5 Organizations Helping People Access Fresh Local Food

Reducing the distance that food travels to reach the plate means less fuel is burned in transit, and typically means fresher ingredients as well. Numerous organizations are working to make it easier for people to eat locally, creating marketplaces, educational resources, and support services for producers and consumers in their areas. The following groups, outlined in no particular order, are building robust local-scale food networks in the places they call home.

At #1 we have Petaluma Bounty, which seeks to create a thriving food system within its central California community. The group grows fruits and vegetables with sustainable farming methods, and distributes them through outlets like CSA bags and the Sliding Scale Farmstand, offering reduced prices for low-income residents. The Bounty Hunters gleaning program organizes volunteers to collect fresh and healthy food from farms, residential gardens, and local businesses for donation to emergency relief organizations.

Petaluma Bounty provides a range of educational initiatives, including workshops, service learning opportunities, and field trips for area students. The ALIVE Program offers nutrition education to local families, and the Food is Medicine initiative provides classes on herbal remedies and other wellness topics. The organization also strives to increase community engagement with regional agricultural systems, through programs like CalFresh Market Tours and its partnership with the Sonoma County Youth Ecology Corps.

#2 on our list is Seacoast Eat Local, a New Hampshire organization connecting people with healthy food grown near them, and promoting sustainable eating. Its Seacoast Harvest project offers a guide to the region's farmstands, markets, and CSAs, along with a calendar showing seasonal availability of specific foods. The group's Mobile Market program brings fresh produce to communities with limited income, transportation, or access to local agricultural goods.

To help low-income individuals access fresh and healthy food, Seacoast Eat Local provides a service enabling SNAP or EBT recipients to use their benefits for purchases at farmers' markets throughout the area. The group also raises public awareness of local growers with its vendor spotlights, and shares recipes and nutrition information to help people get the most out of their food purchases.

Coming in at #3 is Texas Farmers' Market, an Austin-based group helping local producers of agricultural and artisan goods sell their wares directly to consumers. The organization performs inspections to ensure that all vendors meet sustainability standards, and shares informative profiles of its growers and makers to spread awareness of their businesses. Its Women in Agriculture project highlights the growing female presence in the world of sustainable farming, by spotlighting a selection of the area's producers.

To assist those struggling with food access, TFM accepts supplemental nutrition benefits, and provides a limited double-value offer for users of these programs. The group also assists local farmers with its Ag Producer Support Fund, which extends financial relief to growers in times of need. TFM encourages healthy and sustainable eating by sharing recipes and information on seasonal produce availability, and hosts the educational Austin Fermentation Festival each year.

Next up at #4 is London Farmers' Markets, which brings local food and drink to shoppers at locations across the UK's capital. In addition to small farmers employing traditional agricultural practices, this organization hosts chefs, bakers, brewers, and many other producers of artisan edibles. Prospective customers can view profiles of the vendors at each market to get more information about what's on offer.

London Farmers' Markets offers support to help vendors grow their sales, and provides a guide to assist customers in planning for seasonal variations in produce availability. The organization's markets serve as community social spaces as well as commercial zones, hosting educational workshops and running an annual Favourite Stall competition.

Capping off our list at #5, Just Food is a nonprofit working on nutrition and farming issues in Ottawa and the surrounding region. Its Community Gardening Network builds local food security by providing educational workshops and grant funding for those launching cooperative agriculture projects. The group is also one of the partners behind Savour Ottawa, an informational resource on the area's homegrown farms, restaurants, and retailers.

The Just Food Farm grows produce for donation to local relief programs, and helps area residents learn about environmentally responsible food production through workshops and volunteer opportunities. The Start-Up Farm Program provides land, equipment, and training to aid new small agriculture ventures, and the group offers educational resources to get children interested in growing fruits and vegetables.