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Farmers wanted for foodbank survey

Farmers wanted for foodbank survey

The survey results will help expand commodity markets available to farmers

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Illinois farmers are asked to participate in a survey where the results could help them and their communities.

The Farm to Foodbank Survey is a collaborative effort between the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois, Feeding Illinois, the Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Specialty Growers Association.

The survey asks multiple questions like the kind of farm a producer has, sales channels he or she uses to support their operation and what a farmer does with products unsuitable for the primary market.

The end goal of the survey and work related to it is to change how Illinois farmers connect with local food banks, said Shantanu Pai, an assistant researcher at the University of Illinois.

“The survey is part of what we’re thinking is a long process of getting Illinois a program where farms can participate directly with food banks,” he told “We’re trying to identify the quantity, the quality and the capacity at these farms whether there’s surplus or interest of diverting some products to food banks.”

Currently, Illinois farmers interested in working with local food banks must go through multiple channels.

Pai and reps from the other organizations are hoping to develop a program to streamline these connections.

“Right now, some of the connections are being made outside of the community,” he said. “Farmers are having conversations at a national level that then go back to their food bank. There’s real value in connecting the grower directly with the food banks and pantries in their communities.”

The value comes in different forms.

“It creates an alternative or secondary market for farmers, it allows food banks to serve fresh produce, which is often lacking, and it allows for efficient movement,” Pai said. “You’re not spending two days trucking this food thousands of miles.”

The survey will be available until Pai receives enough responses.

After that’s been achieved, he hopes to be able to have focus group discussions with farmers and food bank representatives to determine the true appetite for a program allowing farmers to connect with food banks directly.

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