Michelle Martin, Director of Economic Development
1984 Sherman Ave., North Bend, OR 97459
NeighborWorks® Umpqua (NWU) is a non profit organization in Southern Oregon that focuses on providing housing and economic opportunities. Together with its social enterprise, NWU currently has 63 team members. With nearly 600 units owned and under management, NWU is the largest affordable housing provider in the region. The operating budget of approximately $6 million enables NWU to offer a range of programs and services targeting much of Southwestern Oregon:
- Our Homeownership Center provides workshops and one-on-one assistance to prospective homebuyers as well as homeowners facing foreclosure and other financial challenges.
- NWU is active in community building and engagement. We build healthy communities by developing resident leadership, strengthening resident-led associations, and sponsoring community building activities.
- Our Dream$avers program is one of the largest and most comprehensive Individual Development Account programs in the nation. NWU provides this program, through partner agencies, to more than 850 participants in 11 counties.
Recognizing the intrinsic economic value of local food and farming, NWU hosted a RARE AmeriCorps member in 2012 to complete the Douglas County Community Food Assessment. The food assessment outlined strengths and weaknesses of the local food system and statistics relating to health, obesity, and hunger, while giving suggested methods of addressing some of the common barriers of the local food system. A second RARE was hosted at NWU in 2013 to pick up the momentum from the food assessment and implement projects relating to these recommendations.
Strengthening Farmer Relationships
Coordinated by NWU, numerous partners have organized and hosted various events to unite farmers and foster networks and collaborations, including potlucks, film screenings, seed swaps, cooking and nutrition classes, and a venue where farmers, food producers and consumers may convene to discuss local food. A F.E.A.S.T (Food, Education, Agriculture Solutions Together) event was organized and hosted by NWU in 2013, where over 100 community members convened and many partnerships were fostered. As a result from that event, a Local Food Coalition was formed. Though in its infancy, the Coalition aims to connect important players of the food system to address priority issues by developing projects and programs that serve the overall community.
Increasing Access to Food
Douglas County is home to an abundant amount of food and agriculture but 42% of the county’s residents live within a food desert, where there is no access to fresh foods within walking distance. To combat this, NWU’s Kitchen Garden Project builds raised garden beds, offers seeds, access to gardening and health workshops while facilitating connections within the greater gardening community in Douglas County. This network of low-income gardeners increases accessibility to sufficient, safe, and nutritious foods. KGP partners with community groups, schools, and households of various incomes, so that all people are able to benefit from healthy, fresh and local food.
NWU also partnered with the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market in Roseburg to administer Fresh Funds, a SNAP Incentive Program that matches every dollar of SNAP funds spent at the famers market, up to $5 per person, per market day. In an alliance fostered between NWU, the Umpqua Dairy, and SERVICE (SouthEast Roseburg Voices In Community Engagement) spurred the development of the Umpqua Dairy Community Garden in SE Roseburg, where the percentage of low‐income residents in Roseburg is the highest and the location of one of the largest food deserts in Roseburg lies.
Encouraging Food Literacy
To raise awareness among the community of the importance of growing local, healthy foods, NWU has hosted several film screenings in conjunction with potluck events to provide educational material to the public. Cooking and nutrition classes have been organized in partnership with other non‐profit organizations to educate consumers of ways to save money while buying healthy, local foods at the grocery store. NWU has also worked with six local farmers markets to create the brand Markets of Umpqua in order to promote the markets and increase the number of customers shopping at the markets.
Current Farm and Food Programs
In partnership with various agencies in Coos, Curry and Douglas Counties, NWU has been serving as the coordinating agency for a 2-year project in Seafood using the WealthWorks Northwest project model, since 2014. A group has been formed as a direct result of this project called Southwestern Oregon Food System Collaborative (SWOFSC) and they are working on the Seafood Project as we near the end of the 2-year grant cycle. The goal of the project is to map and analyze the value chain of the seafood industry in order to find where there are gaps in the value chain and where entrepreneurial and business opportunities may lie, with the projected outcome of investment in small businesses and entrepreneurs.
NeighborWorks Umpqua, a private rural 501(c)(3) organization, was established in 1991 to build homes that are affordable for Veterans, seniors, developmentally disabled and everyday working people trying to make ends meet in Southern Oregon. NWU supports first-time homebuyers; makes home repairs possible; helps people improve their credit; matches funds so savers can build lifelong assets; supports neighbors to work together to improve our communities; and connects people to business knowledge to successfully impact our communities. NWU, 541-673-4909, www.nwumpqua.org