Founded in 2018, Farm & Community Collaborative, Inc. (“F&CC”) is a 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organization that alleviates food insecurity by improving access to local farm fresh produce for underserved populations within the Gateway cities of Brockton, Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, and surrounding communities.
F&CC primarily serves disadvantaged populations within the Gateway cities of Brockton, Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton, and surrounding communities. Massachusetts Gateway cities, as defined by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, are "midsize urban centers that anchor regional economies around the state, [facing] stubborn social and economic challenges, [while] retaining many assets with unrealized potential."
Although our programs are primarily intended to serve disadvantaged Gateway city individuals and families, a secondary goal is to support our farm partners. Elliot Farm (Lakeville) and Colchester Farm (Plympton) host our programs, which help them reach new markets, build their community and workforce, while feeding families in need.
When viewed as a whole, poverty levels for the three-county Southeastern Massachusetts region appear comparable to the statewide level of 11%. However, pockets of much greater poverty exist in the region, especially in the cities of New Bedford and Fall River in Bristol County, with 2012 overall poverty rates of 21.6% and 23.2% respectively. Childhood poverty levels are even higher, at 17.8% in Bristol County, 8.7% in Norfolk County, 9.8% in Plymouth County, 28.3% in New Bedford, and 41.3% in Fall River. These poverty levels contribute to high levels of food insecurity.
According to Feeding America’s “Map the Meal Gap,” the average regional food insecurity rate was 9.9% overall and 14% for children. As with poverty, Bristol County exceeds the other two counties and the statewide average, with overall and childhood food insecurity rates of 12.3% and 18.2% respectively. This means that nearly 1 in 5 children in Bristol County experiences food insecurity, compared with a U.S. rate of 1 in 7 households and a Massachusetts rate of 1 in 9 households.
Accessing farm fresh produce is a challenge for many families, particularly those living in low income neighborhoods, communities of color, and urban areas. Finding quality fresh food means either traveling significant distances or paying exorbitant prices. The USDA’s Food Environment Atlas indicates that 31% of people in Bristol County, 35% in Norfolk County, and 45% in Plymouth County had low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. USDA mapping tools indicate pockets of “food deserts” within our region, especially in Gateway cities.
Despite support from the federal SNAP and WIC programs, many individuals and families in the region still must depend on emergency food providers to meet their food needs at certain times. According to a 2012 article, an estimated 250,000 people use food pantries in Bristol County each year.* Numbers for Norfolk and Plymouth counties are likely lower, but this figure gives a sense of the scale of demand in the region.
As in other areas of the country, high levels of poverty and food insecurity correlate with high levels of obesity, diabetes, and other preventable food-related health challenges. In the three-county Southeastern Massachusetts region in 2010, between 19.8% and 29.1% of adults were obese. Over the years 2009-2011, low-income pre-school obesity rates ranged from 12.1%-16.4% across the region. Using 2010 public schools data for older children, 17.4% of children in Fall River and 19.2% of children in New Bedford were obese, compared with a statewide average of 16.3%.
Healthy food access is critical to improving health outcomes. Produce provides a powerful opportunity to solve hunger. Fresh fruits and vegetables are essential to any balanced diet — and getting more to people in need can help them move beyond food insecurity into stronger, healthier lives. The Collaborative aims to harness the power of community partnerships to bring farm fresh produce to our food insecure neighbors.
*Natalie Sherman, “SouthCoast food pantries squeezed; demand and prices rise, donations drop.” Standard-Times, October 2, 2012.
F&CC partners with Colchester Farm (Plympton), Elliot Farm (Lakeville), as well as the Brockton Farmer's Market, Coastal Foodshed (New Bedford) and People Acting in Community Endeavors (“PACE”) (New Bedford).
Coastal Foodshed manages New Bedford's Farmer’s Markets, for which we are a vendor. They also manage the city's mobile markets, for which we aim to serve as one of their local produce providers in 2020. PACE operates an Emergency Food Bank, which will be the primary recipient of our Farm to Food Bank donations in 2020. PACE’s YouthBuild program provides employment placement to disadvantaged youth, who we aim to engage in our Farm to Future program.
We also belong to National Nutrition Incentive Network and The Southeastern Massachusetts Food Security Network, which is a coalition of food pantries, farms, and social service agencies working together to promote food security. Forging partnerships is paramount to F&CC’s mission to alleviate food insecurity and cultivate a more equitable local food system.
Board of Directors
It is important that our leadership, staff and volunteers represent the population we serve. We believe that our clients understand best the challenges their families and communities face, which is why they should be at the forefront of developing and implementing solutions. F&CC’s highly engaged board of directors all maintain agricultural backgrounds, while also contributing their respective expertise in the fields of nursing, equine and farm insurance, education, and nonprofit management.
F&CC’s founder and director, Ms. Deanna Elliot, is a social entrepreneur, educator and farmer. Ms. Elliot earned a B.A. in Communication from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and an M.S. in Nonprofit Leadership from Wheelock College. She is the founder and former Executive Director of the nonprofit organization The Marble Collection, where she developed and led its arts mentoring and publishing programs for 10 years. From 2014-2018, she taught an undergraduate internship course, The Art of Publishing, at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She was honored with the 2012 Stars 40 Under 40 award for her demonstrated leadership, professional accomplishments and community involvement, and the 2013 Arts|Learning Distinguished Community Arts Collaborative award for developing a model arts education collaborative between school and community cultural resources. She co-owns Elliot Farm, her family’s 50-acre produce farm, where she manages their seasonal farm stand and CSA. She has witnessed firsthand the impact farm fresh produce has on the health and wellness of her SNAP clientele. In 2018, Ms. Elliot founded F&CC to combine her passions for sustainable agriculture and nonprofit leadership. She aspires to use her connections within the farming community to alleviate food insecurity across the region.
F&CC’s frontline workers are its Farm to Future employees. Farm to Future's positions highlights the interconnectivity of food, health, community, and the environment, promoting a comprehensive understanding of the local food system that is transformative. During their tenure, employees help improve the health and wellness of their neighbors, and the leadership and workforce skills they gain can translate to any career path that they may choose to follow.
Volunteer Advisory Committee
F&CC critical priority is to diversify and increase its fundraising efforts by identifying and attracting higher capacity private donors and business supporters who are able to provide multi-year grants and ensure that we are sustainable into the future. We aim to raise our visibility among community organizations and key constituents in order to expand our programs in 2021.
In 2021, F&CC seeks to build an Advisory Committee, consisting of 5-10 members. Ideal candidates will support strategic planning, engage in fundraising efforts, and serve as public ambassadors for the organization. Members will be essential contributors, committed to enabling F&CC to achieve its mission, realize its potential, and fulfill its obligations to supporters and partners. Ideal candidates will also be Gateway city residents, who share in our commitment to alleviate food insecurity in their hometowns.