DIG IN! with Nourish Colorado – Spring Newsletter

Welcome to the season of rebirth and the springing up of new life! Once again, we are so blessed to be entering a new season alongside all of you, our partners! We know many of you are entering a very busy season – planting, opening up seasonal markets, and entering into contracts with farmers who will help feed your students next school year! It is a full time of year for us as well, so read on below about the 2023 Double Up and WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program season, expanding local foods in schools, and more! 

Winter was a productive time for us in different ways. We have spent the past many months laying the groundwork for our 2023 state and federal advocacy. We kicked off the year with a 15-person trip of our staff and core partners to the nation’s Capitol to meet with partner advocates and lobby our federal delegation on our farm bill priorities. Read our project specialist Jesse’s blog post about our trip to DC and watch our webinar to learn tips, tricks, and takeaways from our staff and partners who attended the DC trip! Since the state legislative session is still hopping, you can keep up with bills we are tracking here. Happy reading! 
In this Newsletter:
Double Up: Support Needed, Feedback Sessions Recap, and Safeway Pilot
Community Food Navigators: Expansion and Pop-Up Event Recap
FMNP: New MarketsCNIP: Evaluation and Recipe Cards
Local Food Program: Y2 Updates and Y3 Applications
LoProCO: Southeast Regional Workshop Recap
Policy: Food Accessibility Bill and Farm Bill Platform Marker Bills
Changemaker Highlight: Sabra Sowell-Lovejoy, Campo School District
Opportunities: Nourish and Partner Careers and USDA Funding

Double Up Food Bucks Needs Your Support!

Due to the pandemic SNAP emergency allotments ending in March and the growing reach and impact of Double Up, healthy food incentives are even more critical and in high demand right now. To ensure we have enough incentives to provide to these families and individuals experiencing food insecurity and hardship and to avoid pausing the program for our valued farmers, markets, and retailers who rely on the extra income for their livelihoods, we are seeking an additional $500K in funding. These funds will cover incentives for 2023 to help us sustain Double Up without interruptions or cancellations–which we have unfortunately already seen happen in other states. For sponsors and funders who would like to support, please email Wendy@NourishColorado.org and view our customizable sponsorship benefits. For individuals who would like to support, please make a donation online. Donations of any amount will make an impact to avoid pausing the program at markets, expand our food access program to areas of the state with high poverty and lack of food resources, and maintain our commitment to Colorado’s growers and local economies. Learn more here or visit DoubleUpColorado.org.

Double Up is always striving to improve the program and integrate community voices. The team hosted four very successful and informative feedback sessions earlier this month in Fort Collins, Denver, Durango, and Pueblo. The turnout in each location was great and the feedback given will go a long way in our efforts to make improvements and better align our work with the needs of our communities. Thanks to everyone who helped to make these events a success! Contact Lonni@NourishColorado.org for more info.

Community Food Navigators

Our Community Food Navigator team is excited to hit the ground running this Spring, supporting our efforts to get the word out about how Double Up can help stretch SNAP budgets. We are expanding our team into Southwest Colorado where we’ll be able to support our partner stores and markets as well as Good Food Collective. We had our first successful corner store pop-up of the season this month at Decatur Fresh Market in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood. We had a great turnout with our partners, team members, Regional Community Food Navigator, Andrea Loudd, community members, and Councilwoman Jamie Torres who came together to celebrate, share resources, and learn more about Double Up and other programs available in their community. We hope you’ll join us for our next neighborhood pop-up. You can find details about all upcoming events on @LetsNourishCO and @DoubleUpCO social media pages. To learn more, please email Caitlin@NourishColorado.org
Safeway Pilot

We are partnering with Safeway this season to pilot Double Up in two stores at 9160 West Colfax in Lakewood and 3900 Wadsworth Blvd in Wheat Ridge from March 22 to April 18. Every SNAP shopper will be able to get a $5 coupon for fresh fruits and vegetables and dried beans with a qualifying EBT purchase of $5 or more. We are excited for this partnership to help us increase the number of Double Up participants and provide greater access to fresh produce. Our goal is to continue our partnership with Safeway in 2024 and bring Double Up to more grocery stores and retailers across the state, especially those in areas of our state with high poverty levels and with a lack of food resources. If you have any questions, please email Daysi@NourishColorado.org.
Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)

