December 2020 Newsletter
Welcome to our second newsletter edition!
An Interview with Adam Danforth of Rogue Food Unites
We discuss the work of this impressive effort, which has supported folks affected by fires in Oregon by providing free meals since the disasters struck.
Adam, thanks for taking this time to give Emerging Futures more insight into Rogue Food Unites’ work. Who is Rogue Food Unites? What restaurants, farms, and other organizations are involved?
Rogue Food Unites is a collaboration between a lot of people at this point. It was initiated by me, Jamie North who owns Mix & ReMix, and Amber Ferguson who works with Sammich and Casa Bruno wine. At this point, Rogue Food Unites consumes most of the time in our lives right now. Beyond that, we have hotel liaisons, client/evacuee outreach people, and other coordinators who collaborate in that effort. At this point, there are 10-15 people who are regularly involved in supporting the operation. We’re involved with over 100 different food businesses. When the fire initially happened, many of the food businesses in Talent, Phoenix, and Medford were all inaccessible, so it started with Ashland businesses but has expanded as restaurants in those other towns got back online. So it’s a good representation of the whole Rogue Valley.
We’re also the state-contracted agency for four other counties: Deschutes, Douglas, Klamath, Josephine, along with Jackson. We’re the official agency for all evacuee feeding for all 5 of those counties at this point. We work with restaurants in Klamath, Bend, Redmond, Roseburg, Grants Pass, and places like that. We not only meet the needs of people suffering through emergencies but at the same time are saving restaurants that are suffering. When we can, we source from farms. We’re taking this Winter season to further develop that piece of the program.
What would you say is the biggest success since the organization came together?
Mitigating a humanitarian disaster that would have occurred if there hadn’t been the immediate response of not only Rogue Food Unites, but of the other mutual aid organizations that are here. None of the work we do is alone. We work in communication and coordination with many other agencies, i.e. at the state level with the department of human services.
Let’s take Jackson County, which is the most impacted in the state from wildfires this last year: looking at the communities which were impacted, you have a lot of diversity. A lot of the LatinX community has been direly impacted, as well as other communities that were previously housing and food insecure. These are really our most vulnerable communities. There was a huge risk of general collapse, and a lot of people rushed in. A lot of organizations who were working with these communities prior to us were there, too, and I feel grateful to have been part of this process in creating some sense of stability for these people. When we look at Oregon overall, 90% of evacuees were already on SNAP benefits, so they were almost all suffering from food insecurity prior to everything.
The food component is enormous. I think that meeting people’s needs with good food that is made locally, is culturally appropriate and supports people and their businesses/places of employment give people a sense of stability and hope. There’s so much disorientation in the world right now. Not everyone we feed has lost their home. Everybody who is fire-affected is eligible for a meal. You could just be emotionally distraught that day because you had to drive by the destruction, and getting a hot meal works to support you. Those people deserve it just as much as people who have lost everything. In a year like this year with so much going on, everybody deserves the support of a hot meal now and then. It’s one of the only things that are consistent for folks. There are housing scares, employment scares, health scares – but, every day we show up at the same time in the same places with hot meals, and people can rely on that. There’s enormous responsibility there.
What about the biggest challenge?
Well, for one, ignorance. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing: none of us are disaster relief specialists. We’re in an emergency and are suffering, too. At the same time, we recognize that other people are suffering more than we are, so we ask how we can alleviate our own suffering by helping other people who face worse impacts.
I saw a restaurant industry facing collapse along with this other emergency, so connecting the two was really the main goal. The obstacle here is that neither of them is stable. You have people who are going through all kinds of intersections of trauma. It’s not just fire’s impact: health trauma, abuse issues, employment issues, fear of government, immigration issues. There is so much going on with the communities that were impacted, and on top of that, we’re trying to create a reliable system for feeding them where we’re plugging in an inherently unstable industry. Even in a good year, the restaurant industry isn’t the most reliable industry. This year, it’s worse than ever. Businesses are on the brink, so we’re trying to create stability for them as well. So we’re in the middle of that trying to be a conduit between the two sides while at the same time trying to be a relief for both of them. The management in the middle of it: addressing the needs of an emergency while building an organization that was legit enough to go after state contracts while also trying to balance the needs of both sides of the equation has certainly been the main obstacle.
Fortunately, largely everyone we’ve worked with has been overwhelmingly wonderful to collaborate with. At this point, the systems are pretty stable and reliable, but there’s still so much uncertainly on both sides. The climate of all business and life right now has unbelievable uncertainty around it. We people who are not suffering as much can draw strength from the work that we’re doing and try to create some stability for people, which is our main goal. Restaurants are the most effective circulators of revenue, so that’s where we’re investing into. They are the backbone of many economies, especially tourism-based ones like we have here.
What does the future of Rogue Food Unites look like?
