As COVID-19 continues to impact employment rates and food security in the Richmond region, several nonprofits are forging new strategies to ensure that our neighbors have access to the healthy food they need. Shalom Farms and Greater Richmond Fit4Kids both focus on food access and health education, and they are finding innovative ways to continue serving our community during this time.
With two farms located in the Metro Richmond area, Shalom Farms focuses on increasing access to healthy food and the supports necessary to live a healthy life. In addition to large scale distribution programs, they run several education programs, including the Prescription Produce Plan (PPP), where families with chronic diseases like diabetes are connected to healthy foods, disease management classes and cooking classes. To continue supporting PPP participants through this period of social distancing, Shalom Farms is converting these weekly classes to an online format with produce deliveries. Their team is also creating online videos and learning modules about farming and healthy eating that teachers and parents can use in their virtual lesson plans.
To get their fresh veggies out into the community as safely as possible, Shalom Farms is collaborating with new feeding programs that have emerged in response to COVID-19, and they are preparing a socially distanced version of their Mobile Market program to launch next week. This program brings affordable produce into communities with limited access to fresh foods.
“We know the need for fresh food is going to continue to grow and shift in the coming weeks and months, so right now we are focused on being ready and nimble in order to meet that need as thoughtfully and safely as possible,” Shalom Farms Executive Director Dominic Barrett said.
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids works to improve children’s health by promoting physical activity and healthy eating in schools and communities. Although Richmond Public Schools (RPS) are currently closed, Fit4Kids has reopened three of their school gardens to grow veggies that will benefit the RPS food distribution sites. The nonprofit is hoping to get the community involved in tending the gardens over the summer, and volunteers would be able to sample the harvest as well.
“This is the first time we’ve ever been able to do something like this,” said Sara Artiglia, Garden Program Coordinator with Fit4Kids. “Now that we have the food distribution sites, it’s a little easier for us to get food into the community.”
The organization has also been using their greenhouses to grow seedlings that are then donated to residents of several public housing communities and to food access programs like Resiliency Gardens and the Colonial Heights Food Pantry. Their “salad planters” have been a community favorite, especially because these containers can grow lettuce from a sunny windowsill or a front porch – no outdoor garden space needed.