Key Organizations and Activities
A community food assessment for Harney and Malheur counties was completed in 2009 by the Southeast Oregon Regional Food Bank, which noted that, “isolation and the lack of a local food system infrastructure paired with persistent poverty and unemployment that plague the region have made food insecurity a critical issue faced by many people throughout southeast Oregon.” A Second Year Progress Report was subsequently published in 2010.
The Crossroad Resource Center published a separate study in 2010 titled, “Local Foods as Economic Recovery,” which included data from Malheur County.
A Local Food Guide and Community Cookbook for Southeast Oregon was started in 2010, which is distributed by the Argus Observer. Oregon Rural Action also publishes a Farm and Food Directory, which includes listings for Malheur County.
Malheur County does have a network of food pantries. Nutrition, cooking, and food preservation classes are available through OSU Extension in Ontario. The Four Rivers Community Garden also provides garden education and donates fresh produce to the Next Chapter food pantry.
A Ranchers Feeding Kids program involving OSU Extension has secured donations of cattle that were processed for local school lunches, and provided a related curriculum. That program has involved 32 schools, which have received over 30,000 pounds of beef.
However, there are currently no local organizations dedicated to food systems development in Malheur County.
Community Goals and Recommendations
Goals identified by participants in the 2009 community food assessment included:
- Create an action-oriented, multi-stakeholder coalition that addresses individual and community food security and the needs of the agricultural community.
- Increase public awareness of food and agriculture-related issues and opportunities.
- Create an asset map of the local food system.
- Develop and distribute a local food guide.
- Create connections that build a food system that is supported by and benefits local producers, processors, retailers and consumers.
- Facilitate direct relationships between producers and retailers.
- Increase and maintain access to a stable food supply in underserved areas.
- Establish food pantries in communities not currently served.
- Increase access to healthy, fresh, locally-grown food throughout the region.
- Establish WIC, Senior voucher, and SNAP access at farmers’ markets and stands.
- Increase the amount of fresh food in emergency food programs.
- Promote programs for self-reliance, gardening and nutrition.
- Support and encourage the development of new community-based food projects.
- Promote development of community gardens and kitchens.
- Promote development of farmers’ markets and value-added food production.
These are appropriate goals for Malheur County – but need more local engagement and support.