Hyperlocal Produce: Grassroots Growers Alliance brings fresh produce to food insecure communities
In 2019, Tania Herbert founded the Grassroots Growers Alliance (GGA) as an extension of her successful urban farming program with The Paideia School.
Since then, this non-profit has expanded into community partnerships that includes Purpose Built Schools Atlanta and the Women’s Transitional Center, which are producing more than 5,000 pounds of food each year.
The organization’s mission is to distribute that “hyperlocal produce” into food insecure communities across the city, Herbert said.
This unlikely alliance between a small private school, a title one elementary school and a women’s transitional center has forged powerful bonds between the communities and is nurturing a more equitable and localized food system, according to Herbert.
A decade ago, Herbert’s kids were students at Paideia and she offered to help expand the school’s recycling program. which earned high praise from the Georgia Recycling Coalition and the Green Schools Alliance.
The program’s success led to a schoolwide composting program and Herbert’s appointment as the school’s full-time Farmer Educator. Composting was the launch pad and with the school community’s support, Herbert created a series of small urban farms in the neighborhood. As the Paideia farms began producing more than the program needed, the school saw an opportunity to collaborate with other communities to replicate the model and connect more families to fresh food.
When COVID-19 hit, Herbert said the “fragility and unfairness of our industrial and global food system” became apparent.
“When the food disappeared from the grocery stores during COVID, our local farmers were able to close that gap and feed our families nutritious food,” she said. “We need to take these lessons we are learning and invest in a more equitable and localized food system that serves everyone.”
Grassroots Grower’s also partnered with Marrdy’s Shared Kitchen on the Westside last summer to get fresh produce to families in the Thomasville Heights neighborhood. Students from the neighborhood and from Paideia harvested vegetables form local Black-owned urban farms, which went into food boxes distributed by Marrdy’s.
Herbert said she’s also proud of the work being done at the Women’s Transitional Center, where inmates are learning agricultural skills to prepare them for jobs upon release by growing for food insecure families.
At Paideia, where it all began, the school is now leasing land in East Atlanta to grow more food and a sliding scale Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program is being created. “People with more money will pay more for food to help those who don’t have as much money,” Herbert said. “It’s sustainable and good for all. It’s a big deal for us.”
Grassroots has also become the first pro-bono client of digital marketing agency Juniperus, whose owners, Amber Schreiner and Alicia Harper, who are passionate about addressing unequal access to healthy food. “Amber and Alicia are truly interested in the work GGA is doing and want to support it,” Herbert said. “They bring skills that our team does not have and we are extremely thankful they have been supporting our efforts.” To learn more about GGA’s mission, visit ggaatlanta.com.