At the beginning of 2020, with grocery store shelves going bare and thousands of people impacted by underemployment, we began looking for a way to help local families who were facing food insecurity. We designed a new version of our Harvest Box with a selection of familiar fruits and vegetables that could be used with just about any cuisine or cooking style. We then worked with our local partners to add pantry basics, such as rice, beans, tortillas, and cheese. Guided by local organizations already serving under-resourced areas in our community, we began distributing these boxes to families who were struggling to put food on the table. Our hope was to help these families get through the challenges of 2020, not only with nourishing food, but also with the assurance that their community was there to support them.
We called the program Nourishing Neighbors, reflecting the relationship we hoped to build. Connecting with these families during this vulnerable and uncertain time opened our eyes to the importance of diversity and inclusivity in our Village. Thanks to Nourishing Neighbors, we are more committed than ever to ensuring that our Village authentically represents and serves the whole of our community. We want everyone to know that this is their farm, that they can and should have access to healthy local food, and that they are needed and valued within our Village–because we are only healthy when all of us are healthy.
In the 18 months since launching Nourishing Neighbors, we’ve been humbled and amazed by the support this program has received. From Farm Share members sponsoring boxes for other families, to our volunteers offering their time and effort to distribute these boxes throughout our region, our Village has stepped up to offer practical support for all our neighbors suffering from the challenges of food insecurity.
However, Nourishing Neighbors is about more than just physical nourishment. These boxes of food represent an invitation to form a deeper connection with our Village. By working to ensure that every family has access to healthy food, we are building equity into our local food system. When families, especially children, enjoy equal rights to nutrition, they are empowered to grow, learn, and lead as changemakers in our community. Furthermore, by participating in our education programming, events, and celebrations, our Nourishing Neighbor community enriches our Village with their knowledge, their traditions, and their vision for an abundant future. We’ve always believed that food is a primary lever for shifting culture, but Nourishing Neighbors has proved that in a whole new way.
No matter who we are or where we come from, we all deserve the opportunity to share our abundance and to receive in turn. This is what The Ecology Center’s “give more than you take” ethos is all about. Together, we are community.
We are only healthy when we are all healthy. Your donation to Nourishing Neighbors makes a direct impact on our food system, and advances the work of building relationships that create a resilient, thriving community.