For many farmers and gardeners, their communities are growing as fast as their crops thanks to a bevy of online tools. These systems are designed to foster a sustained connection between those who grow food and those who eat it. Crowd-sourced maps, email postings and online profiles for growers and hunger relief organizations strengthen community networks and improve access to fresh foods. Check out these tools that are using the best of the Internet to build healthy communities.
Real Time Farms
Real Time Farms is a nationwide food guide of farms, food artisans, farmers’ markets and restaurants. Their interactive maps and individual producer profiles empower users to discover the origins of their food, including how it was grown, raised and prepared. By finding local producers, users can engage in their local food economies and support food systems within their communities.
Users update the four maps for food & farms, food artisans, farmers’ markets and eateries. Each location has its own personal profile, making connecting with local suppliers fast and easy.
Alastair and Helena Martin started RipeNear.Me in Adelaide, Australia to increase access to fresh, local food by encouraging the growth and consumption of urban-grown foods. Since the launch of the interactive map system, their neighborhood approach has spread to several continents, including North America.
RipeNear.Me allows growers to create profiles and post what food they have available. Their produce appears on the interactive map, which can be filtered for easier searching. Through RipeNear.Me, smaller growers have access to a larger community, which helps support local farms and reduces food waste from unsold produce.
Food waste is also the target of CropMobster, an email alert system founded by Nick Papadopoulos and serving eight California counties. Crop surpluses, an inconsistent and spontaneous occurrence, often leave piles of unsold produce to spoil. When a surplus is available, growers can post an alert offering the extra food at deeply discounted prices or for free. This system improves access to fresh, healthy foods and opens the door for hunger relief organizations to provide foods that they often couldn’t afford to purchase in bulk.
Creating a market for formerly unsold produce helps smaller farms turn a profit and boosts local economies. The direct grower to buyer contact facilitated by CropMobster also forges community relationships.
AmpleHarvest.org connects neighborhood gardeners with food pantries, creating a donation network that ensures there is “no food left behind.” Gardeners can use the interactive map or iPhone and Android apps to locate nearby food pantries and to access profiles with contact information and scheduled delivery times.
Bountiful harvests are shared with food pantry clients who normally wouldn’t have affordable access to a varied and healthy selection of produce. Supplying produce to pantries throughout the week means food is fresher and less likely to spoil when delivered to clients. This partnership between gardeners and food pantries allows communities to increase awareness of their members’ needs and to tackle hunger issues head on.
Community Commons Map Room
Community Commons maps can work in conjunction with all of these tools to allow users to visualize the food needs of their communities. Research results for topics such as food access; food policy, including SNAP and WIC; food deserts and food insecurity; and location of food suppliers, including fruit and vegetable markets and farmers’ markets, can all be layered to create an individualized profile of an area. These tailored maps help create a comprehensive view of a community’s needs. This in turn enables organizations to implement a more effective and informed approach to address food-related issues in their communities.