Essex Food Hub awarded $730K to support local farms, feed underserved communities

ESSEX — 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 an 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 the local economy and providing much-needed support directly to 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 New York City, 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 — 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.”

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.


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