Ian Chamberlain has been hired as coordinator for the Durango Regional Food Recovery Hub. He will aim to build stronger networks with growers and nonprofit groups to bring surplus fruits and vegetables to people in need and to avoid bear-human conflicts during harvest season.
“We want to look at more creative ways we can get food to food-insecure individuals,” he said.
Chamberlain mentioned increasing collaborative efforts with Manna soup kitchen and Durango School District 9-R and its Farm to School program to provide both groups with more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Durango schools have a Backpack program that allows students to load up on food for the weekends, and Chamberlain mentioned working with the school district to introduce more fresh fruits and vegetables into the Backpack program to go along with its existing staple of canned and processed foods.
Chamberlain grew up in Durango and worked at several farms after attending Western State University, including Sunnyside Farms from 2004 to 2015.
The Durango Regional Food Recovery Hub, he said, plans to hold several town hall meetings in March to form a stakeholders committee to assist in forming better partnerships with regional nonprofits, growers, orchard owners and even individual Durangoans with fruit trees in their yards.
“As the name implies, we’ll be the hub to work with all these groups to ensure the process works as smoothly as possible,” he said.
The Durango Regional Food Recovery Hub was launched thanks to a three-year, $355,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Local Food Promotion Program of the Agricultural Marketing Service.
The grant paid for Chamberlain’s coordinator position as well as equipment rental and space in Durango High School’s receiving center.
The three-year grant will focus on supplying more produce to low-income residents, opening up new food-focused business opportunities and reducing conflicts with bears.
The hub plans to start in Durango and La Plata County, before expanding into Montezuma County.