Key Organizations and Activities
Oregon Food Bank completed a community food assessment in 2014 focused on rural communities in Western Washington County. That document referenced farmworker housing as a concern for the county and a related strategic vision published by Tierra Planning in 2010. The City of Forest Grove also adopted a sustainability plan in 2014 with food as a target area.
Adelante Muejeres has significant organizational capacity and demonstrated expertise in food systems development, and provides a variety of programs serving the 16% of Washington County residents that identify as Hispanic or Latino. These include a sustainable farming class, a CSA program and produce distributorship, and a small business development program for food entrepreneurs that provides access to a commercial kitchen. Adelante Mujeres also manages the Forest Grove Farmers Market, and supports access to fresh food by low-income families through a SNAP Match program and a Produce Prescription program delivered in partnership with the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center.
Dairy Creek Community Food Web is a volunteer-led initiative with very limited funding that has helped organize community conversations on food, and hosts community dinners, garden tours, a monthly “Food Film” series, and an annual “Fill Your Pantry” event where farmers market grain, dried beans, storage crops, and canned goods and other preserved foods. Dairy Creek Food Web is also in the development of Thelma’s Kitchen, a licensed commercial kitchen at the Forest Grove Grange Hall to be used for value-added production, demos and classes.
OSU Extension, Oregon Food Bank, and Pacific University are also partners in these and other on-going education efforts, such as gardening and cooking classes.
Community Goals and Recommendations
Priorities from the 2014 community food assessment, listed in several categories, include:
- Create more avenues for new farmers to access land and trainings.
- Assess farmer interest in local food aggregation/distribution.
- Address shortage of farmworker housing.
- Community Food Assistance:
- Establish a gleaning group.
- Increase availability and variety of food literacy classes.
- Increase access to fresh, local produce for people receiving federal assistance.
- Local Food Assets:
- Develop more community and school gardens.
- Map and increase access to commercial kitchens.
- Develop a local-focused retail food store in Forest Grove.
Washington County has the second largest number of farms with sales of food direct to consumers in Oregon (after Yamhill) and the 5th largest number of farms marketing direct to retail. But the majority of products are probably being marketed to consumers in populous urban centers such as Beaverton and Portland. Washington County may want to invest in developing and expanding market linkages within its borders so that more residents throughout the county can access, enjoy, and vote with their dollars to support high quality products produced there.