by: Kimberly K. Fu

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Sustainable Solano is all about getting locally-grown food to local people.

Thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the nonprofit can move forward with the project.

On a recent day the group’s executive director, Elena Karoulina, and Stephanie Oelsligle Jordan, project manager and chef, shared insight into their ideas.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” Karoulina advised. “It’s a lot of work.”

The goal is to create access points, aka community food centers, where residents can pick up produce boxes from local farms, buy eggs and dairy and meat and other edibles and take cooking, nutrition and other classes.

In this way, Karoulina said, local farmers can sell their food, residents can buy them and learn how to prepare them and everyone gains better health.

It’s been a process, Jordan said, to locate all the farmers and others in Solano who might be a part in community food centers. As well, finding locations for those centers has been daunting.

But the 15-month Local Food Promotion Program planning grant from the USDA awarded in September at least provides necessary funding to get Sustainable Solano’s feet wet.

The group has partnered with researchers at the University of California, Davis; Solano County Department of Agriculture; and the Department of Public Health. On the agenda is a feasibility study, business plan and how to make a go of the food centers.

Engagement is a huge part of the project. To that end, Solano County Supervisors John Vasquez and Erin Hannigan have been instrumental in the project, Karoulina said, as have numerous other individuals and group.

Community talks are in the works.

Sought is input, lots and lots of input, on what people need and want and hope for. What locations would be great for a community center and is there a best time for such a facility to be open?

All thoughts will be taken under advisement, both women assured.

The study is set to be finalized this month.

The business plan and an outline of the implementation plan should be finalized by December.