MENDOCINO Co., 9/8/21 — The MendoLake Food Hub started off as a way to connect local farmers with restaurants, schools, and other wholesale purchasers to grow the local foodshed here in Mendocino and Lake counties. Over the last several years the Food Hub has expanded its offerings and options, and now, home delivery is available to multiple different locations throughout the county.
Each week, even if you miss the farmer’s market, you can get farm fresh fruits, veggies, and other local goods in pre-packed boxes, or pick out just what you need. Food Hub drivers will drop off your order on their scheduled weekly routes in Ukiah, Willits, and the coast. You can place your order directly and get more information at mendolakefoodhub.org.
Here’s more information from the Food Hub:
On a Monday afternoon, Project Coordinator Oscar Moreno Peredia sits to chat about the MendoLake Food Hub, a program that in the past shuffled him across the county delivering farm fresh food. However, the delivery commitment was one that Peredia was happy to take on as supporting local farmers and families is the underpinning to NCO’s redesigned Food Hub.
Before the pandemic, MendoLake Food Hub’s goals were different from the present: support local farmers and producers with technical assistance, distribution and access to markets, while providing farm fresh food to schools, local grocery stores, and restaurants. In post-pandemic Mendocino, these goals, like the community’s, pivoted to provide fresh food directly to families in need. After months of reworking the program, the Food Hub’s present focus is accessibility; delivering fresh, local, produce to businesses, schools, families and individuals in most areas of Mendocino and Lake counties.
The idea for a program redesign developed within the first couple weeks when the team, including Project Coordinator Ana Victoria Salcido, learned of empty shelves lining grocery store aisles; all the while, farmers found themselves unable to allocate their produce during the shut down. After applying in early 2020, The MendoLake Food Hub was granted a contract of federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to build and distribute boxes through the Farmers to Families Program, then later through various funding sources. The MendoLake Food Hub was making up to 70 direct deliveries per day and up to 200 food boxes per week. Peredia and Hector Lopez Martinez were hired immediately after the program took off to help with deliveries, an endeavor that had them driving from Lakeport to Fort Bragg to cover
all the orders. Soon thereafter, Peredia was promoted to Project Coordinator where he now helps oversee the large-scale delivery process.
“[After the redesign] the Food Hub immediately picked-up and we got hundreds of registrations” says Salcido. “It became a secure and convenient way to get food delivered to your home, which was highly necessary at the time.”
Now, expanding on the direction taken at the start of the pandemic, the Food Hub has created an even more robust home delivery service–utilizing tailored boxes for families that do not need the same large quantities as businesses; the continued support of wholesale clients; and, a distribution of aid boxes.
“We have separated the program into wholesale deliveries and home deliveries that each have different needs” Salcido clarifies.
All the produce distributed from the Food Hub is harvested to order and organically grown. Farmers deliver their goods to one of the five aggregation sites in Willits, Ukiah, Upper Lake, Booneville, and Fort Bragg where the produce is stored and aggregated for delivery.
There are a wealth of benefits to locally grown food. On a personal level, locally grown food carries more nutrients than store-bought, creating a healthier diet for the consumer. Beyond the consumer, local foods support environmental health by leaving less of a carbon footprint (evident by less distance travelled) and promoting open spaces of farmland devoid of industry. Further, local food helps to strengthen the community’s economy, keeping the consumer and the farmer secure financially. At a time of economic precariousness, the threat of climate change, and destructive fires, the Food Hub’s investment in local farms keeps the county on a stable trajectory.
“Right now, funding has become a challenge for us,” says Salcido. MendoLake Food Hub relies on grants, but as the country is evolving it’s outlook on the pandemic, COVID-19 relief grants are becoming less accessible.
“We are excited to continue supporting local farmers in times of uncertainty and times of plenty,” Salcido comments. “Moving forward, we encourage people to try our new home delivery services and do their part to keep local farms in business.”
Transitioning into the Fall and Winter, MendoLake Food Hub will continue evolving to best support the local landscape.
To become a part of the MendoLake Food Hub community visit mendolakefoodhub.org. For more information call (707) 467-3238.