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Putnam County Food System Coalition conducts food systems needs assessment

The Putnam County Food System Coalition conducted a food systems needs assessment last summer.  They've now created the Putnam County Food System Map.  Funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the coalition is finding ways to address needs.

The use of food pantries has increased nationwide from 4.4 percent in 2019 to 6.7 percent in 2021, according to the USDA. Exacerbated by the pandemic and rising cost of living, 28-percent of Putnam County residents find it hard to make ends meet. 

Coalition partners surveyed more than 200 individuals accessing food pantries, soup kitchens, as well as homebound adults receiving supplemental food deliveries. Respondents reported that the most limiting factors to accessing the food they need included adequate income, reliable transportation to or, nearby grocery stores and food pantries.  While there are often stores within walking distance, many smaller, convenience stores do not accept SNAP/EBT food stamps. 

Survey respondents found it both difficult to get to nearly 40 farms, farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs in Putnam or found the cost of produce too high.  The Coalition is developing funding to expand local food processing and storage. This will provide long term storage and refrigeration, extend the harvest by processing and distributing locally grown foods, offer stipends to food pantries to purchase local foods, and offset the cost of locally grown produce.

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