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Nonprofit Supporting Small, BIPOC Farmers Also Providing Needed Food For Families

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- This week's Jefferson Award winner is helping support small farmers of color and feed an increasing number of people facing food insecurity during the pandemic.

Folks pack bags of organic produce at the nonprofit Urban Tilth, each containing fruits and veggies much like those given to hundreds of Richmond families who can't access or afford fresh food.

"They're scraping by just to meet the crazy rents here," said Executive Director Doria Robinson.

The free food program nearly shut down when a grant ran out two years ago,

"Kat Taylor and the Growing the Table movement, initiative, got into contact with us and basically saved the program," Robinson said.

Kat Taylor started Growing the Table in the summer of 2020. It's reached out to small, struggling farmers throughout California who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, women, and LGBTQ+, especially those practicing organic or regenerative agriculture.

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Funded mainly by private donations and grants, Growing the Table has paid out more than $2 million to more than 400 small farmers for harvests that would otherwise go to waste.

So far, the project has given away more than 66,000 boxes, or 860,000 pounds, of fresh produce through a network of nonprofits so more people could get food outside of traditional food banks.

"They worked the magic to get beautiful, delicious, nutritious produce boxes to communities most in need," said Taylor.

When Blong Xiong was executive director of the Asian Business Institute and Resource Center, he worked with small Southeast Asian farmers in the Central Valley who got stuck with food they could not sell when hotels and restaurants canceled orders at the start of the pandemic.

"To lose one cycle of crop, it literally meant losing your business." Xiong said.

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Growing the Table saved many farmers.

"Just grateful and thankful for incredible work and passion of individuals like Kat that's willing to think outside of the box," said Xiong, who's now state executive director at the USDA Farm Service Agency.

Growing the Table's model has also helped feed displaced residents and first responders when catastrophes like the CZU Lightning Complex Fires disrupted the food chain in remote areas.

Those who know Taylor call her a champion of change.

"I can't imagine not doing it. It's part of being fully on the game board, if you will, like, why are we here, if not to make a more perfect world for everybody?" Taylor said.

So for Growing the Table to shift the food supply chain to support racial, gender and environmental justice, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Kat Taylor.

Note: Growing the Table is expected to sunset this summer, but Taylor says it will have built a foundation of strong networks for the future. Growing the Table is an initiative of the Office of Kat Taylor policy organization and the TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation a nonprofit named for her and her partner, businessman Tom Steyer. They also founded Beneficial State Bank, which serves low-income people and people of color.

 

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