The Green Wheeling Initiative, a group focused on increasing the availability of healthy, locally produced foods, has won three grants through the efforts of the West Virginia Northern Community College Foundation.
Emily Fisher, executive director of the WVNCC Foundation, announced that the Foundation received two grants totaling $14,000 from the Hess Family Foundation and a $55,000 grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.
She said the Hess grants will support operating expenses for the Green Wheeling Initiative, including resources and training for additional community gardens and a “micro-grant” program to support existing garden projects. The Benedum grant will fund research and analysis of the greater Wheeling area’s dependence on outside food sources, and a plan to shift 10 percent of local spending on food to locally produced food.
Certified Executive Chef Gene Evans, who is a founding member of the Green Wheeling Initiative and a professor in WVNCC’s Culinary Arts program, said, “Locally produced food simply tastes better and contains a much higher nutritional value.” Danny Swan, an urban farmer and also a founding member, added, "We're deeply grateful to West Virginia Northern Community College, the Benedum Foundation and the Hess Family Foundation. These grants provide a great opportunity to meaningfully transform our community through local food."
The Green Wheeling Initiative is a collaborative network of urban and rural food growing projects such as the Small Farm Training Center, East Wheeling Community Gardens, Island Rats Community Garden, the Culinary Arts Garden, Victory Garden of the Children's Museum and the South Wheeling Alive Garden.
Members of the initiative explained the program began with concerned citizens and food producers interested in increasing the availability of healthy, energy efficient and economically produced local foods. The initiative, they added, hopes to expand to include more gardens and a number of farms that produce hormone- and pesticide-free food and to expand the amount of easily accessible locally grown food available to families, institutions and restaurants.
The Green Wheeling Initiative is willing to offer help to those who want to start community gardens and to local food producers who want to expand the market for their farm products. Contact GreenWheeling@gmail.com for more information.
The Wheeling area initiative, members added, joins local food movements that are developing worldwide and are revitalizing economies in the nearby states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The movement also is taking hold elsewhere in West Virginia.
Initiative members said buying local allows up to 90 percent of the sale price to go to local farmers. Wheat farmers receive just six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread in the U.S., they explained, and farmers in general typically receive 10 percent or less of the food dollar. Those involved in local food movements cite statistics which reveal that buying local creates a multiplier effect for local economies wherein locally spent food dollars circulate eight to 15 times in the local economy instead of being siphoned out to national or international food corporations.
Because local food tends to be fresher and to travel shorter distances, there also are measurable health and environmental benefits to buying local, such as produce containing more nutrients and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. Supporters say non-local grocery items travel on average 27 times greater distances than local food. Most grocery store produce, they say, travels more than 1,500 miles from the farm to home and spends several weeks in transit during which it loses much of its nutritional value.