(MADISON, Wis.) — COVID-19 has disrupted our way of life in more than a few significant ways, including our access to food. Forward 4 Families (F4F), in a few short weeks, has stepped up to help close the gaps to make it safer and easier to get food to all families in need.
“Our focus is on safely getting food to families while reducing the viral spread and supporting our local economy,” said Dan Costello, Director and President of F4F. “I knew when we started this would not be easy and could very well be one of the most challenging problems we’ve ever tackled.”
F4F is connecting suppliers and producers of local food with families in need in a safe, secure and reliable way. It also supports producers by helping address the challenges of quickly and safely getting to market. F4F’s goal is to make safe, affordable food deliveries available to all Madison-based families, regardless of socioeconomic status.
“We are building a community focused, resilient food supply that is efficient and can sustain even during times of massive disruption,” said Zach Henderson, F4F Director and Treasurer.
Michelle Miller, Associate Director, UW-Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, identified and shared the impact that COVID-19 is having on the food supply chains:
“Disruption to food supply chains from COVID 19 is catastrophic to many independent businesses, from farmers who sell direct to restaurants to food distributors who sell to institutions.
“The way the system is structured, large companies are positioned to knock out independent businesses that serve our local farmers, rural towns, and small cities and accelerate reduced resilience in the system. Now more than ever, we need a reasoned approach, based on data, to fairly distribute food and federal aid.”
In addition to providing safe, reliable food options for families, F4F is focused on supporting the local economy. What started as an idea to help local restaurants stay open has expanded to a vision of helping all local providers of food and their distribution partners: farmers, food producers, grocery stores, and other food sources.
Since the beginning F4F has collaborated with many organizations involved the local food supply chain disruption. Michelle Orge, President/CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Southern Wisconsin, has been an active and early supporter:
“This new 'final mile' service model that Forward 4 Families (F4F) has developed has great potential to help us meet the needs of thousands of people who don’t currently access opportunities for food support because of transportation, health barriers, work, or school hours.
The no-contact way F4F delivers food will reduce the need for vulnerable populations to go out in public, help maintain adherence to social distancing guidelines, and ultimately make our community safer.”
F4F is not only focused on supporting communities, but is built locally, with a leadership team that comes from the Madison business community. Costello is also Founder and CEO of Acumium, a digital design, development, and marketing agency. Steve McQuin, F4F Director and Vice President, is Co-Founder, President, and Chief Innovation Officer at FarWell, an advisory firm focusing on helping organizations navigate complex change. Henderson is a Senior Advisor at FarWell, a key member of its innovation team, and someone that thrives on solving complex problems. Both companies are strong supporters of community causes, with team members active in a variety of community and non-profit efforts. Costello and Henderson have brought energy, passion and dedicated time to gaining momentum and scale in a very short period of time.
“The need is urgent, and the complexity will grow. Building the system now will help us learn, adapt and scale," said Henderson.
F4F has been quickly adding partners and participants in the system, launching initial deliveries only weeks after the first planning meeting. Current partners include Dane County, Second Harvest Food Bank, River Food Pantry, Food Fight Restaurant Group, World of Beer of Middleton, Fair Share CSA Coalition, Harmony Valley Farm, Green Cab, Madison Taxi, Goodman Community Center, and Allied Food Pantry
Though built for the immediate need, the F4F team believes it will endure well beyond the current crisis. “Economic disruptions create a misalignment of resources and shine a light on the gaps in the national, regional and local supply chains,” said McQuin. “There is a great opportunity to rally our community around a food system that can withstand these shocks, while also supporting our local economy.”
F4F, in partnership with River Food Pantry, started deliveries in mid-April. A website where consumers can purchase restaurant meals, boxes of essential food staples, and farm to table food offerings will be launched soon.
About Forward 4 Families
Forward 4 Families is a non-profit community food stream architect. F4F combines all local food sources and mobilizes businesses so every family can count on a safe, reliable food supply without leaving home. Visit Forward4Families at https://www.forward4families.org.