviewers. "North East Urban Farm stood-out because they wanted to purchase one motorized, electric, bike to increase local food access in their neighborhood by three-fold." The mini-grant award of just under $2,000 comes in handy for Williams, who manages distribution. "Not only will the motorized bike lower delivery time and cost, but it will run on clean energy and be built regionally."

"We are so excited to be able to support our farming community with some financial assistance, as they adjust to the new normal of doing business during the pandemic," said Dena Leibman, Future Harvest Executive Director. "…we were also able to address food scarcity in our communities while facilitating and strengthening relationships between our local producers, food banks and other organizations serving families. This is a win-win for everyone. It is our hope, however, to be able to continue to meet the growing needs of our farmers, by obtaining additional funds to award more mini-grants to our other applicants whose projects would benefit so many individuals and families in need."

Steven W. Jones

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