MINNEAPOLIS, Minn., June 20, 2016 – The FEAST Local Foods Network and its partners won the Environmental Initiative Award in the Food Stewardship category on Thursday, May 26. This program, hosted by the nonprofit Environmental Initiative, annually honors projects that have achieved extraordinary outcomes by harnessing the power of partnership.
The FEAST Local Foods Network is a collaborative network across Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin of local foods advocates. The FEAST Network organizes the annual Feast! Local Foods Marketplace. Partners accepting the award included Renewing the Countryside, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF), University of Minnesota Southeast Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, The McKnight Foundation, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mayo Clinic and People's Food Co-op. The network was created to support local food producers and foodmakers by boosting access to financing, resources, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
"Our collaborative approach to local food is really focused on the entrepreneur," said Jan Joannides of Renewing the Countryside, a lead partner in the Network. "It's about helping create small, sustainable food businesses to adopt practices that are better for all of us."
The creation of a thriving local food economy needs to be both community-based and driven by everyone involved - from farmers to consumers. The FEAST Local Foods Network is building partnerships across the local food system to foster innovation and entrepreneurship. More than 1,300 people have been reached through the network's various tradeshows and events. Save the date for 2016's Feast! Local Foods Marketplace, taking place December 2-3 at Rochester's Mayo Civic Center.
"Collaboration isn't always easy. This rich and diverse network is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished for our environment, economy, and all Minnesotans when we choose to work together," said Environmental Initiative's Executive Director, Mike Harley.
The FEAST Local Foods Network also partners with groups like Slow Money, whose Minnesota network is organized by FEAST partner Renewing the Countryside. Slow Money is a national organization that aims to catalyze the flow of capital to local food systems "bring money back down to earth."
Slow Money Minnesota and the FEAST Local Foods Network recently announced the launch of a Grow a Farmer Fund campaign. The goal is the raise $100,000 by September 1 for a revolving loan fund to help small-scale, sustainable farmers in southern Minnesota. The fund will be managed by SMIF. Two events for this fund campaign are scheduled: August 4 at the Mankato Brewery and August 10 at Squash Blossom Farm in Oronoco. Check the website for updates: http://www.slowmoneyminnesota.org/upcoming_events.
"We're honored to be recognized by the Environmental Initiative for this collaborative food stewardship award," said SMIF's Vice President of Economic Development, Pam Bishop. "The FEAST Network truly is a diverse cross-sector of people and organizations, and that's what makes the work so exciting. We see a thriving local food economy as a great asset to our region's longer-term sustainability, both economically, environmentally and socially."