FMNP will be expanding this year to include up to five new locations. We are pursuing areas with concentrated WIC populations near farmers markets to maximize opportunities for increased redemption. We are also working closely with CDPHE to modernize the FMNP program and pursue opportunities for a more streamlined process of redeeming vouchers and getting growers paid quickly. All markets from 2022 will be participating again this season, and we are approaching market manager training to prepare for the season. To learn more, email Rakia@NourishColorado.org.
Colorado Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP)

We are proud to be able to support the same network of partners as 2022 in the CNIP program with the same amount of funding. In our partnership with Kaiser Permanente, we are wrapping up our 2022 evaluation to show the incredible impact this program has had on our community. We thank many of our partners for pursuing additional outside funding to further support and expand the 2023 CNIP program. Stay tuned for our full 2022 report on our CNIP webpage this month! To learn more, email Rakia@NourishColorado.org.

The Nourish chef team has been working hard on a project for the CNIP produce boxes that is nearly completed. We were tasked with developing recipes for older adults, and other individuals with limited cooking equipment featuring Colorado produce. We identified 12 produce items that were mentioned as difficult to work with or difficult to work into daily meals. We then created tasty and easy recipes for those Colorado produce items. Some of the recipes include Butternut Squash Black Bean Chili, Lemony Chard Pasta, and Apple Pie French Toast.

The booklet of 12 recipes will be distributed with the produce boxes and available digitally. The chef team decided to take this project a step further and produce videos for every recipe as well. These videos are linked as QR codes on each recipe card and are less than 5 minutes long explaining the recipe step by step so they can be made with easy guidance. Here is a sneak peek of one recipe card for Oven Roasted Smashed Potatoes paired with the recipe video

We are excited to have a solid bank of recipes for individuals to reference throughout the year to celebrate Colorado produce. Look for these recipe cards in produce boxes this season if you are a CNIP participant and on our website!

Local Food Program

We are currently halfway through the second year of the Local Food Program (LFP)! The 20 participating school districts are implementing innovative ideas on their menus using their LFP dollars and purchasing from close to four dozen different producers, food hubs, distributors, and local businesses state-wide! Examples of recipes being created and offered to students using local product include pork green chili sauce (Pueblo 60), tostadas (Swink), breakfast burritos (Greeley-Evans), kale chips (Bayfield), BBQ pork (Gunnison), hamburgers with local beef, beautiful rainbow-colored salad bars, and so much more! Check out this graphic for a comprehensive map of all participating LFP providers, producers, food hubs, distributors, and local businesses!  
Additionally, six school districts were awarded LFP equipment grants to aid in purchasing necessary resources to incorporate local products into meal programs. Please join us in congratulating Swink, Vilas, Bayfield, Calhan, Mancos, and Mapleton School Districts for receiving these grant awards! 
The Healthy Food in Institutions Team has also been diligently working on marketing material development over the last year and a half. Developed by a cohort of the University of Denver students, and refined by us, we now have available a beautiful Local Food Program poster to highlight the program and nine Local Produce Posters with fun facts and simple recipes that can be made at home! Furthermore, our team is currently working on developing half sheeters to complement the Local Produce Posters, in addition to templates that both producers and institutions can customize to promote their products/meals. Stay tuned as these will be available on our institutions webpage in the next couple of months! 

Lastly, the Year 3 Local Food Program application is open and accepting applications for the program’s final year! The (strongly encouraged, but optional) Intent to Apply is due by March 27 by 11:59 pm, and the required application is due by April 7 by 11:59 pm. For districts accepted into LFP Year 3, if planning to participate in Healthy School Meals for All (HSMA) starting this upcoming school year (2023-2024), the Healthy Food in Institutions team can help support LFP providers in getting prepared to participate in the 2024-2025 “beefed up” Local Food Program. This “beefed up” program provides $9 million per year for local procurement to school districts participating in HSMA. While Year 3 of the LFP is still .05 cents per meal based on your prior year’s lunch count, the “beefed up” HSMA LFP program will be at .25 cents per meal (based on prior year’s lunch count) or $5,000whichever is greater! The photo at the top highlights local romaine, bibb, and red leaf lettuce purchased by Swink School District from The Summers House in Timpas, CO. This lettuce was used to make a beautiful salad mix for Swink’s salad bar! 

