City of Bloomington Launches “Year of Food” to Address Hunger and Activate Local Food Network

(BLOOMINGTON) – The City of Bloomington is launching a year-long campaign to promote food equity in the community and economic opportunities for local farmers.

The “Year of Food” campaign will be the topic of a town hall discussion to be streamed live today at 1 p.m. at the City’s Facebook page, featuring City officials along with representatives from local nonprofits and Indiana University.
Pursuing goals outlined in the recently approved Sustainability Action Plan, the City’s Year of Food campaign will seek to address issues of hunger in the community while simultaneously strengthening the local food economy. On the equity side, the City will work with local organizations to evaluate the food-related needs of residents and coordinate efforts to address the root causes of food insecurity, while increasing healthy food access and consumption in our community.
On the economic side, the City will work to increase connections between the local network of agricultural providers and the local and regional retail and wholesale markets. The City is currently in the process of hiring a Value Chain Coordinator to lead these efforts. The position, funded for three years as part of a USDA Local Food Promotion Program Grant Award to Purdue University and Indiana University, will be one of four in the state charged with the development of a Value Chain Network increasing local growers’ capacity and resiliency and creating demand for local farm products, especially among large, local institutional buyers.
“As the home of the largest farmers’ market in the state, Bloomington is setting out on this initiative from a running start,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “At the same time, there are many people in our community struggling to feed their families. During the Year of Food, we will work with our partners at IU and in the community to strengthen the market for local growers and producers, which will, in turn, solidify this core sector of our economy. When our farmers have a reliable local market, we all have a more reliable and resilient source of nutrition in our own backyard.”
The Coordinator will perform work in support of Goal 4.3 in the Sustainability Action Plan: “Increase the percentage of food that large institutional buyers purchase from local farmers (defined as farmers in the state of Indiana) by 2023, compared to a 2019 baseline.”
As part of the initiative to increase opportunities for local farmers, gardeners, and residents in need, the City will step up community engagement and awareness regarding food insecurity, local food production, local food vendors, nonprofits working to increase food access, and resource recovery efforts. As part of this effort, the City will help organize quarterly events to educate residents about food issues and/or provide volunteer opportunities with local groups.
The first event scheduled is a viewing of “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” on February 16 at 4 p.m. at the Buskirk Chumley Theater. This viewing is sponsored by the City of Bloomington, the Bloomington Food Policy Council, the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability and the Center for Sustainable Living. Following the screening, community partners will lead a conversation about local efforts to reduce and recover food waste.
Participants in the Facebook Live town hall this afternoon at 1 p.m. include Mayor John Hamilton; the City’s Assistant Director of Sustainability Autumn Salamack; Jodee Ellett, coordinator of Community Engagement with IU’s Sustainable Food Systems Science Initiative; and Steve Thomas, Self-Sufficiency Center Program Director at Monroe County United Ministries. Viewers are encouraged to submit questions to panelists for discussion during the town hall, which will be streamed live at the City of Bloomington’s Facebook page.