in underserved areas. Today, three government entities—the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), USDA and the U.S. Department of Treasury (USDT)—collaborate to provide funding for this initiative. The HHS provides grants to Community Development Corporations in order to finance grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The USDA supports loans, grants, promotions and other public and private investments that create healthy food options in places where food deserts are ubiquitous. The USDT Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund grants financial assistance, specialized training and technical assistance to CDFIs investing in businesses providing healthy food options. Southern California’s largest urban gleaning nonprofit organization, Food Forward, is also combating food deserts. Over the past 10 years, Food Forward has been providing some of Southern California’s hungriest people with surplus fruits and vegetables collected from backyard fruit trees, public orchards, farmers’ markets and the downtown Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market that would otherwise go unused. With up to 40 percent of food in the United States going to waste and about 13 percent of people lacking access to quality produce, Food Forward’s effort has helped feed two million people across Southern California, while also inspiring others to follow suit. Food Forward has recovered and donated over 80 million pounds of fresh produce since its conception. "We live in a region of agricultural abundance—and yet 1 in

9 Californians experiences food insecurity,” said Food Forward’s Founder and Executive Director Rick Nahmias. “This is not just wrong, it is fixable, and at Food Forward we aim to solve this disparity by creating a bridge. We make sure that a portion of the beautiful surplus produce that is either grown in or travels through our region gets to people in need. In doing so, we help to make lives healthier and the planet healthier at the same time.” For decades, Western Growers has played a vital role in educating the youth about fresh produce through the Western Growers Foundation. Each year, the Foundation awards schools in California and Arizona grants to be used for start-up gardens. Through sponsored gardens, selected curriculum and hands-on projects in the gardens, students learn about the science of how seeds become salads, the technology available to enhance plant growth, the engineering behind farm equipment, and the math to calculate how much water is needed for optimal yield. To date, Western Growers Foundation has awarded 1,127 grants across California and Arizona. In addition to Western Growers’ efforts on advocating for a healthy lifestyle, its members continue to grow and feed the world the best quality produce there is to offer. Providing access to healthier foods in underserved communities can benefit the nation as a whole. Healthier eating has the capacity to decrease obesity, lower the risk of diet- related chronic diseases and encourage overall healthier habits. By working together, it is possible to address this issue, making healthy food options available for all.



Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

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