Introducing CFAC’s newest team member, Annie Carlson!

Meet CFAC’s new AmeriCorps VISTA, Annie! Annie has only just started her one year volunteer tenure at CFAC, and she has already brought such a bright and positive presenIMG_4894ce to the CFAC team. Welcome Annie!

My name is Annie Carlson. I grew up in Kalispell Montana where my love for food and agriculture began. I followed that passion to Montana State University in Bozeman to study Sustainable Food and Bioenergy systems. Now that passion has lead me to Missoula to complete a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CFAC.

We interviewed Annie in her first week with CFAC. Read on to see what she had to say to our outlandish questions:

Krystin: What is your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?

Annie: ISFP (she had to take the online test)

KG: Why are you really passionate about food systems?

AC: I really like to grow food. My favorite activity is gardening. The magic of it is really exciting. It’s just a really nice way to spend time and get away from things, and it’s relaxing for me. I also really love cooking and sharing food with people. It’s always something that’s been big in my family: eating together and cooking together. I wish everybody could feel the way I feel about those things.

KG: How do you think the world would be better if they did?

AC: I think if everybody had the opportunity to enjoy food in all the ways it can be enjoyed, it would mean a lot of things: people have free time, people have resources to access those things. It’s important to know where food comes from and how big of a role it plays in our lives. Because even if food isn’t your passion, it’s still a major part of your life.

KG: What is your favorite vegetable to grow?

AC: OOOOOOO! I really love garlic.

KG: Why?

AC: Well, I like that it’s planted in the Fall and it sits all winter, preparing itself, and then it comes up so early in the Spring. It’s kind of wild, and I like that it has so many ways that it reproduces. So I kind of just like the plant structure in general. It’s so strong, and it leaves a lasting impact.

KG: On the earth or in your mouth?

AC: In your mouth!

KG: If you were a vegetable which one would you be?

AC: In the past I’ve answered it that I would be garlic, but I think I just have an obsession with garlic. It’s an always changing question. It’s a good reflecting question for myself, because a lot of things are changing for me right now. I’m thinking of a cold weather type. It has to be sturdy – so maybe collard green. Ready for the cold. Maybe a mixed green patch – a variety of things all in one. In a few months we’ll update everyone: “Annie is now this vegetable.” Or, you know there’s always that random volunteer vegetable that comes up in a spot where it’s not supposed to be, but it’s still in the garden, so kind of in the place where it’s supposed to be but not sure yet? It’s a deep question, Krystin.

KG: What are you going to be doing for CFAC?

AC: I don’t have a big project yet, but I’m going to be working with the beginning farmer and rancher program. I’m going to be helping the program to keep it going into the future, for a long time.

KG: What kinds of tools are you brainstorming right now to make that happen?

AC: Event planning, we’re doing resource development, researching evaluation tools and management tools.

KG: What do you see as CFAC’s greatest opportunity while you’re here?

AC: Because I’m focused on beginner farmer and rancher program, CFAC is in a unique place, especially with Farm Link, to really connect people and to keep a lot of agricultural land in agricultural production, and I think that would have a really lasting impact to fight the thought that agriculture is dying, or that if you’re retiring and don’t have a child to pass the land onto, that you have to sell to a developer. Changing that mindset, and getting the idea out there that there are beginning farmers out there who really want to farm, I think CFAC is in a unique place to do that.

KG: What has been your most exciting discovery about Missoula so far?

AC: It’s a really beautiful area, and I haven’t had the chance to explore it as much as I want, but I did get to go to Rock Creek last weekend, and that was an awesome area. There’s a lot of natural beauty around here that I don’t know about yet, but I’m excited to get to know it. Also the people who live here just LOVE it.

KG: What would you do with $1M?

AC: There are a lot of things I would do with one million dollars. I would probably give most of it to some type of organization, or multiple organizations, that I believe in. Try to do some type of social good. But then also I might use some of it for myself, probably to travel, and eat food around the world, grow food around the world.

KG: Favorite constellation?

AC: Pleadies. Because I like all the different stories about how they came to be.

KG: What is one thing you want people to know about you?

AC: I’m a pretty positive person. I’m passionate about the things I believe in. I believe that kindness and compassion are great strengths and qualities that maybe our society doesn’t focus on enough.

