In the middle of a global pandemic, food is more important than ever. The Buy Fresh Buy Local Program is a nationwide effort that works to connect local farmers and food with local people who need it. The importance of this is unprecedented, as anyone who’s visited a grocery store in recent weeks will know.
“It’s an incredible time for local food right now,” said Matt Coyle, Buy Fresh Buy Local coordinator for the Piedmont Environmental Council. “I think the most important thing is to establish these local food systems for times like these. With all the craziness and sadness surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, I think one good thing is that it shifted a focus to local food systems and farmers. It’s been really good for them.”
Coyle also thinks it’s good to see the narrative focus on local food, with consumers starting to eat from local farmers again. The Piedmont Environmental Council runs three of seven chapters throughout the Virginia area. Each chapter makes print and online guides to help form connections among farmers, food and residents. Many are moving to internet-based orders to offset losses from restaurants, schools and universities. The Piedmont environmental Council is working with local farmers and farmers markets, as well as with regional distributors, to make sure food grown in the Piedmont area can meet the demand.
John McCarthy, senior adviser for the Piedmont Environmental Council, said that, due to the coronavirus onset, things have changed a fair amount.“ Farmers markets are restricted as to how they operate and a lot of places producers direct-sold are closed,” he said. “Producers are looking for other ways to help connect to consumers.”
One way the council is looking to make that connection is through setting up places for delivery of farm-grown produce for pickup, typically in places where there aren’t farmers markets.
Over the past 18 years, the Buy Fresh Buy Local program has established more than 100 regional and local chapters around the U.S. More information on the Buy Fresh Buy Local program is available at farmersmarketcoalition.org.