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Case-study-Food Bank of Northern Nevada

In Remote Sections of Rural Nevada, Healthy Food Grows Locally

With assistance from USDA Rural Development, the Food Bank of Northern Nevada purchased a truck to bring food to remote communities. The Food Bank of Northern Nevada This is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website.(FBNN) and one of its partner agencies, Plumas Rural ServicesThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website., are combining infrastructure development, education, and local food production to increase healthy food access in the rural Sierra Nevada region.

The FBNN began in 1981 as a tiny food pantry at the Community Services Agency in Reno. Today, the FBNN annual budget is more than $16 million, including $11 million in in-kind contributions and donated assets. Its work fed over 190,000 people last fiscal year-more than 8 million pounds of food annually distributed through 136 partner agencies. Its work stretches 90,000 square miles over 21 remote counties.

In 2009, the FBNN and its partners secured a grant through USDA Rural Development. As part of the Community Facilities program, this funding was made possible by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009.

Plumas Rural Services used a Community Food Project grant from USDA to develop a community supported agriculture project and increase the supply of healthy, local foods in remote parts of Eastern California. Sarah Adler, Nevada's State Director for USDA Rural Development, says the project has strengthened the relationship between FBNN and USDA and has allowed FBNN to leverage additional funding streams to develop other strategies to increase access to healthy foods in western Nevada. "ARRA gave people a chance to dream of a project like this," says Adler. "The buzz around ARRA brought Rural Development to the attention of a whole new sector of nonprofits. The FBNN was able to take a small grant and blossom into a regional hub."

FBNN and its partners leveraged this grant and foundation funds to purchase two refrigerated trucks that are delivering fresh food to remote communities in Northern Nevada.

Just over the mountains from Reno lie two of California's most rugged counties, Plumas and Lassen. The FBNN serves this region through a partnership with Plumas Rural Services, which serves small communities across 7,000 square miles of mountainous terrain. Weather often renders roads in the counties impassable for a portion of the winter, increasing isolation and decreasing access to stores. The emergency food distribution system for this remote region is entirely dependent on food being trucked into the mountains from lower-elevation cities.

In 2009, USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded a Community Food Project grant to Plumas Rural Services for their "Mountain Bounty" project. It's allowing the community to supplement the fresh produce they receive from FBNN with locally-grown products. The project is developing a multi-producer Community Supported Agriculture operation that includes subsidized subscriptions for low-income consumers; collaborating with the Sierra Business Council to run a "Think Local First" campaign to promote local foods, which increases marketing opportunities for local farmers and ranchers; and developing a hands-on workshop series for low-income residents to learn cooking skills. They've also created a Community Food Council to guide the project.

"USDA has become a great collaborator in our efforts to develop local food systems and build community food security," said Kristi Jamason, Strategic Initiatives Manager for the FBNN. "With these additional resources coming into our region, we have been able to increase production and distribution, reaching more underserved communities and individuals with healthy fresh produce."

Together, the FBNN and Plumas Rural Services were able to develop a comprehensive approach to healthy food access by piecing together grants from different USDA programs. In the process, they're creating a strong regional food system that transcends state boundaries to bring healthy food to those who need it.