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‘Grow Chautauqua’ to increase food distribution

JAMESTOWN – Cornell Cooperative Extension Chautauqua County has announced the “Grow Chautauqua Food System Program,” which will increase food distribution sites and events across the county.

In January, partnering with several organizations, municipalities, and businesses, CCE Chautauqua submitted a proposal for the NY Food for NY Families program, aiming to bring significant dollars to Chautauqua County. The focus is on expanding healthy food access and economic development for local agricultural growers and producers.

In September CCE Chautauqua received the news that $800,000 had been awarded to administer the new program from January 2024 to August 2025.

This program includes the implementation of several distribution sites and events across Chautauqua County.

CCE has posted a position for program coordination, seeking a person to oversee the project, work with county and regional farmers, dairy producers, and other New York ag producers to procure produce, dairy products, meat products, baked goods, and other local foods.

Over $500,000 will be invested in New York products. Brigiotta’s Farmland Produce has agreed to be the lead partner in packaging New York-procured foods into boxes for up to 500 individual boxes per week.

Distribution events will include collaborative sites partnering with Office of the Aging’s Local Roots Program, aimed at serving senior citizens in areas such as Brocton, Cassadaga, and Fredonia; St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Jamestown Public Market’s Mobile Market program, aimed at low-income and minority communities; Rural Ministries of Dunkirk, aimed at serving food insecure individuals; and Five Loaves + 20 Fish Ministries, servicing the “food desert” area of Sherman/Clymer, specifically youth and families.

Distribution food boxes will be at no cost to community members, first come, first serve. Distribution sites will be hosted for a total of 40 weeks between June 2024 and August 2025, and promoted via social media, print media, and traditional outreach. Community members will not be required to pre-register or provide identification or other means of documentation to receive a box of food. Each box will average 10-12 pounds, and include a variety of produce, meats and other products.

Collaboration is the key to success for many local agencies and municipalities. CCE is proud to partner with such a wide range of services and organizations across the county to increase food access. Food insecurity is a high concern for Chautauqua County, with 17% of residents living below the poverty line. Vince DeJoy, Planning and Development Director for the city of Dunkirk, remarked, “As with any worthy endeavor, collaboration, cooperation, and partnerships exhibited the key to success in obtaining the critical funding from NY Food for NY Families to help feed those in need with healthy and nutritious food grown here in New York. Chautauqua County is a large geographic area, but becomes a measure smaller as we work together in both urban and rural areas to locally source, package, and distribute meat, dairy, and produce to address food insecurity, and provide a marketplace for Chautauqua County agricultural producers.”

The goal of the project is to increase access to healthy, local foods, while providing a guaranteed income for local farms and New York producers. Longer-term impacts of the project include deeper connection between local farms and wholesale outlets, such as Brigiotta’s; a better understanding of the food access needs of county residents; and a sustainable food distribution model that could be replicated across the county at churches, schools, or other community service organizations.

As described by NY Ag and Markets, the NY Food for NY Families funding will “…create a more resilient statewide food system that supports local farms and provides high quality, nutritious food to communities facing food insecurity. Food purchases will support local and traditionally disadvantaged farmers by building and expanding economic opportunities and creating new marketing channels for them within the state while ensuring local food gets to New York families who need it most.”

For CCE, a wider coalition made sense. Many organizations, such as OFA and St. Luke’s have been engaged in food access programs for several years. Expanding partnerships to include other food service groups and municipalities provides an opportunity to reach community members in both urban centers and more rural areas of the county. There was limited time to put together a proposal for funding, and CCE credits its community partners for the successful submission of the Request for Proposal.

For more information on the Grown Chautauqua Food System Project or to share the job posting please reach out to CCE Chautauqua or visit: https://chautauqua.cce.cornell.edu/.

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