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Farm manager Lyndsey Langsdale feeds yogurt donated to Reno Food Systems because it was past its sell-by date to a farm pig on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

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.

Reno Food Systems Lyndsey Langsdale, center, and Meagan O'Farrell in front of a freezer full of pork from Fallon's First Fruits Sustainable Farm on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Because of the shutdown at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, First Fruits was unable to have its hogs butchered in time for the summer markets. However, thanks to the Reno Food Systems buyback program, they were able to sell pork wholesale and recoup some losses. The pork is distributed by Langsdale and O'Farrell to local organizations to help feed food-insecure populations. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lyndsey Langsdale carries donated food to her truck before making deliveries on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lyndsey Langsdale and Meagan O'Farrell sort donated food at the Reno Food Systems office before making deliveries on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. "I live downtown and I'm pretty ingrained in seeing how bad the situation has progressed this year," O'Farrell said. "Food is one tiny part that we can help work on, and if everybody is tackling each of these situations as a whole, we can start to create more inclusive, equitable situations where people can sustain themselves. It's not about charity. It's about equity and mutual aid. We eat this food. This isn't garbage that we are giving to people that we wouldn't eat." (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lyndsey Langsdale, front, and Meagan O'Farrell carry a cooler full of local pork to Langsdale's truck before making deliveries on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lyndsey Langsdale, left, and Meagan O' Farrell deliver food to Our Place on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Andy Garcia is an intake specialist at Our Place, a shelter serving women and families experiencing homelessness. Our Place is a recipient of Reno Food Systems' donation network. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lyndsey Langsdale and Meagan O'Farrell speak with Earstin Whitten, left, of Soulful Seeds outside the Our Place intake office after making a donation on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Whitten's organization also delivers fresh, locally grown food to smaller pantries like Our Place. Additionally, Whitten is set to break ground on a community garden at Our Place next year. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Prema Farms, one of the last local farms still selling produce, at the Riverside Farmers Market in downtown Reno on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. Prema Farms participates in the CARES Act-funded buyback program. When the market ends, Reno Food Systems buys the farm's unsold produce and delivers it to partner organizations including Our Place, which provides shelter for women and families experiencing homelessness. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Anna Miller, left, and Andrew Harrington at the Desert Farming Initiative at UNR on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. Jill Moe, the education program coordinator, said the student-run farm has eight hoop houses and three acres of field production and has made it a priority to donate to food pantries and food-insecurity programs. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
AmeriCorps volunteer, Anna Miller, left, and Yesenia Morales of Soulful Seeds pick rainbow chard inside one of the hoop houses at the UNR's Desert Farming Initiative on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Alan Kirk, a volunteer with Mountain Ministries, drops off a van load of food recovered from a grocery store to Reno Food Systems on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Meagan O'Farrell at Reno Food Systems Park Farm on the site of the historic Caughlin Ranch in West Reno on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lyndsey Langsdale stocks the freezer at the Women and Children's Center of the Sierra with locally raised pork on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Lyndsey Langsdale examines a box of gleaned apples donated to Reno Food Systems from an orchard in Ely on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)
Meagan O'Farrell, left, and Lyndsey Langsdale deliver food to the Women and Children's Center of the Sierra on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. "I personally believe that access to food is a human right," O'Farrell said. "A basic human right. And that everyone deserves access to good quality organic food. It shouldn't be a luxury to eat." (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

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