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Seven Valleys Health, City of Cortland Secure $200K Grant To Fight Hunger & Food Waste

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After months of grant writing and several years of preparation, Seven Valleys Health Coalition and the City of Cortland said yesterday they were successful locking down a 36-month grant totaling nearly $200,000 to address hunger and food waste in our community.

The Cortland Common Council directed Seven Valleys to write and submit this grant proposal to the DEC back in February 2019, but the project itself is the work of several years of discussions by Cortland Food Project’s Hunger Coalition committee and several other entities.

Just under $200,000 will arrive through the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Municipal Food Scraps Reduction, Food Donation and Food Scraps Recycling program. An additional $50,000 comes from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York to meet the state’s cash match requirement.

The three year NYSDEC grant will run until June 2022. The funds are expected to go towards a public education campaign and a food recovery & rescue program, both of which could start as early as this month.

“We have a kick-off project in the works ready” said SVHC Assistant Director Susan Williams. “Because of his familiarity with our food systems work, Jeff Hall of Hall’s Hill U-Pick Blueberry Farm in Virgil contacted our current USDA Project Coordinator, Gabrielle DiDomenico this spring to discuss setting up a gleaning project. Hall estimates approximately 20,000 pounds of blueberries go unpicked after his close date every year, and would like some help in harvesting those blueberries for donation to local food pantries.”

SVHC will lead the operations of the program and report to the grant Project Director, Bruce Adams, who is the Superintendent of the City’s Wastewater Treatment Department. They’re already working with the Cortland Food Project’s Hunger Coalition committee to get things going by mid-August and will soon be fielding volunteers.

“CNY Food Bank has already agreed to have refrigerated trucks on site and our staff has been busy working on creating a distribution plan and collaborating with the Cortland County Soil and Water Conservation District on their gleaning experiences so far this summer,” Williams said.

According to Williams, the grant work plan has two major umbrella components:

1) Develop and implement a public education campaign to increase awareness of methods to reduce the
volume of food scraps entering the municipal waste stream, such as food donations and composting at both
individual and corporate level.

2) Design and implement a comprehensive food recovery/rescue program for Cortland to reduce the volume of
wholesome, edible food entering the municipal waste stream, diverting it to people experiencing food
insecurity, especially older adults and families with young children.

Williams says there are well-established models in place they plan to emulate. Her agency has already been in contact with Friendship Donations Network in Ithaca to learn more about how they structure their volunteer system and will be collaborating further with Soil and Water to ensure their efforts and expertise are incorporated into the project.

Anyone interested in more information on this or future projects for the grant can contact Gabrielle DiDomenico at (607) 756-4198 or Gabrielle@sevenvalleyshealth.org.

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