In recent years, RFC has been working cooperatively with several New Orleans, Louisiana organizations: Liberty’s Kitchen, NOLA Food Policy Advisory Committee, SPROUT NOLA, and Top Box Foods Louisiana, to collectively promote community health and wellness through increased food access, job training, and policy advocacy.
Last year, these organizations formalized the relationships, under the “Growing Local Collaborative”. This is meant to convey that we are are growing our local opportunities in food production and distribution, farmer support and development, entrepreneurship, and market expansion (particularly in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh food) and also literally growing fresh local food in New Orleans (and surrounding areas). From farm to fork, we work together to reduce food waste, elevate agricultural practices that respect people and our planet, and create opportunities for stable green jobs in food and farming.
Work in the Collaborative is never boring! A sample week goes like this – on Mondays, SPROUT runs a farmers market at the Refresh building on Broad Street. Farmers have a shared table, to offer whatever quantities and types of produce they grow in an urban setting. SPROUT manages the table, allowing growers to continue tending farms, rather than taking time to sell products. Everything might not sell during the market, so RFC buys post market items – this gives farmers security in knowing they will sell everything they bring to market, and the food doesn’t go to waste. RFC takes the produce and adds it to their weekly affordable Growing Local Garden boxes – which get delivered direct to consumer through Top Box, during Top Box pre-planned grocery delivery service. Items that are fresh but irregular in shape or size don’t go into boxes – instead they they may go to Liberty’s Kitchen for use in prepared meals, or value added items (that then become part of Recirculating Farms’ garden boxes as a “lagniappe” or “little extra gift” item – such as jam, salsa, sauce, beverages etc. or are sold direct to consumer online). Liberty’s Kitchen works with opportunity youth in training for various aspects of the hospitality industry. These students, as part of their training, can learn how to develop value added (prepared) products. RFC and SPROUT also support the expansion and development of the local farming community by providing trainings, from business development to on-farm experiential learning, which ultimately can increase the amount of fresh local food available. The hope is for more local food to go to various partner programs like the corner store initiative, for use in Liberty’s Kitchen and more. All this is made possible, largely due to collective policy advocacy from all the groups coordinated through FPAC, an official advisory body to the New Orleans City Council on food and farming issues. All the organizations are members of FPAC and work toward various common goals through regular meetings and sub committees.
In addition to the above, our organizations engage individually in partnerships with each other on various projects – for example SPROUT and RFC together offer support to new and beginning farmers, by providing information and trainings from how to start a business to actual hands on farming techniques. Top Box works with Liberty’s Kitchen in bringing pre-prepared grab and go fresh food items – like cut fruit – to corner stores, especially in neighborhoods where there are no full service groceries. RFC shares a refrigerated truck with Top Box to deliver locally grown food and offer other services on days outside regular deliveries.
Recently, Second Harvest Food Bank, Top Box and Liberty’s Kitchen began a cooperative project to offer pre-prepared meals to families with challenges in food security. Second Harvest is now joining in the Growing Local Collaborative for special projects such as this.
Partnerships like the Growing Local Collaborative bring multi-sector partners together to build an equitable local food system. We are excited about our ongoing work together, and look forward to expanding our programs!