These are the most successful marketing strategies used by the Garden Share program at Community Food Share:
· Word of mouth was one of the most successful ways to get volunteers into the Garden Share programs. Volunteers that were already part of Community Food Share’s work were interested in how to get involved in other ways. These committed volunteers spread the word to friends, family, and even coworkers to help increase the visibility of the program in the community.
· The first VISTA created an informational brochure were both available for volunteers and interested community members. The Garden Share program guide is available to interested volunteers that wanted more information and those who signed up for garden or gleaning events.
· The second VISTA worked on a re-designed Garden Share info leaflet (original brochure) and Grow a Row flyer for 2018. The Grow a Row flyer was distributed throughout the warehouse and in various community centers across the food bank’s service counties. The new leaflet is currently being rolled out with other materials from Community Food Share’s 2018 rebrand. The info leaflet will be used at tabling events and other outreach opportunities during the entire calendar year. It is designed to be a brochure insert or stand on its own.
· Reaching out to local newspapers was a great way to get short press releases and even full stories published to the public. This article ran in two different local newspapers. Within days of it being published, the VISTA was contacted by a property owner wanting to donate private land for the Earth’s Table gardens. The second VISTA reached out to a local radio station for underwriting space – this is something that will roll out in the 2019 season.
· The first and second VISTAs both tabled at local farmers markets. The second VISTA expanded market presence from one to three different markets throughout the food bank’s service area. These were a great opportunity for volunteer ambassadors and the VISTA to reach out to the community, telling people about the food bank and Garden Share program. Other events, such as volunteer fairs at the University of Colorado, community events, and monthly group meetings, were attended to maximize public engagement.
· The Community Food Share website also hosts a page with information on the Garden Share programs. This webpage gives information on how to get involved, how to donate from your garden, and how a large agricultural producer can become a donor.
· The second year VISTA spent a great deal of time working on the branding of the Garden Share program to ensure its salience for many years to come. She created a marketing plan for the third year VISTA to follow and edit for future years. Additionally, she created a Garden Share Program Guide (different than the first VISTA’s guide) to be utilized internally for all staff moving forward. This is a quick run-down of the program, giving background and providing statistics comparing the fiscal years and growing seasons of the first two AmeriCorps VISTAs.
Community Food Share (CFS) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit food bank serving Colorado’s Boulder and Broomfield Counties. In operation since 1981, it is a long-standing hunger relief agency operating as part of the Feeding America network. Last year Community Food Share distributed 10.4 million pounds of healthy, nutritious food to food-insecure individuals and families through 42 partner agencies and pantries, as well as three direct distribution programs. As part of its organizational mission, Community Food Share strives to provide fresh, high-quality food – ensuring that 35% of food product is produce and 40% is high protein items such as milk, eggs, and frozen meat.
In 2016, Community Food Share began the three-year VISTA assignment with Harvest Against Hunger in order to further build out its Garden Share program. Garden Share encompasses several growing and harvesting programs that bring fresh, local produce into the food bank. During the 2017 season, the VISTA brought in 17,300 more pounds than the previous season without the VISTA. Through the Garden Share program, there are three major ways that Community Food Share interacts with the community to secure fresh produce: maintaining relationships with farmers for Farm to Food Bank, utilizing volunteers for the Gleaning Program, and reaching out to backyard and community gardeners through Community Garden Donations. Each of these active networks expands the conversation around food security in Boulder and Broomfield Counties and encourages the community to engage with fresh, local fruits and vegetables.
The Community Garden Donations portion of Garden Share is a collaboration with Earth’s Table, a nonprofit community of gardeners who maintain several garden sites throughout Boulder County. Earth’s Table grows everything from seed to harvest for donation to Community Food Share and a few of its partner agencies. Additionally, Community Garden Donations also encourages home and community gardeners to share their bounty from backyard and community gardens. The second VISTA launched an official Grow a Row campaign throughout the food bank’s service areas to highlight particular ways gardeners could help including particular types of produce to grow, and how to volunteer. The Farm to Food Bank program works with local, regional and state farmers to bring in fresh produce, meat, and dairy items to the food bank. Many of these farmers work with a culled produce recovery program, donating excess product already harvested from their fields. Various local Boulder County farmers have participated in the Monday Produce Pick-Up program, started by the first VISTA, to collect excess produce from farms after farmers market weekends. The second VISTA continued this program and also continued picking up from a local farmer’s market throughout the season. The Gleaning Program works with various farms and landowners to procure the leftovers from a first harvest. Over the past two VISTA terms, farms have contacted Community Food Share and the VISTA communicates with them throughout the season to confirm gleanings. The second VISTA also worked with many local fruit tree owners in gleaning apples, plums, and pears.