In the wake of the recession caused by the corona pandemic, the United States government allocated financial relief to cities. But Phoenix, Arizona, didn’t just use this money to feed its out-of-work residents – it also saved local businesses such as farms, markets, and restaurants.
Instead of distributing the $951,000 allocation to food banks, stakeholders preferred “to shore up our food system, to help people get back to work, to help our farmers, and to recognize grassroots organizations doing this work”, according to Roseanne Albright, the environmental programs coordinator for the city.
“The city could have awarded one very large contract to one very large company to just prepare all of those meals,” says Kimber Lanning, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Local First Arizona, which runs the Feed Phoenix program. “Instead, we decided to create a program to touch as many businesses as possible.”
Local First Arizona used the funding to buy produce from farms then pay restaurants to prepare meals for distribution across the city. Through its Feed Phoenix program, some 50,000 meals were distributed between July and December. Feed Phoenix also put farmers and restaurants in contact as farmers needed buyers, and chefs and cooks needed work. As a result, 16 farms and almost 45 participating restaurants stayed afloat thanks to the local initiative. Thanks to its success, the program has been extended into Spring 2021.