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Food Access Champions

The 7B/9B Crop-Swap movement: Cultivating community and sustainable solutions

By Damen Rodriguez | Photo Courtesy of Tia Worzala

food-access-champions

In the beautiful towns of Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, Idaho, a remarkable organization called the 7B/9B Crop-Swap is making a tangible difference in the community by addressing food insecurity and promoting a shareable food movement. Spearheaded by Tia Worzala, the president and founder of this nonprofit, the Crop-Swap movement provides fruits and vegetables to children, the elderly, firefighters during fire season, and families in need throughout the summer months.


This innovative initiative revolves around the concept of crop swapping, enabling people to meet their neighbors, exchange, sell or donate excess produce, and engage in fair bartering for fresh and local goods. With free weekly harvest baskets available for pickup in Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, the Crop-Swap movement extends its impact beyond food provision, offering pumpkins for children during Halloween and organizing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for families in need.


At the heart of the Crop-Swap movement lies a strong sense of community and inclusivity. Tia emphasizes that the 7B/9B Crop-Swap embraces the principle that no one owes an explanation for their circumstances, and the group is there to provide support without prying or judgment. The essence of the Crop-Swap lies in the spirit of collaboration and trade. If one person has strawberries and another has rhubarb, they can work together to ensure both have enough to create a delicious pie. Additionally, the Crop-Swap serves as a valuable resource for those who may not be able to donate money but have surplus crops that can be exchanged for other products they cannot buy or grow in their area.


Tia expresses that the movement is not limited to those in need; it encourages everyone to participate, fostering a sense of belonging and shared responsibility. She acknowledges the invaluable support of individuals like Mrs. Diana at Sam's Produce in Sagle, who consistently goes above and beyond to ensure the success of the Crop-Swap by providing extra produce from her stand. Don Reese's donation of canning jars, lids and rings has also made a significant impact on the movement, enabling the preservation and storage of surplus produce.


Crop-Swap is a year-round endeavor that encompasses all that North Idaho's fertile land has to offer. As Tia explains, “The movement begins its bustling activities as the sun greets the region in April and continues tirelessly until the last meal is delivered on December 23, just in time for Christmas.” In between harvests, the dedicated members of Crop-Swap meticulously organize and preserve the bountiful produce, ensuring a seamless transition to the next season. During the summer months, when the gardens are in full swing, it is all hands on deck. In the fall, the focus shifts to canning and preserving. Tia acknowledges the challenges and demands of the movement but finds deep fulfillment in witnessing the positive impact they are making in their community. This spring, she worked on expanding their garden, describing the arduous process of starting from scratch and the determination to complete it by the end of May. Tia and her family exemplify the unwavering commitment required to meet their goals, despite the challenges they face.


The significance of the 7B/9B Crop-Swap movement became even more apparent during the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. Neighbors were able to exchange the produce they had for the items they needed, fostering an environment of mutual support and sustainability. The Crop-Swap not only ensured that the community had access to food but also created a platform for like-minded individuals to come together as a team, working toward a shared goal. Tia describes the joy and happiness on people's faces when they see what a week’s worth of produce is. “When you are on the pickup list for the week, we make sure, no matter the size of your family, that each person has their daily servings of fruits and vegetables.”


Tia is a woman who has dedicated her life to the noble cause of ensuring that everyone has access to food. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks,” Tia experienced firsthand the pain of hunger and the uncertainty of not knowing where the next meal would come from. As a child, she often endured summers without the reliable support of school lunches. It was during those challenging times that Tia turned to gardening as a means of providing sustenance for herself and her family.


Tia's initial knowledge of gardening came from her grandmother in Oregon and her neighbor Hal. Armed with their teachings and driven by a desire to alleviate hunger, she embarked on her gardening journey with limited resources and knowledge. However, her determination and passion for this vital skill grew over the course of two decades. Witnessing too many hungry individuals in her community fueled Tia's inspiration to grow food and help others do the same. She firmly believes in the importance of equipping children and parents with the knowledge of growing and preserving their own food. Tia's deep-rooted commitment to feeding people permeates every aspect of her life. She views it as her responsibility and obligation to teach others about sustainable practices. According to Tia, access to food is a basic human right, and it is unjust for some to have an abundance while others go hungry. Her dedication to this cause is palpable in her meticulous displays of food, treating them like works of art along the wall. Tia takes immense pride in her ability to provide for her family and community, driven by an unwavering belief that everyone deserves access to nourishment.


Her unwavering passion sometimes keeps Tia awake at night, pondering the issue of hunger that is more pervasive than many people realize. Motivated by this awareness, she made it her mission to teach her children the importance of supporting their community and assisting those in need. Together, they utilize their garden as a source of sustenance for others. The organization firmly believes that it is their duty to educate individuals on sustainable practices while striving to make food accessible for all. Tia Worzala and the Crop-Swap movement exemplify resilience, dedication and love in their tireless efforts to combat food insecurity. Let us draw inspiration from Tia and this movement as we work toward a more equitable and nourished future for all.


To learn more, visit 7B Crop-Swap and 9B Crop-Swap on Facebook.



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