For Immediate Release

The Plains, OH — Local chefs and bakers can receive mini-grants of up to $250 for recipe development to help grow the Neighbor Loaves [& Meals] offerings.

Rural Action’s Neighbor Loaves project partners with local eateries that offer bread and meals using 50% or more local grain, bean and/or nuts to food access programs. Participating businesses sell their offerings to customers, whose purchases are then donated to food access programs.

“We hope to see new recipes that will be sent to the sites that Community Food Initiatives and the Athens County Food Pantry already serve, as well as new sites throughout the region,” said Michelle Ajamian, Network Developer at the Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative (ASFC). “Adding local nut crops from farms like Integration Acres and the Route 9 Chestnut Cooperative is a priority going forward.” ASFC is part of Rural Action’s Sustainable Agriculture program.

“This pay-it-forward model ensures a win-win-win for the farmer, local business, and neighbor in need,” Ajamian said. “Thanks to funding from the Ohio Farm Bureau, we have several goals to expand our reach, both to area businesses using local staple crops and to food access sites.”

This project is a local iteration of a nationwide Neighbor Loaves model, launched by the Artisan Grain Collaborative (AGC) in Wisconsin in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold. As of March 2021, AGC reported more than 30,000 loaves had been distributed nationwide.

“At ASFC, we’ve seen sales reach more than $10,000 since July 2020, when we launched with Village Bakery,” Ajamian said.

The Neighbor Loaves [& Meals] project helps the growing number of food insecure residents in our region. In 2020, as a direct result of COVID-19, Ohio tied for 10th highest in the nation for overall household food insecurity and 13th for child food insecurity, according to Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief charity.

“We will also use more than a third of the $3,000 grant to match customer purchases starting this spring,” Ajamian said.

To apply for this mini-grant, email Michelle Ajamian at and include “Neighbor Loaves mini-grant” in the subject line.

Rural Action is a regional community development organization with a 32-county footprint working with members and community leaders on a range of quality of life, environmental, and economic projects across rural Appalachian Ohio. Its mission is to build a more just economy by developing the region’s assets in environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways. Learn more about Rural Action at


Michelle Ajamian
Network Developer
Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative