Program areas at FoodChain
Many of Foodchain's neighbors rely on dollar stores and convenience marts for their weekly shopping, with limited funds and transportation available to get to higher quality stores with a greater abundance of nutritious whole ingredients. Furthermore, with the reliance on snap dollars and other federal food benefit programs, the community has become increasingly dependent on highly-processed, shelf-stable "junk" food for their daily meals, resulting in generational diet-related illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and more. While this hunger-obesity paradox is in part a result of limited food access, it has been exacerbated by a decline in food literacy, where families no longer have the knowledge, equipment, and familiarity to prepare meals from fresh ingredients. Foodchain aims to address this deficiency by offering educational programs to teach cooking skills, exposing families to a wider array of cuisines and flavor profiles, inspiring more adventurous eating and kitchen confidence. With this mindset, we launched nourish lexington at the start of the pandemic to provide scratch-made nutritious meals for free to food insecure individuals in our community, along with educational materials, all while investing resources into our local food economy through the prioritization of locally farmed ingredients, made by and distributed by area professionals aand businesses. Overtime, this food access and fluency program will cultivate more self-sufficient households, as food independence leads to greater welfare and economic sustainability of a community.
While one answer to the limited access of our fresh food is to increase its availability through retail, Foodchain believes it is even more empowering to start at food production. Therefore, we operate our indoor, state-of-the-art aquaponics system, growing fish and greens year-round in a recirculating system that reduces waste and conserves resources, while also generating thousands of pounds of food that can be used for revenue generation and nutritional access. By running our farm as a demonstration facility, hosting tours and workshops for thousands, we work to get individuals more involved in growing wholesome food, understanding where food comes from, and how these techniques could be replicated elsewhere to increase agriculturl productivity while subsequently making fresh food available all year-round for all.
In many urban communities like our own, there are both high rates of unemployment and unfilled jobs in the local food economy. Therefore, Foodchain aims to bridge these gaps by informing residents about job prospects, training them with the necessary knowledge for working in kitchens and food facilities, and even encouraging them to embark on enterprises of their own, by growing or founding food businesses to fill the voids in the marketplace. To do this most effectively, we've solidified dozens of partnerships with other entities, ranging from social service providers who help refer clients to our services and identify needs, all the way to celebrated chefs and elected officials who understand the need for more confident, prepared, and enabled workforce. Because of these rich partnerships, we were well-prepared at the onset of covid-19 in 2020 to pivot our operations to link together these same resources in a way to best ensure food insecure communities had access to freshly-made, wholesome meals.