Mission of the organisation
Community Food Initiatives (CFI) is a 25 year-old organization serving families and individuals in Appalachia Ohio. The mission of CFI is to ensure everyone has equal access to healthy, local food. CFI's vision is a resilient region in which everyone in our community has access to an equitable, inclusive, and thriving local food system. As a membership-based social benefit organization founded in 1992, Community Food Initiatives is deeply connected to the region. CFI is a long-serving team player within the local food system, as we believe that we benefit when others succeed, because that is how community works. CFI is the only organization in the area routinely donating thousands of pounds of local produce to food pantries, connecting regional seed savers to promote seed diversity and sustainability, managing low-cost community garden plots, supporting school gardens and teaching youth to grow food, and offering gardening and cooking workshops to adults. Community members, regional farmers and food producers, partnering non-profits, local government, and foundations support our work. All of these programs come together to build a stronger community where citizens are empowered to grow and cook their own healthy, whole foods, despite the barriers of poverty. CFI is building capacity to reach more communities across the region by increasing collaborative efforts to fight food insecurity. We value naming our assets-soil, seeds, and an Appalachian heritage of food production and preservation-so that everyone can see their place in strengthening our assets and our community. We believe that by sharing the knowledge to grow and prepare wholesome foods, people become empowered to feed their families, improve their health, and strengthen their community. We are rooted in the belief that equitable access to fresh and nutritious local food leads to a safe and clean environment, meaningful work with livable wages, and fulfills the needs and rights of all people. Finally, we believe in the strength of collaboration and in doing better together. Our work is driven by those we serve: the community members themselves. We currently work in seven program areas: The Donation Station Program collects fresh local food at the Athens Farmers Market, Chesterhill Produce Auction, and farms and distributes it to regional food pantries and social service agencies. Additionally, the Discovery Kitchen project teaches healthy cooking classes to food pantry patrons using seasonal produce. These programs are now serving five Southeastern Ohio Counties - Athens, Meigs, Morgan, Vinton, and Washington. The Community Garden Program manages five community gardens, coordinates gardening and food preservation workshops throughout the year. Currently, we manage 20,000 square feet of garden space at five locations throughout Athens County. The School Garden Program offers support for school and youth gardens, working with day care centers, and youth social service agencies such as Athens County Children Services and all five Athens County school districts. CFI provides resources, consultation, volunteer coordination and curriculum integration resources for teachers. YEAH! Kids (Youth Entrepreneurs at Hope) program is funded by the Athens Metropolitan Housing Authority, and engages low-income youth between the ages of 11 and 18 in production gardening, culinary skills, money management, and professionalism. The YEAH! Kids grow their own produce in a community garden located at Hope Drive apartments, subsidized housing in Athens. They have weekly kitchen workshops where they make products such as jam and kimchi using the produce they grow. The participants sell those products at the Athens Farmers Market, and they log their hours and get paid according to how much work they put into the garden and kitchen. Ridge& Hollow Seed Alliance is CFI's regional seed company, named for the hills and valleys of Appalachia. Ridge & Hollow supports the preservation of regionally adapted, open-pollinated seeds through partnerships with skilled seed savers in the Central Appalachian region. Additionally, Ridge & Hollow Seed Alliance hosts seed saving workshops and annual seed exchanges. SEO FOODLINK is an action research project that maps emergency food networks and compiles data from 10 Southeast Ohio counties into an online resource hub. This is a new initiative launched by CFI in 2017, in partnership with West Virginia University. FOODLINK is designed to alleviate food insecurity through the sharing of resources and facilitation of grassroots collaborations.