Food Commons Fresno, a nonprofit working on food issues, will launch several projects next year, including an effort to help preserve farmland, a pop-up farmers market and investment opportunities in the organization.
“This is a very exciting time for Food Commons Fresno,” said Kiel Schmidt, the organization’s business development manager.
The organization, which has been in the works for several years, got a jump start recently with a $50,000 grant from the Fresno Regional Foundation. The grant unlocked access to a $250,000 grant from the 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation in Palo Alto.
The funds will help the Fresno group begin to reach its goal of creating a local food system that increases access to healthy food, spurs economic development and protects farmland.
The Fresno group is part of a national Food Commons effort and one of two prototypes in the U.S. The other group is in Atlanta.
Schmidt said one of the first projects the group will roll out is a food promotion program in neighborhoods without easy access to fresh produce. The group will use a truck to hold a pop-up farmers market in neighborhoods identified as food deserts. Organizers will also collect information on food buying habits and identify possible locations for retail grocery stores.
“There is so much abundance of produce in our area,” Schmidt said. “But it does not always make it into every neighborhood.”
The group will also be reaching out to landowners who may be interested in putting their prime farmland into a trust where it will be preserved and protected from development. Schmidt said he knows there are property owners who don’t want to see their farms bulldozed to make way for more houses, “we just need to find them.”
To help sustain the organization, Food Commons will begin taking on investors who become shareholders. The money could potentially be used to build a grocery store, expand a farming operation or acquire farmland.
“If a grocery store is built, it will belong to the community and they can share in its success,” Schmidt said.