Food insecurity is a systemic problem magnified by the economic effects of COVID-19.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, about one in 10 Washoe County residents were unable to acquire enough food to "live an active, healthy life," according to Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief organization. On top of that, nearly half of all Washoe County School District students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
The Food Bank of Northern Nevada—before the pandemic—served about 91,000 people a month. In April, the number rose to a record 125,000. Nine months in, the food bank is still helping roughly 106,000 people per month.
And while organizations like the food bank are integral to the community's approach to tackling large-scale public health issues, food systems are complex and feeding hungry people requires multi-faceted solutions.
Reno Food Systems, a nonprofit with a five-acre working farm in west Reno, has emerged as one of those solutions. The organization describes its focus as building "a resilient, interconnected local food system that supports personal health, environmental sustainability, and economic viability."
Through two CARES Act grants from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, Reno Food Systems has launched a program to help connect Nevada farmers and ranchers with the hungriest members of the Northern Nevada community.
In addition to growing, selling and often donating its own produce, Reno Food Systems buys unsold Nevada-grown produce and meat from local farmers and distributes the fresh product to more than a dozen local organizations. Reno Food Systems also distributes gleaned produce and food "rescued" from grocery stores.
Earlier this week, Nevada Independent photographer David Calvert spent a morning with Lyndsey Langsdale and Meagan O'Farrell of Reno Food Systems while they delivered food to several local organizations. He also stopped by the Desert Farming Initiative at UNR—a Reno Food Systems partner—and the Riverside Farmers Market.
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