Saturday, August 7, 2021

Spirit of Generosity: Investing in Our Food Systems

north country creamery

Steven Googin and Ashlee Kleinhammer of North Country Creamery in Keeseville. Erika Bailey photo, provided by Adirondack Foundation

It started with Emergency Food Packages spearheaded by AdkAction. These packages, filled with local food  –  including organic yogurt, apples, granola, carrots, greens, eggs, and more  –  were assembled at Hub on the Hill in Essex and delivered to the doorsteps of people who were experiencing economic hardship as far away as Tupper Lake and Malone. The packages came at a time when local farmers were losing wholesale business revenue as schools and restaurants paused for health and safety reasons.The quantities needed for the packages compensated for these losses and helped to keep farmers in business.

Seed funding from our Special and Urgent Needs Fund helped to get this initiative off the ground. Hundreds of community members invested dollars directly with AdkAction and we later joined with the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation and the New York State Health Foundation to help take it to the next level.

The effort exposed vulnerabilities in our food system and also highlighted opportunities to bring together farmers, distributors, and consumers in new ways. After soliciting feedback from recipients, AdkAction began taking steps toward a gradual transition from Emergency Food Packages to Farm Fresh Packages discounted with Fair Food Pricing to reduce the cost by up to 60% through various nutrition incentive subsidies for consumers while ensuring farmers and distributors are paid fairly for their goods and services.

This work helped to give rise to the Adirondack Food System Network, a regionwide collaboration that aims to increase understanding of issues, identify gaps and develop solutions to create a more resilient food system, so our communities will be better prepared for future emergencies and have more consistent, reliable access to healthy, locally-produced food. The network is centered on the values of collaboration, equity, environment, and lasting success.

Facilitated by the Adirondack Health Institute with seed funding from Adirondack Foundation and its partners, the Adirondack Food System Network — which covers Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Hamilton, St. Lawrence, Saratoga, Warren, and Washington counties — is currently focused on strengthening efforts in five focus areas: production, consumption, distribution, processing, and food waste management.

It’s through the Spirit of Generosity that our region is able to both respond to emergency needs, like those that surfaced during the pandemic, and address long-term, systemic issues. We’re grateful to everyone who supports local food and recognizes the critical role it plays in our economy, our health and our sense of community.

All summer long, Adirondack Foundation is celebrating the Spirit of Generosity by highlighting stories about the generous people, organizations, and collaborations that enrich the lives of people in the Adirondacks. Every Saturday, Adirondack Almanack will share an essay by Cali Brooks, President and CEO, about some of the people and programs that Adirondack Foundation invests in and partners with to enhance the lives of people in the Adirondacks through philanthropy. Readers can win the opportunity to direct a grant to an organization that aligns with the Foundation’s Generous Acts program. To enter, simply create a social media post that captures what generosity means to you and tag Adirondack Foundation’s accounts.

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Cali Brooks is president & CEO of Adirondack Foundation. After working with nonprofit organizations in Southeast Asia, Central America, and the United States, Cali returned home to the Adirondacks and worked for the HKH Foundation where she conducted a survey to assess the economic, social, cultural, and environmental strengths of the Adirondack region. She then joined the Public Affairs office of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and co-founded the Wildlife Conservation Society's Adirondack Communities and Conservation Program. She and her family live in and love the Adirondacks.

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