Reinventing Access to Nutritious Food

Oregonians are adapting how they deliver food during the covid-19 pandemic

In these uncertain times, ensuring we have adequate and nutritious food for families and children must remain a high priority. Good nutrition early in life sets the foundation for lifelong health. What happens during this pandemic could affect future generations for years to come.

Fortunately here in Oregon, we have networks of organizations that are dedicated to ensuring children and families have food during the Covid-19 outbreak. We see schools continuing to offer food for children and youth. Meals on Wheels has expanded deliveries for senior citizens and disabled adults. And the Oregon Food Bank continues to help coordinate with Hunger Free Oregon and many other state-wide organizations for pick-ups and drop-offs of food to our most vulnerable communities. 

And let’s not forget the small farms in Oregon that are continuing to grow food and that are finding unique ways to distribute it. Farmers’ markets are now stripping down to their core functions and farms are looking for different ways to share their bounty.

The Department of Agriculture clarified that farmers are considered “essential businesses and services”, so it spares them from the Governor’s prohibition on gatherings of 25 people or more. But figuring out how to hold a market during a pandemic is the trick. Some smaller communities have spaced vendor booths farther apart, and included lots of hand-washing stations and signs to advise visitors to maintain social distance. Others are taking orders ahead of market day and allowing a drive-through pick up from each vendor. Others are relying on Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs. Participating in a CSA helps support the farmer year round through subscriptions that are purchased each year. Customers who buy a subscription can pick up a box of whatever is currently in season – a share of the crop as it’s harvested. Some farms that have been growing specialty foods for restaurants only, are now trying to pivot their entire business model as restaurants have closed.

The farmer’s markets that are continuing to operate - at whatever capacity - are also continuing to take Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In Oregon, SNAP participants can take advantage of Double Up Food Bucks. This program doubles the value of SNAP benefits spent at participating markets and grocery stores, with the goals of getting more fruits and vegetables into the hands of participants while supporting local farmers at the same time. The wins are actually three-fold: better access to fruits and vegetables, supporting local farmers AND helping the local economy. SNAP represents the largest federal investment in our food and farm system—at more than $70 billion dollars a year. This plays a major role in local food economies.

As we continue to adapt and change to this new reality, Oregon farmers, grocers, school advocacy organizations and volunteers are working hard to continue bringing nutritious food to our most vulnerable communities. See the Moore Institute website for state-wide resources and important information for pregnant and nursing women, and those feeding small children.