LoProCO Southeast Regional Workshop

Our LoProCO workshop in Trinidad, CO on February 24 was a great success! We had attendees from several school districts and producers from Southeast Colorado. There were also representatives from area non-profits, older adult meal programs, Headstart programs, students, and other community leaders. We were even lucky enough to have three Local Food Program school districts from the area in Swink, Vilas RE-3, and Pueblo 60 participate. We had more than 70 attendees, all with the goal of making Farm to Institution the norm in Southeast Colorado. One participant voiced, “Thank you for your passion and vision! It was so impactful to be in a room with so many different “players” who are necessary for these systemic changes.”

This was the third workshop in what started out as a three-part series. Thanks to a Regional Food Systems Partnership grant (RFSP), we are continuing our work down in Southeast CO through Fall 2025. These workshops all focus on building culinary skills, procurement and menu planning, farm operations, and building relationships to better understand and access the local foods market. This specific workshop dived into next steps within the region, deepening relationships, and continuing to understand the gaps and opportunities ahead of us. Producers and local partners learned about the nuances involved in institutional procurement, farm food safety, as well as the funding opportunities that are available for them to access along with what is coming up for school districts in Colorado to buy local.  

The students were able to spend some time with Chef Taylor in the kitchen to help him prepare for a Flavors and Cookery Techniques exercise. Together, they put together tasters of carrots that were steamed, pickled, and roasted, as well as potato wedges with different seasoning blends for blind taste testing. The students and the rest of the institutional crew then had a chance to have a large open discussion about vegetable cookery techniques and flavors that can better highlight Colorado produce. The students then went on their own to learn about networking and public speaking to better be prepared to enter the workforce and higher education. The institutional leaders focused on how to make strategic decisions for weaving local foods into their menus and doing this within the procurement regulations. 
For lunch, we had the students practice their public speaking skills and present the dishes that were made. We were lucky enough to showcase Pueblo 60 School District’s famous Green Chili recipe which was delicious. We made “Colorado Poutine” with Potato Wedges, Green Chili, and Cheese, as well as plenty of fresh salad, fruit, and even a fruit cobbler dessert. The potatoes, green chilis, pork, onions, mushrooms, lettuce, and freshly baked bread were all local and procured from Ranch Foods Direct in Colorado Springs.  

After lunch, everyone who attended the workshop got the opportunity to network and meet with all the attendees. There were open discussions to point out the next steps, create relationships, and better understand how to make the vision of Farm to Institution a bigger reality in Southeast Colorado. There was great energy throughout the entire day and this workshop will serve as a great kick-off to our continued work in Southeast CO thanks to the RFSP Grant. Connect with Jessica@NourishColorado.org for more information.

Food Accessibility Bill and Farm Bill Platform Marker Bills

One of the bills introduced in this Colorado Legislative session, the Food Accessibility bill, HB23-1008, is focused on supporting agricultural value chains by assisting with the cost burden of distributing and storing fresh produce for small farmers and small food retailers. This bill, introduced by Representative Mike Weissman and Senator Rhonda Fields, is based on enhancing the Community Food Access Program created last legislative session in HB22-1380, the Critical Services for Low-income Households Act. You can read more about how the bill has provided small retailers and farmers with support through its Community Food Access Consortium (“consortium”) and the Small Business Recovery and Resilience Grant Program in our December Policy Blog, here

If enacted, the Food Accessibility bill would allow members of the Consortium to claim a tax credit of up to 75% of the price of equipment purchased for their small retail store or small farm, or for any other consortium-related activity including pallet break fees, distribution, and delivery fees. This tax credit is intended to encourage small retailers and farmers to purchase equipment needed to make fresh produce more available and affordable to local communities and to help reduce the costs of storage and distribution—especially for rural areas. The bill would also create a few changes for the consortium and grant program to expand the eligibility criteria for small food retailers, increase the grant opportunities available, and organize the administration of the programs.
The tax credits made available from the Food Accessibility bill would incur a net neutral budget by including a funding mechanism within the bill. Revenue would come from a proposed de-coupling of the business meal tax deduction for individuals and corporations, in order to increase state revenue. You can read more about the details of this funding mechanism in our March Policy Blog, here. We look forward to keeping up with how the Food Accessibility bill continues to make its way through the legislative session this year—you can track progress or listen in to hearings, here!  For federal policy, we are mainly focused on the marker bills being introduced to guide Congress in writing the 2023 Farm Bill! You can find our entire list tracking federally introduced bills related to the food system, here. So far, the marker bills that have been introduced related to our farm bill platform include: Strengthening Local Processing Act H.R.945, Rep. Pingree and S.354, Sen. Thune Summary: Reinvests in communities and small-medium livestock processors by 1. taking steps to address processing and infrastructure needs at the local, regional, state, and federal levels, 2. expanding technical assistance to farmers, and 3. increasing potential options for regional and interstate trade for these livestock processors.  Justice for Black Farmers Act S.96, Sen. Booker Summary: Directs the USDA to provide a variety of assistance to address historical discrimination and disparities in the agricultural sector. SNAP Theft Protection Act H.R. 205, Rep. Ruppersberger Summary: Directs the USDA to establish criteria for state agencies to identify SNAP benefits stolen by identity theft or typical skimming practices and provide for the re-issuance of stolen SNAP benefits to households that meet such criteria. The Kids Eat Local Act (from the last Congressional session) has been integrated into USDA’s school nutrition framework, through the proposed rule “Child Nutrition Programs: Revisions to Meal Patterns Consistent with the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 7 CFR Part 210, 215, 220, 225, 226” Summary: Sec. 14 of the proposed rule proposes to expand geographic preference options by allowing locally grown, raised, or caught as procurement specifications for unprocessed or minimally processed food items in the child nutrition programs. 

