By Pauline Benetti
Archuleta Food Coalition
Traditionally, the people of Archuleta County have developed a culture in which individuals and groups support one another in hard times. And this year has no doubt been tough. The hardship has been felt more acutely by those families and individuals who have not always had a warm and healthy meal on the table.
Despite the hardship caused by the pandemic, there has been no shortage of support from many sources, including our six well-functioning food pantries, the Pagosa Farmers Market, the generous restaurants and groceries that support local efforts, the ranchers and farmers that contribute to our local food system, and the amazing folks who sustain local growing communities. These are just a few of the examples of a community supporting one another during hard times.
And yet, even though we have these strengths, we still see families and individuals go hungry at night in Archuleta County. Many folks in our county want to be sure that no family or individual experiences hardship. Especially as we come into the holiday season, there will be families and individuals who want to know that they will be able to support themselves with healthy meals.
The Food Coalition is looking to the community to get ideas to support projects that address food issues in our community and are responsive to the needs created by the pandemic. The coalition has received $20,000 to help support such projects. The money is designated for individuals, groups and/or organizations that want to help support the food system and provide food relief during the pandemic for the community. Instead of just deciding how to spend the money, the coalition plans to use a process called participatory budgeting to distribute funds.
Participatory budgeting is a simple process where ideas are generated by the community, ideas are developed into project proposals and then voted on by the community. This simple way of giving the vote to the community means “you” can decide how money is spent. If you think a project is worthwhile, you can come and vote.
Imagine that you are part of a group of friends who want to help the community by making local apples available to local food organizations at a fraction of the price. You can design a project so that you get awarded a portion of the Food Coalition grant which allows you to sell local apples for a fraction of the price. The grant pays your group of friends to harvest, box and distribute the apples by subsidizing the total cost so more families can have access to affordable, healthier, local options.
An idea that is under study right now by our local growers is the creation of an online Pagosa Farmers Market. Grant funding would subsidize costs so that local, nutritious products would be affordable to more families. These are just examples of the kinds of projects that could be proposed to the community through the participatory budgeting process. The list of ideas of how to spend the money and turn them into projects that help the community get access to healthy and nutritious foods is endless.
Come support the community and share ideas on Monday, Oct. 12, at 5:30 p.m. over Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86546378087?pwd=NFFuUnBpQUJuSE1vQW1qdmkrbllqQT09, dial-in number: (346) 248-7799, meeting ID: 865 4637 8087. Bring ideas that can be turned into projects that can be voted upon by the community.
For more information, please visit the website, https://www.foodcoalition4archuleta.org, or email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.