 

 

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You SNAP, We SNAP. SNAP Challenge Week: Sept. 20-27

DSD campaign cardSNAP Challenge Week is dawning on us! The CFAC team has banded together to gain a better understanding of the impact of our Double SNAP Dollars program and raise money to continue Double SNAP Dollars programs in Missoula and around the state. We’re excited to be joined by partners at the Montana Food Bank Network, UM students in the Community Health and Social Work departments, EFNEP, the Missoula Public Health Department, the MT Department of Ag, and of course the Double SNAP Dollar retailers!

For those of you unsure of what this effort entails, here’s a basic rundown: folks pledge to eat on a budget of $5 a day for 7 days (from Sept. 20-27) to gain a glimpse into the struggles of the 134,000 food insecure Montanans who have very limited budgets to buy food for themselves or their families. $5 is the median SNAP benefit for Montanans.

Those taking the Challenge will be sharing their experiences throughout the week via social media and Op-Eds and the like, and encouraging donations to the $16,000 for 16,000 Missoulians campaign – which aims to raise enough money to cover a gap in funding through the end of the season in Missoula, AND be able to start next year with a adequate funds that can benefit Double SNAP Dollars programs across the state.

There’s a lot of buzz going around the CFAC office, including a lot of logistical questions about what to eat and how to calculate costs.

If you have questions like the rest of us CFAC-ers, download our SNAP Challenge toolkit. (And always feel free to call the office at 926-1004 or email Kim at kim@missoulacfac.org if you have more questions)

If you want to join us in the SNAP Challenge, you can pledge here!

Together, we can ensure access to healthy and local foods and build healthier communities. Please join us!

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5 Ways to Double Your Impact

Double your impact for CFAC’s Double SNAP Dollars program

Double SNAP Dollars is in its third year and as successful and effective as ever.

With 7 retailers, 1,000 participants, and $100,000 contributed to the economy in 2016, the program has proven to be an extremely valuable asset to our local, sustainable food system.

In 2017, that impact is on track to double. In just three months, Double SNAP Dollars has grown to 11 retailers, 615 participants, and over $33,000 contributed to the economy.

Below are five easy ways to support the program and double your impact for Double SNAP.

ONE: Take the SNAP Challenge.

Taking the SNAP Challenge means you commit to eating on $5/day (including coffee!) for a week (September 20th-September 27th) to put yourself in the shoes of those who struggle to put healthy food on the table. Why put yourself in another’s shoes? Because when we have empathy for others, we are better advocates. And, as our food system tells us: we are all connected.

“We never really understand another person until we climb into their skin and walk around in it.” — Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

Let others know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it to raise awareness of those who experience hunger 365 days of the year in your own community – and nationwide. Contact Kim@MissoulaCFAC.org for a SNAP Challenge toolkit.

TWO: Contact your elected representatives and ask them to take the SNAP Challenge, too.

The U.S. House will vote on the budget resolution this month. The resolution proposes drastic cuts to the SNAP program, and those who currently receive SNAP benefits – including the elderly, children, low-wage workers, and folks who are differently-abled, stand to lose needed food assistance.

If our representatives commit to taking the SNAP Challenge, they will have a greater understanding of the potential damage this budget resolution will cause in our communities. It’s simple to find your U.S. House representative and contact them – just enter your zip code online to get email contact information or call the generic Capitol phone line to enter your zip code and contact by phone: 202-224-3121.

THREE: Become a Challenge Champion.

Start a fundraiser to benefit CFAC’s Double SNAP Dollars campaign to raise $16,000 for the 16,000 Missoulians who struggle to put healthy food on the table. Just click the “Start Fundraising” button to set up your own fundraising page.

Start fundraising

It takes 5 minutes to set up a page and begin making a big difference. Raising $500 is as easy as asking 20 people (family, friends, colleagues, non-Montanans) to donate $25, and we’ll be providing plenty of resources to make your campaign easy and painless – just ask Heidi, who has already raised nearly 50% of her goal (thank you Heidi!).

Heidi fundraiser

FOUR: Make an individual contribution to CFAC’s Double SNAP Dollars campaign.

For every dollar you donate, one more Missoulian has greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables, one more farmer has a little more income, and one more community becomes a little more self-sustaining. When we all work together to achieve collective impact, the impact is exponential!

Organize!

