Rural Action’s Neighbor Loaves & Meals project increased its distribution to food access programs in 2022 thanks to a $3,000 grant from the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation Action and Agriculture Grant Program.

The Neighbor Loaves & Meals project originally launched in June of 2020 to connect Ohio staple seed crop farmers with millers, bakers, and chefs in order to produce nutritious bread and meals for Athens County food access sites during the pandemic.

“For most of the first two years of the pandemic, all the bread and meals were funded solely by customer purchases,” said Eleanor Reagan, Rural Action’s coordinator for the project.

Participating businesses sell their offerings to customers, whose purchases are then delivered to food distribution sites by Community Food Initiatives and the Athens County Food Pantry. Local food businesses include Kindred Market, Village Bakery & Cafe, Casa Nueva, Shagbark Seed & Mill, and Athens Bread Company.

In year two, funds from the Ohio Farm Bureau foundation supplemented individual purchasing by matching donations made by customers. Additionally, chefs and bakers were paid to develop new recipes for the project.

Kindred Market in Athens developed a breakfast corn muffin made with corn flour using Ohio grown organic heirloom corn from Tom and Mary Klein & Sons Organic Farm in Wyandot County, Ohio and milled at Shagbark Seed & Mill in Athens County.

In total, the project distributed 1,024 meals to Athens County in 2022, where approximately 20% of the population faces limited food access and insufficient nutrition.

The Federal Valley Resource Center, a distribution site in Stewart, Ohio reported that people appreciated having “real bread” for a change.

With the recent struggles to obtain food due to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions, and inflation, funds from the Ohio Farm Bureau Foundation enabled the project to have a greater impact across the county beyond the scope of individual donations.

“We are really lucky to be able to partner with local food access distributors and local businesses to connect food access sites with nutritious, culturally relevant recipes made with crops from our region’s farmers.” Reagan said.

Visit the Rural Action website to purchase a meal!