Nancy Krutzsch sees the Missouri Food Finder as a simple way to help put money back into Moniteau County.
Launched this spring by the University of Missouri Extension, the online tool connects customers with local food sources. Farmers, growers, producers and local suppliers — including food pantries and farmers markets — enter basic information about the food they sell, as well as location, hours and contact information. Their information populates a searchable Missouri map that helps customers find sellers near them. MU Extension verifies the entries meet criteria for accuracy and appropriateness.
Krutzsch and her husband have a small cow-calf operation in Moniteau County. Even before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, they saw growing interest in buying local.
“Besides word-of-mouth, how can small producers let people know what they are selling? Direct marketing tools like Facebook and the Food Finder can help,” Krutzsch said.
The pandemic and its response highlighted local food supply and processing issues and much broader food-related community challenges and needs, said Elaine Anderson, MU Extension county engagement specialist in Moniteau County.
She invited Krutzsch to join the county’s planning committee of Missouri EATS, a MU Extension pilot program that convenes community conversations about issues related to local food access and farming, with a focus on strengthening local economies.
Moniteau County’s planning team has met monthly since this summer to plan community conversations to be held later in 2021.
“This process brings community members together to share what’s most important to them about food and local farming — whether that’s around hunger relief, access to healthy food, local farming, helping more young people stay in community and make living off the land,” said Bill McKelvey, MU Extension and Missouri EATs project coordinator. “Then, the community works together to figure out priorities and actions. Extension helps facilitate and connect people with resources.”
The Missouri Food Finder is among those resources, Anderson said. Developed by the MU Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems, the site also includes links to the Missouri EATs county-level food assessment tool, Missouri Ag Intel and All Things Missouri, a hub for statewide and local level databases and story maps.
“As more Moniteau sellers add their information, the Food Finder also will help the Missouri EATs committee get a better understanding of the size and impact of the local farming community and its reach,” she said. “All this is just one example of new ways to think about supporting a quality, healthy community — especially around the areas of food.”