FIVE: Pass this opportunity on to 5 folks you think might be interested in doubling their impact.

CFAC Cherry Fundraiser

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It’s summertime in Montana, which means the Flathead cherries are in season!  Now you have the opportunity to get your cherries and support Community Food & Agriculture Coalition! CFAC will be picking cherries at Flathead Lake in mid July. You can pre-order a 10 pound box for $35 by contacting Bonnie Buckingham at 406-880-0543 or bonnie@missoulacfac.org. Cherries will be available for delivery or pick-up on July 23rd at a location to be determined. (Payments due at the time of order. Please make checks payable to CFAC.)

At CFAC, we work to build a sustainable local food economy by conserving critical farmlands, assisting beginning farmers and ranchers, and creating ways for everyone to have access to healthy food. To learn more about our programs and the work we do in Missoula, and surrounding areas visit missoulacfac.org, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You SNAP We Match

IMG_5990It’s finally starting to feel like summer, which means local produce is becoming more abundant, a time that many of us look forward to. We know Montanans love supporting local, visiting farmers’ markets, picking up a weekly bounty of local produce from a CSA, and choosing local at a neighborhood grocery store. We also know that a lot of community members would love to support local and eat more fresh produce, but their limited budgets make it difficult.

Due to various life and economic circumstances, many Montanans utilize SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the nation’s largest largest anti-hunger program, to make ends meet. CFAC believes everyone should have the opportunity to access healthy, local food and to participate in our great state’s local food system. We have worked towards this vision in the past by starting the state’s first EBT program, which allows customers to use their SNAP benefits at farmers’ markets. And now we are proud to be a coordinator of  the Double SNAP Dollars (DSD) program. While the program is available year round at the Missoula Community Food Co-op, it increases in popularity during the summertime because the majority of DSD retailers are farmers markets or CSA providers.   

DSD-Box-Logo-LargeThe DSD program offers double the value on SNAP benefits at farmers markets, on CSA shares, and at the Missoula Community Food Co-op. For example, shoppers can spend $10 of their SNAP benefits and receive $10 free to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. Folks with limited incomes often have to sacrifice food security (and health) for other expenses like bills and rent. On average, SNAP only provides around $4 a day – a very limited food budget considering this price does not even cover the cost of some cups of coffee. SNAP is supposed to be supplemental, meaning it’s a boost to the recipient’s food budget. In reality, that’s often all a family has to spend on food. This is why DSD is such a vital program – it gives people access to nutritious foods that they might not have otherwise.

DSD can have a profound impact on customers. In fact, 95%+ of customers reported thatDSCN2931 DSD helped lessen their concerns about having enough money to eat healthy meals. We hear uplifting stories all of the time about customers’ excitement over the ability to feed themselves and their families with local produce, sometimes even expressed as tears of joy. One of our customers was happy to share their DSD experience with us: “This is the first farmers market I have attended and because of this program I will buy fresh, local produce and support local growers and economy!”  

SNAP customers aren’t the only beneficiaries of this program, local farmers are the backbone of DSD and the program would not be possible without them! An important aspect of Double SNAP Dollars is supporting proper compensation for farmers. The program relieves farmers of the burden of lowering prices to make produce more affordable and spreads that cost around to the rest of the community and even the federal government. Farmers are often equally as excited to get local produce into the homes of more customers as customers are themselves. One of our Missoula Market vendors said it best: “The more money people get, the more they will spend” – which was made evident by the 29% increase in EBT sales among DSD retailers in 2016. In fact, when you add this increase in sales plus the value of Double SNAP Dollars spent, over $100,000 was spent on local and fresh foods in Western Montana in 2016. Not only do farmers and local businesses like the Missoula Food Co-op see an increase in sales, but the program generates a considerable economic stimulus in communities that offer DSD.

DSD is appreciated by so many because it is a win-win-win! It promotes food security, healthy diets, small agriculture, and the local economy. People want to participate in their local economy, support their farmers, and eat well. Double SNAP Dollars allows for all of this to happen. For our part, CFAC is doing what we can to help more and more retailers take advantage of the many great benefits of this program- three more retailers in three different communities joined the Double SNAP team this year! Check out our website to see all participating locations, learn more, and even check out a recipe or two: DoubleDollarsMT.com. Be sure to like our Facebook page as well: DoubleDollarsMT.

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