Sabra Sowell-Lovejoy, Campo and Vilas High SchoolsCampo School District

When Campo School District received a Governor’s RISE grant post-covid, students and staff members wanted to create a project that helps feed their community while implementing growing techniques that utilized less water than traditional farming and gardening in Baca County. Access to quality food is limited and expensive in this geographically isolated small rural community with a largely senior population—many of whom can no longer grow their own food due to physical limitations. To mitigate barriers in their community, students decided to convert an old school bus into a greenhouse and got to work planning, designing, and engineering their idea while learning from other growers. The school bus will house growing boxes and a hydroponic system to grow greens, herbs, and strawberries, as well as raised beds and an indoor Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system that will grow up to 30K heads of lettuce a year. They are building another greenhouse and joining Vilas school, which also has a greenhouse, to diversify plant varieties. The students from both schools will provide food for their schools as well as for their communities by driving the bus around town to sell and donate food. “It will be like an ice cream truck but with fresh produce,” said Sabra Sowell-Lovejoy, a History and English teacher at Campo School District. “We will also work alongside our elders in the cafeteria to freeze, can, and dry the foods as we recognize the importance of generational learning and support the local exchange of labor for recipes and shared preservation techniques,” said Sabra.

The schools will attend the local farmers markets this season and help encourage others to grow and sell produce to their neighbors. Sabra is working on a project to develop a growing system specifically designed for the elderly and for people with physical impairments. “I have a dream that one day anyone who wants to make a living farming will have the ability to regardless of land access or physical ability. I can just see elder care facilities growing their own food, just like in our school, with the residents operating the growing systems,” she said.

The schools are working to teach the youth cooking techniques and helping to expose them to agriculture, recipes, foods, and nutrition that they are not familiar with. “Our work with Nourish has been integral to the success of those programs,” said Sabra. They host annual “Campo Chopped” competitions, and this year students produced the show using almost all locally-produced ingredients and had Nourish Chef Jess as one of the judges.

To support Campo school’s work and vision, Sabra asks us to listen to the needs of the community, support the passions and cultures of both the producers and the consumers, and reach out and share stories of both successes and failures from all corners of the state. “It is tremendously helpful to know that others care about our food system and are working towards a more equitable, sustainable future.” Connect with Sabra at sabra.lovejoy@campok12.org.
Job Opportunities

We are looking for a Farm to Institution Administrative Specialist to join our growing nonprofit on the Healthy Food in Institutions team to provide support in culinary training for schools and other institutions across the state, farm to institution in SE Colorado, and the current and future growth of the state’s Local Food Program! Learn more and apply.

Our job board is full of awesome food systems opportunities our partners—National Young Farmers Coalition, Go Farm, Mountain Roots, the Food Justice Planning Initiative, and more—have open right now!

Please send any jobs you’d like to share on our board to Jesse@NourishColorado.org

Funding Opportunities

USDA is making $133M available in FY 23 through the Local Agriculture Market Program, which includes the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), and Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) Program. Supplemental American Rescue Plan Funding is available through LFPP and RFSP to expand and strengthen opportunities to sell to institutions. USDA AMS encourages applications that serve smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and/or underserved communities. Learn more and apply at www.grants.gov.

Nourish has applied for LFPP and received both FMPP and RFSP. If you have any questions we can address about the application and management process, connect with Wendy@NourishColorado.org
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