Essex Food Hub has been awarded more than $730,000 from the New York Food for New York Families program, funded through a United States Department of Agriculture grant. The award presents a momentous opportunity for EFH to expand its impact on the North Country’s rural economy, community health, and local food system resiliency.
During the two-year project, EFH will purchase more than $500,000 worth of local food, injecting these funds into our local economy and providing much-needed support directly to our small farms and food producers. The program aims to benefit socially disadvantaged producers in particular.
EFH will then distribute all of the food for free to underserved communities through collaborations with institutional and mutual aid partnerships. They will serve two target regions: the food desert area of the Western Adirondacks, where even large distributors such as Sysco do not service, and the Bronx in NYC, which has the worst food insecurity rate in New York.
While increasing these communities’ access to local foods, the project will leverage this period of free distribution along the two routes to establish self-sustaining markets that can generate the half million dollars in revenue for farmers annually. The territory covered from the North Country down to the Bronx in particular, which includes the Capital Region, provides a large market opportunity not fully tapped by our local producers.
For Essex Food Hub- a nonprofit that recently took over for The Hub on the Hill, which operated from 2015-2023- this funding marks a pivotal moment. While they have already grown since assuming operations, including introducing wholesale aggregation and distribution services and doubling the size of their Farm to School work, their first two years have largely been dominated by the transition efforts and preparing the food hub for its next phase of growth.
“This funding not only presents an exciting opportunity for us to fulfill our mission in the larger way that we’ve been working toward, but it helps lay a clear path for longevity of our organization” said Lindsay Willemain, Executive Director of Essex Food Hub. “The project will allow us to achieve a level of supply and demand that optimizes operational capacity and makes our nonprofit less reliant on external funding. For our communities, it reinforces our food safety net and climate change resilience by increasing, broadening, and strengthening our network of supply and distribution partners.”
The project is a major win for our area: bringing food dollars to the region, supporting local farmers, connecting nutritious food to communities in need, and building food system resilience.
In addition, the timely support for Essex Food Hub ensures that an institution vital to our local food system remains for the long-term. In their recent GivingTuesday campaign, EFH shared testimonials from various partners and producers, all who echoed the same sentiment: the food hub is an essential resource that we need in our community.
EFH is one of 26 awardees in the competitive grant track, and one of just two in the North Country. The other local awardee is AdkAction, a partner organization EFH works with frequently on food security projects.
About Essex Food Hub:
Essex Food Hub is a nonprofit organization forging pathways toward a just and sovereign food system in the North Country. They are still raising needed funds to finalize their transition and community members interested in supporting the organization can give at www.essexfoodhub.org.
Photo at top courtesy of Essex Food Hub.