Since 2007, Local Matters has been working to transform the food system in Central Ohio to make local, healthy food accessible to all.
Local Matters was formally created as an offshoot of the Greater Columbus Foodshed Project (GCFP). Executive Director Michael Jones, a trained chef, joined GCFP founder Noreen Warnock and sustainable landscape designer Susan Weber to build on a community project that was also influenced by local notables Jeni Britton-Bauer and Alana Shock. Originally formed under the umbrella of Simply Living, Local Matters gained not-for-profit status in 2008.
Believing the choice to grow and consume local food has the power to affect social, economic and environmental change in the community, Local Matter’s work is designed to end the childhood obesity and diabetes epidemics, eliminate food deserts in the region and to support local farmers.
Serving and Educating is Endless
Today, Local Matters continues to serve young children ages three to seven and neighborhoods that don’t have access to fresh foods (food deserts), while also serving local farmers by working to create market opportunities.
Local Food to School Programs:
- Through a comprehensive 28-week healthy food curriculum in elementary schools, and with partners like the Childhood Development Council of Franklin County Head Start around the region, Local Matters is currently serving almost 1000 children in 30 classrooms every week with agreements in place to expand to more schools over the next three years. In addition, they consult to school administrations about cafeteria transitions in support of the Farm to School model.
- By designing and building school gardens and outdoor learning environments, Local Matters also teaches a 28-week Ecology of Food curriculum that shows children how to grow their own local food and puts them in touch literally with the roots of healthy food.
- In addition, Local Matters works with parents and teachers by facilitating Healthy Living Groups to ensure that the adults that interact with the children they teach have the knowledge they need to support healthy options in the school and at home.
Urban Agriculture Programs:
- Local Matters also operates a Veggie Van project that serves as a mobile farm market on wheels to distribute fresh, local produce in food deserts in Columbus. The Veggie Van also has the potential to serve as a delivery vehicle for bringing fresh, local fruits and vegetables into neighborhood corner stores and to provide additional food for community-run urban farm stands and food pantries.
- To have a successful program they consult with neighborhoods to strategically plan and create healthy communities through urban agriculture projects and gardens.
Farm to Fork Programs:
- Local Matters works with farmers to overcome barriers and expand the production of locally-grown food and to plan which crops can be grown at costs that make them affordable for lower income communities.
- Through their partner The Greener Grocer, a social enterprise grocer in the Historic North Market, they create market opportunities for our local farmers and educating our community about the importance of supporting their local food system.
Classroom sponsors are needed for the fall. Many schools have asked Local Matters to offer their curriculums to more of their children this coming school year but with limitations on school budgets they cannot afford it. It costs us $180 per student for 28 weeks of healthy food education. (That’s less than summer camp!)
They are also seeking sponsors for the Veggie Vans as they roll them out into the community in late June. They are also looking for socially minded investors who want to put their resources into opening additional Greener Grocers in communities.
Plenty of volunteer opportunities are also available. During the school year Local Matters has many volunteers in the classroom to support food educators. When school is not in session, Local Matters maintains many gardens through the summer to ensure that they are in good shape again when the kids return in the fall. They welcome the support of gardeners both seasoned and novice in these efforts.
Volunteers are always needed to help with outreach at special events and farmers market throughout the summer, as well as support in the office with various projects.
If you are interested in any of these options you can fill out an on-line volunteer form.
Support from the community is welcome at any level. One easy way to contribute is to become one of the 1000 Friends of Local Matters. Information on this giving program can be found via their website, or by calling the office at 614-263-5662. For a monthly contribution of $10 or more you can help make sure that these vital programs reach more children and teach them the language and skills they need to form a healthy relationship to local, healthy foods.
Philanthropy Friday is a feature article by Michele Savoldi that will highlight a Columbus area non-profit organization every other week. For more nonprofit information follow Michele on Twitter at @cbusimpressions and @inkindconnect.