You know, I don’t know. We’ve been around for less than three months and an amazing amount has happened in that time. What I’d like to see is continued support feeding who we can, especially here in Jackson County where the long-term situation is uncertain for a lot of people so the feeding need will be there for a long time. Also, there are opportunities to continue to support many of these people as they go into temporary housing where they’ll need more than just hot meals. So we’ll explore that stuff as well, whether it’s fresh food boxes, ingredient boxes, culturally-appropriate ingredients in other ways, and sourcing those from producers who are invested into our local foodshed or good practices of land and water stewardship (which is paramount to the work I normally do outside of Rogue Food Unites).
That’s going to take us directly into next fire season, so how we’re preparing for next fire season is also a conversation to be had – looking at the historical trends of where wildfires happen, where evacuees go from there, and what are the networks that can support them. It’s helpful to have a foot in the door when it comes to understanding and having relationships with government funding sources. I’m hopeful we can help incubate local restaurant networks in other cities in Oregon in order to prepare for next year. That’s really my goal. If we had a prepared network along I-5, along the coast, and in other places all educated on what they’d need to do in order to respond, then hopefully we would be there to provide them with the necessary funding and organizational support.
How can people contribute to your work? What are your greatest needs, going forward?
Donations are always welcome. We’re a nonprofit, so it’s super helpful. The money we’re raising right now continues to extend the amount of time that we can feed people. We’re regularly cultivating a pool of volunteers for various needs, whether it be holiday delivery drivers, meal handout people at hotels or other locations, or helping with other organizational stuff.
Right now we’re creating shelf-stable food boxes for the Phoenix-Talent school system, and we’ll be providing those this month to families who were impacted by the fire. Donations for that came through the Siskiyou School. They gave donations to us, and we’re bulking them up along with donations that came to us from ACCESS. With the disproportionate impact on the LatinX community, in order to create the proper trust and do effective outreach and support, it behooves us to work with organizations that are embedded with that community and have already been there for a long time. Northwest Seasonal Workers, Unete, Southern Oregon Equity, Rogue Action Center, all of these organizations are already present.
We realized we don’t need to step in there as another organizational entity: it works for us to stay behind the scenes and get food to people through pathways that are already present. Especially with communities for whom privacy and anonymity is synonymous with survival, we respect that it’s appropriate for us to reach people through pathways that they trust. This is an example of that community collaboration. It’s one of the greatest things to come out of this not only in Jackson County but across the state: the sense that we’re all quite knitted together in an effort to help people everywhere. I’m on a task force for feeding & sheltering, and we all feel like people are really invested in this and are motivated by the same positive ethos.
The Food Waste Challenge
Challenged by Food Waste?
When you buy 5 bags of groceries, do you leave 2 in the store? No! of course not! Then, you will be surprised to know that 1/3 of the food produced in the US gets thrown away.
Emerging Futures Network is proud to offer the Food Waste Challenge to share why food waste is an important issue, ways to prevent it, and offer simple strategies that can be implemented at home.
What can you do to reduce your food waste!?
Find out in the Food Waste Challenge.
The Food Waste Challenge is a self-paced, email-based way to learn about how to identify, track, and develop strategies to reduce the food that would otherwise be thrown away. It is fun and easy!
Each weekly email offers, helpful articles, informative videos, and tips from previous Food Waste Challenge participants.
Join Emerging Futures Network and Southern Oregon Food Solutions to learn more about how you can reduce your food waste!
Commercial Food Waste Reduction
Commercial Programs Launching 2021
Emerging Futures will host a Professional Food Services Waste Prevention Workshop on Tuesday, February 25, 2021, from 9 AM to Noon in a virtual gathering. It will be the first of two in the series, looking at how the avoidance of food waste in your establishment can positively influence your bottom line. From avoiding tipping fees to designing food waste and spoilage out of your menu, this series is designed by and for food professionals.
Who Should Attend: Restaurant Owners, Managers, Executive Chefs, Caterers, Food and Beverage Directors, and Staff – anyone working in commercial food service, culinary supervision, and hospitality.
In 2021 Emerging Futures will also be offering FREE* 1:1 Consultations for businesses of all types to conduct surveys about their processes and find opportunities to save money and reduce their environmental footprint.
To learn more, sign up for updates and to register, click here.
*Consultations are complementary to the first eight Food Service Businesses and workshop participants will be offered priority.
Funding for the Pilot is provided by Oregon DEQ and City of Ashland grants and donations from The Emerging Futures Network.
Community Meeting #3
Give Back This Holiday Season
Support the community by donating to the ongoing effort to feed the victims of the disastrous fires which occurred across the state of Oregon this year.
Here’s another alternative gift idea: help draw a full ton of carbon from the atmosphere by donating to the carbon farming projects at Solidarity Farm in Pauma, CA.
Additional Resources, Needs, and Opportunities
1. Climate Change is here. Climate Change is affecting our community. You can still act!
Become a Master Climate Protector through SOCAN»
2. Help us sign up local restaurants for our workshop.
Volunteer with Emerging Futures »
3. Lead your family/friends in a Food Waste Challenge
See the program here & contact us for assistance »
4. Volunteer with Rogue Food Unites
Sign up here »
The Emerging Futures team
The purpose of Emerging Futures Network is to engage and educate community members to implement regenerative principles and practices at the local level through solution-oriented projects.