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Urban Food Connections of Utah Brings Local Fare to our City and our Plates

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Welcome to SLCgreen Connections, an occasional series highlighting SLCgreen’s fantastic local partners—the people and organizations with whom we work closely to make Salt Lake City a greener, more vibrant, and sustainable city!

 

by Ardyn Ford, SLCgreen intern and Sophia Nicholas

Salt Lake’s historic Rio Grande Depot houses the Winter Market, an event that brings the city to life every Saturday from November to April. If you haven’t been yet, make a beeline there this week! The market is open through April 21.

Once there, you’ll find tables lined with colorful, fresh produce filling the large hall, while locals bustle around, creating a vivacious energy that stands out against the backdrop of gray days.

The Winter Market was created five years ago by the Downtown Alliance and the work of several rockstar organizers in Salt Lake City, including Kim Angeli and Alison Einerson. The concept was part of a broader goal to create a year-round public market in Salt Lake akin to Seattle’s Pike’s Place.

Alison Einerson is the director of the 501(c)3 non-profit Urban Food Connections of Utah (UFCU), which took over running the markets and grew out of this partnership with the Downtown Alliance.

UFCU Team

Alison Einerson, Carson Chambers, and Christianna Johnson of Urban Food Connections of Utah.

 

UFCU’s mission is to educate the community about local food, regional food producers and Utah’s proud agricultural heritage. Through a series of programs, workshops, and events, they help communities incorporate more local and whole foods into their daily menus, support regional farmers and food producers by assisting with direct marketing and sales opportunities and provide educational resources to farmers and food producers.

While the group is only officially a few years old, its work and its impact go back decades.

And boy what progress has been made!

Farmers’ Markets

UFCU and the Downtown Alliance have led the creation and operation of the Saturday Downtown Farmers Markets for over a quarter century! The market returns for its 27th year on June 8, 2018. 

In 2010, they also added the Tuesday Harvest Market during peak produce season.

Coordinating these markets requires significant planning and outreach, especially because a lot of emphasis is placed on helping new entrepreneurs and small growers get started.

Small growers are the future of food,” said Einerson. “Markets are the community gathering space where people who share common values can come together in support of local food and local growers.

Purchasing food from farmers markets boosts the local economy, strengthens the community and reduces carbon emissions by decreasing food’s transportation costs and emissions.

The markets themselves also aim to help the environment. Last summer UFCU moved away from plastic bags and plastic bottles at markets as part of a movement towards zero-waste. Big kudos!

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Running the markets is UFCU’s bread and butter.

But they also have several other programs that round out their mission of increasing awareness about and access to local foods, fostering an involved community, and supporting sustainable local growers and vendors

Partnerships with SLCgreen

SLCgreen has been proud to work with Urban Food Connections of Utah on our Food Policy Task Force. Carson Chambers, Market Manager for UFCU, currently sits on this committee, which is charged with identifying policies and programs to increase access to healthy, affordable, local food for all members of the Salt Lake City community (stay tuned for a separate post on the Task Force coming soon).

We’re also delighted to partner with UFCU on the Local Food Microgrant Fund, through which the City allocated $85,000 in grant funding to help local farmers make improvements to their operations with sustainability in mind.  UFCU is the administrator and community liaison for the program and is working with SLCgreen to fundraise to make this a permanent offering.

The program provides grants of up to $5,000 for local farmers who want to invest in sustainable farming technologies, purchase organic seeds, and participate in education initiatives.

There’s certainly a demand for this kind of support. In 2017, the program was competitive with 48 applicants requesting a total of $329,076 over the course of two grant cycles with $29,488 distributed.

 

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Eat Local Week

Another hallmark project of UFCU is Eat Local Week.  This special event began ten years ago by a couple in Salt Lake as a challenge for themselves and their friends to eat locally more often. With the support of organizations like UFCU, it has become a state-wide event that has amplified an appreciation for local food, bringing in participants from St. George to Logan.

Double Up Food Bucks

Double Up Food Bucks is an initiative that was developed in partnership with Utahns Against Hunger in order to provide families who receive food stamps with access to the fresh food found at local farmers’ markets. Through this program, the benefits provided by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are matched up to $10 a day so that recipients can purchase more produce from the markets.

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The partnership of UFCU with other local organizations as a method to achieve their goals exemplifies their focus on the power of community to inspire positive change. Their markets have become a vibrant staple of downtown Salt Lake and continue to bring new people together each week in the name of local food.

We’re so glad they’re here!

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