Growing the Table – Shifting Demand Towards a Regenerative and Equity-based Food System
By: Kathy Webster
With shelter-in-place and the pandemic-induced economic recession, millions of Californians don’t know where their next meal will come from. In fact, the USDA estimates roughly one in five Californians will be “food insecure” because of COVID-19.
During this crisis, a number of ‘farm to family’ programs have expanded their work to feed the millions in need. Most of these programs are focused on utilizing excess produce, dairy, and meat from farms and ranches that have lost COVID-19-related sales, and whose produce would otherwise go to waste. However, these programs are mostly geared towards large scale farms and ranches and often miss or leave smaller farms and ranches owned by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), women, LGBTQ+, and regenerative and organic farms, with no viable market alternatives.
To combat this shortfall, Office of Kat Taylor and TomKat Ranch have introduced Growing the Table, an initiative created to include small, diverse farmers and ranchers in the “farm to family programs” so they may achieve economic viability and sustainability through a viable market alternative during the pandemic, as well as increase food aid for the food-insecure through a network of distribution sites that are open to all people in need.
Diverse farmers and ranchers deserve to be at the heart of feeding the millions of food-insecure Californians during the current pandemic and beyond. These farmers often understand many of the dynamics embedded in racial, gender, and economic inequality that drive hunger and reduce market access in the first place.
Growing the Table initially started with five pilots in California: Richmond, Sonoma, San Mateo, Oakland, and Fresno. Based on the idea that groups doing work on the ground in communities know them best, Growing the Table has partnered with community organizations such as ABIRIC (Asian Business Institute & Resource Center Fresno), CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farms), Farm to Pantry, Feed Sonoma, Corazon Healdsburg, Fresh Approach, Mandela Partners, and Urban Tilth to help create local solutions. Using donations to fund three rounds of pilots, Growing the Table will be adding additional pilots in various regions throughout California and will work to add additional small and diverse farmers to the produce purchasing networks of our partners.
The ultimate goals of Growing the Table are to feed the increasing number of those in need, grow regional food systems, support existing farm to family networks, minimize food waste, and increase opportunities for black, brown, and female farmers, especially those practicing organic or regenerative methods, in order to help our food system become more equitable and resilient.
For more information and to support this important and much-needed program, please go to growingthetable.org