Story From the Union Bulletin, September 28, 2018

A federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture could pave the way for a new “food hub” in the area.

Blue Mountain Action Council has been awarded $133,566 as part of the USDA’s Local Food Promotion Program Grant.

The funds will take the nonprofit and its partners through an 18-month study, exploring the creation of a joint operation that combines the food bank with agricultural partners distributing fresh produce and other possible uses.

The grant period begins Monday.

BMAC Food Bank Director Jeff Mathias said the goal is to bring together the common value shared between his agency and that of farm-to-food providers serving the region, “getting more local fresh produce in the arms of the community.”

Ultimately the goal of the program grant is to obtain a warehouse, cooler, processing equipment and freezer space so more agricultural products are available for consumption, especially through institutions and retailers.

“Cultivating a stronger local food economy is expected to create jobs, invigorate small farms and businesses, and keep dollars circulating in our regional community,” the announcement explained.

The Food Bank, Mathias said, is at capacity for equipment. It’s happened at the same time the operation considers how to expand partnerships with fresh food producers.

BMAC is the lead agency for the Walla Walla Food Systems Coalition, a partnership of producers, consumers, distributors and supporters in Walla Walla, Columbia and Umatilla counties.

According to the announcement, 10 regional organizations have committed to supporting the study and helped fulfill the 25 percent match requirement.

Those are: Arrowleaf Consulting, Downtown Walla Walla Foundation, Walla Walla’s Harvest Foods, Port of Columbia, Sustainable Living Center, Walla Walla County Conservation District, Walla Walla Grown, Walla Walla Valley Farm to School, Walla Walla Valley Food Coalition and the WSDA Regional Markets Program.

Arrowleaf will lead the study process. Mathias said partners will likely meet next week to begin to map out how to move forward.

Community input will be vital to that process, he said.

“That’s the way this thing is going to get shaped,” he emphasized.

Participants will need to find the best location to serve the public needs, which isn’t necessarily Walla Walla.

Another crucial component will be finding operations that can serve the profit center.

“An issue for a food hub getting off the ground is making sure it’s financially stable,” he said.

Ideas to explore could be some kind of processing. The space could also provide training for culinary skills or even exploring how to participate in waste reduction or composting.

The grant period runs through March 2020.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8

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  •  September 25th, 2018

Contrary to commonly held belief, small groups and individuals can make a difference. Residents in the Blue Ridge neighborhood are a good example.

They advocated for a paving project, the results of which they found cause to celebrate.

Seventeen of the residents met 14 months ago for a front yard potluck on Lowden Street. City Manager Nabiel Shawa and City Councilmember Steve Moss joined the group to talk about the neighborhood’s needs, said J. Andrew Rodriguez, director of Commitment to Community with Blue Mountain Action Council, in a release.

High among their concerns was a nearby dirt road rife with potholes along the railroad tracks. Children walking to and from Blue Ridge Elementary School travel that route. Residents stressed the children were forced to slog through mud and water on that road in rainy weather.

A public transportation van also contended with the potholes, Andrew said.

Residents attended a City Council meeting to request assistance with neighborhood needs.  

After completion of the paving project, the neighbors gathered on Sept. 8 to celebrate completion of the paving project that resulted from their advocacy.

At the celebration neighborhood leaders, Javier Garcia and Selma Castillo addressed guests during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Both thanked neighborhood residents and project partners.

The Sherwood Trust and city of Walla Walla collaborated with C2C to make the project a reality.  

Approximately 50 residents from all three neighborhoods where C2C works attended the celebration. Also attending were Nabiel, Councilmember Riley Clubb, city representatives from the fire, police and parks and recreation departments and representation from Walla Walla Public Schools.

C2C builds grassroots leadership in neighborhoods and develops the capacity in people to reach their goals and dreams, Andrew said.

A recent management and occupancy review of Blue Mountain Senior Housing by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office resulted in a superior rating. 

The inspection, which took place in mid-June reviewed the safety, cleanliness, and maintenance of this BMAC housing until. In a letter from the West Regional Director, it states" Your dedication to maintaining decent, safe and sanitary housing is evident in the Superior rating the project has received. We value your role in furthering the Department's goal to preserve affordable housing."

Affordable, safe housing is a pillar at BMAC. We appreciate all our team members for contributing to this success!

Everyone, at any age, can help better their community!

Last week, nearly thirty community members, including neighborhood leaders and city officials gathered in Washington Park to tackle a neighborhood alley clean up, organized by our Commitment To Community team.

The group worked hard, filling 3 dumpsters provided by the City of Walla Walla. Their commitment paid off and resulted in a cleaned and beautified alley!

The joint effort generated substantial neighborhood pride and deepened social capital within the members of the work party.





Washington Park Residents Celebrate a Neighborhood Success!

 Residents of three neighborhoods served by Commitment to Community (C2C) and members of the greater community gathered for a potluck in the Washington Park area on Sunday, July 22nd. The gathering marked the celebration of the success of a Washington Park group of residents that advocated for the installation of a much-needed stop sign at the intersection of 7th and Paine. The stop sign, wanted by neighbors for several years, became a reality after C2C Organizer Delia Gutierrez facilitated a neighborhood meeting between City engineer Doug Eaton and residents. Mr. Eaton came to the neighborhood to listen to the concerns of the residents and discuss traffic control issues. The collaborative effort resulted not only in a stop sign, but in the creation of relationships between neighborhood residents, and the City. The group was led by Washington Park resident Marta Venegas.

Es importante que nos juntemos para celebrar nuestros exitos” (It’s important that we come together to celebrate our successes) Ms. Venegas said. “Nosotros tenemos el poder para mejorar nuestros vecindarios y nuestra comunidad” (We have the power to improve our neighborhoods and our community). 

Approximately 41 residents of the three neighborhoods attended the potluck. Representatives of the Walla Walla Police Department, Parks Department, Walla Walla Community College and the Sherwood Trust also attended. The event was also an occasion for a reunion for several members of Congregation Beth Israel who last year worked together with residents on a Washington Park alley cleanup project. 

Commitment to Community’s work is focused on building the capacity of neighborhoods to thrive by developing the capacity in people to reach their goals and dreams. C2C strives to strengthen social capital in neighborhoods while developing engagement opportunities for and with the greater community. C2C currently works in the Edith & Carrie, Blue Ridge, and Washington Park neighborhoods.


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