What Is Our Role in Community Food Security?

Spring onions at the market showcase the bounty that comes with a sunny, warm spring.

What Is Our Role in Community Food Security?

June 15, 2011 |  by  |  Blog

Summer is right around the corner, and our fifth season at the Montavilla Farmers Market is in full swing. Our farmers are selling the most beautiful fresh greens, strawberries, spring onions, new potatoes, crispy radishes, and so much more seasonal goodies. Seeing this abundance every week makes me feel lucky to live in such a bountiful region where such fresh, seasonal vegetables, cheeses, fruit, and more are literally right down the street. Yet, I also realize that not everyone in Portland gets to delight in the bounty of the Willamette Valley.

Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend the 2nd annual Multnomah Food Summit, which was organized by the Multnomah County Office of Sustainability. The Summit brought together community groups, businesses, and government to focus on increasing Multnomah County citizens’ access to healthy, sustainably produced food, not just through policy but also through grassroots initiatives. As Oregon Food Bank’s Advocacy Director, Jon Stubenvoll put it, the Summit can easily be a model for bringing together the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to confront serious problems and create real change.

With the start of our fifth, and quite possibly largest, season, I’ve found myself reflecting on the role the Montavilla Farmers Market can play in increasing our community’s food security. How can the Market make sure that people who are disproportionally absent at farmers markets in general – such as seniors, communities of color, immigrants, refugees, and low-income individuals – have access to the same fresh, healthy food as those who can afford it?

Our SNAP Matching Funds program is one way that we’re helping combat food insecurity. Thanks to a grant from New Seasons, we can match up to $5 in tokens for folks who use their Oregon Trail EBT card at the market. This is no insignificant feat and is the fruit of tremendous efforts made by past and present board members and staff. Yet, there is still much to be done to make sure that everyone in our community gets to partake of the bounty of our region. How can we make sure that the Montavilla Farmers Market is doing its part? 

This is no easy questions, and we don’t yet have an answer. Over the next season, we hope to better define our role in increasing food security for seniors, immigrants, and low-income individuals in the Montavilla community.

Multnomah County and many other regions across the country are simultaneously forging new ground in food and agriculture policy. If there’s one lesson I learned at the Food Summit, it was that everyone has a role to play in solving our nation’s food insecurity problem. Businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, farmers market, and individuals all have a responsibility to make sure that everyone in the community has access to healthy food


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