Finding Funding for Food: Emerge Nevada Alumnae Jodi Tyson & Kelli Kelly Advocate for our Most Vulnerable in Nevada

  • Nov 10, 2021
  • Emerge Nevada

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Finding Funding for Food: Emerge Nevada Alumnae Jodi Tyson & Kelli Kelly Advocate for our Most Vulnerable in Nevada

With the fall and winter holidays approaching, excitement is building as stores are stocked with baking goods, holiday treats, and items for family gatherings. But this year, as we enter November, the COVID-19 pandemic trudges on, continuing to expose inequalities in education, healthcare, childcare, and other social services. Many families still experience huge gaps in these core essentials which became drastically more apparent over the past years as we learned how the shut-down and economic slowdown impacted the ability of thousands of Nevadans to afford daily necessities, including food. In Nevada, two Emerge Nevada alumnae make it their business to focus on food security and availability for their communities.

In Nevada, two Emerge Nevada alumnae make it their business to focus on food security and availability for their communities. Jodi Tyson, Three Square Food Bank Vice-President for Strategic Initiatives and current candidate for Henderson City Council Ward 3, and Kelli Kelly, Executive Director of the Fallon Food Hub, and Vice-President of the Emerge Nevada Board of Directors, are on the front lines and advocate for greater food access for our most vulnerable across the state. Both Jodi and Kelli have served on the Governor’s Council for Food Security, which has taken a state-wide approach to policies helping to create economic development opportunities and to recover food waste. This November, we are highlighting their incredible work and proclaiming our gratitude for their service across the state.

Jodi shared that at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a 40% increase in the number of people who struggle with food access or who are food insecure. Even today, food insecurity levels in Southern Nevada are still 30% higher than pre-pandemic levels.  Three Square “had to run its own distributions during the pandemic because many of our agency partners use seniors as volunteer labor.” Seniors needed to isolate, which led to some partner agencies closing altogether. As a result, Three Square had to think quickly and shift its operations to ensure families received the nutritious food they need. Jodi was involved with designing the model for drive-thru distribution, which allowed fresh food deliveries to continue.

If you know Jodi, then you know she has a special talent for finding federal funds that Nevada is eligible for but not receiving. Throughout the pandemic, she has worked tirelessly to bring and maximize additional funding to our communities. She advocated for pandemic EBT, which meant families whose children were on free or reduced lunch received more money for meals as they were not receiving those meals in school. In addition, she advocated for a 15% increase to SNAP benefits, and a 10% extra increase on top of that (since the cost of food had outpaced the cost of living and inflation). This led to millions and millions of extra dollars across Nevada to ensure families have fresh fruits, vegetables, and nutritious food. We are so proud of Jodi and her leadership in Southern Nevada!

Kelli’s work is centered around increasing market opportunities for agricultural producers by distributing their produce on their behalf, as well as educating others on the importance of supporting local producers. Throughout COVID, there have been severe interruptions to the industrial agricultural supply chain that hit Northern Nevada hard, including empty aisles at local grocery stores. Kelli reminisced on visiting a popular local grocery store and only seeing some wilted bok choy, sweet potatoes, and cardoon, and those being the only vegetables at the grocery store. In an effort to increase the footprint of agricultural producers here in Northern Nevada, the Fallon Food Hub Kelli runs was the recipient of a Community Food Project Grant from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, which paid farmers for the produce they couldn’t sell, to provide fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products to food-insecure people in the region. Over 25 tons of locally raised produce went to food-insecure families through this program.

In addition, the Fallon Food Hub received an inventory and distribution grant which allowed Kelli to purchase a delivery truck to help assist local producers, and invest in scaling up the Fallon Food Hub’s refrigerated storage capacity. They partnered with many local organizations including UNR’s food pantry and Soulful Seeds (providing foods for women and children shelters), and the Nevada Department of Agriculture shared they were very happy with how the grant money was executed in Northern Nevada. Throughout 2021, she has focused on being the best partner possible to partner farms and increasing their subscription food service to help local food producers, which has already distributed $250,000 worth of goods across west-central Nevada. Kelli also participated in the Nevada Recovers Listening Tour in partnership with Treasurer Zach Conine’s office, where they met for over two hours with local stakeholders to discuss what problems they encounter with food production and distribution, and what intervention and funding could do to resolve these issues. She continues to educate the importance of building resiliency in our food systems, and we couldn’t be prouder. Thank you, Kelli, for all of your work in helping farmers and food-insecure folks!