Local Foods Connection’s mission is to enhance Grinnell’s sustainable food system by making it more accessible to families and individuals with limited means.

We aim to increase the opportunities for these community members to enjoy fresh, healthy food, connect with local farmers, and expand their skills and knowledge of cooking and nutrition. As of March 2017, Local Foods Connection moved operations to Grinnell, IA, from Iowa City where it had operated since 1999. Local Foods Connection purchases produce, bread, eggs, meat and other products from local earth-friendly farms and donates these goods to families who cannot afford such nutritious, tasty and fresh food. We provide opportunities for families to visit a farm and to learn healthy cooking methods. With your support, we assist families in need of a helping hand, strengthen our local foods network and empower the farmers who serve our community. Our vision is a local, sustainable food system that is accessible to everyone.

On our client referral form we ask our community partners: Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA), Social Entrepreneurs of Grinnell (SEG), Grinnell Ministerial Association (GMA), local physicians, & school social workers, to help us identify those with the greatest need.  We target those who are low-income, but who also might have a permanent physical disability, mental illness, families with children, homeless youth, veterans, abuse victims and at-risk elderly.

Once a family or agency is accepted by Local Foods Connection, they will learn about and have access to fresh, local food. Clients receive food in one of three ways:

  1. Credit to use with a farmer at the Grinnell Farmer's Market,
  2. Credit on a wholesale purchasing account with a farm through agencies (MICA or Station Clubhouse are good examples of who receives food through this avenue), or
  3. Enrollment in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. Learn more about CSAs here: LocalHarvest.org/CSA
 Rachel Harford, Local Foods Connection Volunteer and April Farley, MICA Family Development Specialist, demonstrating how to prepare Olson Garden Market squash to Head Start families. 

Rachel Harford, Local Foods Connection Volunteer and April Farley, MICA Family Development Specialist, demonstrating how to prepare Olson Garden Market squash to Head Start families. 


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"It has been a great benefit to have healthy snacks for the students to pick from.  I have several students that come to me regularly for a healthy snack and one child that fills her pockets with veggies so she will have something to eat at home. 

Please know you have helped so many students and our staff is very grateful for the impact that Local Food Connection has made!"

- Lisa Leris, Grinnell Newburg School Nurse


Meet our Team

Melissa Dunham, VOLUNTEER Executive Director

Melissa Dunham, with her husband Andrew, owns and manages Grinnell Heritage Farm, a certified organic diversified fruit and vegetable farm.  Early on in life her parents instilled the importance of environmental responsibility and advocating for those in need.  In March of 2017 Melissa gathered a group of likeminded Grinnellians to help move Local Foods Connection's operations and programming to the Grinnell community.  She looks most forward to uniting local farmers in the community to build a stronger local foods presence that can be accessed by all, regardless of economic means.  In addition to farming and advocacy Melissa enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, reading and travelling.  


Charlotte Cohen, Grinnell college service leanring work study student

Charlotte Cohen is a second-year chemistry major at Grinnell College. She has a passion for animals and after Grinnell, aims to pursue a degree in social work, helping pair children with disabilities with service animals. In the meantime, Charlotte participates in the Food Recovery Network and Campus Inclusion and works at the college’s Spencer Grill. Charlotte has always enjoyed learning about cooking as well as organic and local farming. She is excited to be able to work within the Grinnell community while continuing to educate herself through her work at Local Food Connection.


Board of Directors

Susan Leathem Sanning - President

As the Assistant Dean and Director of Service and Social Innovation at Grinnell College Susan is responsible for identifying, aligning, and supporting socially-just and mutually beneficial campus-community partnerships. Prior to beginning work at Grinnell College in 2011, Susan provided direct spiritual care services for hospice and hospice patients of many different religious and spiritual backgrounds. Now as our board president, Susan is excited to work with LFC as it aims to increase the opportunities all community members have to connect with local farmers, enjoy fresh, healthy food, expand cooking skills, and gain knowledge about nutrition.


Monica St. Angelo - Treasurer

Monica has been involved with multiple organizations in the Grinnell community.  Many community members know her as the peaceful yoga and fitness instructor and owner of Locally Grown Yoga.  In addition to working with local organizations, she also enjoys cooking, reading, and outdoor activities. Monica cares deeply about the state and quality of food production in our country, including the environmental and health impacts. As the Local Foods Connection board treasurer she looks forward to working with the team to get more healthy foods to those in need in our community.


Jessica Robeson - Secretary

Jessica began her connection to LFC when she was a student at the University of Iowa. Her current job as a Banker at Lincoln Savings Bank in Grinnell has helped her achieve skills such as grant writing, accounting and fundraising. Jessica is excited to reunite with LFC in this role and looks forward to creating positive opportunities in the Grinnell Community.


Harriett Dickey-Chasins

Harriett works as the Agricultural Marketing Manager for Raccoon Forks Farms, two local and sustainable farms which are a micro-business of Optimae Lifeservices. She has spent many years working to support local foods and food systems. Prior to her current work, Harriett worked as a psychotherapist, trying to make her work accessible to everyone. Outside of work, Harriett gardens as her therapy. Harriett is excited to serve on the LFC board as it provides her an opportunity to support our community and to address several of her values and priorities.


Katy Zart

Katy grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and has a passion for environmentalism and social justice. Now Katy works at Grinnell College as a Program Advisor for the office of Intercultural Affairs where she engages with students to become involved in social justice outside of the classroom. In her free time, Katy enjoys cooking, reading, and playing with her English Setter, Franklin. Katy is happy to help provide healthy, local, sustainable foods to the community.


Cassidy Bell

Cassidy Bell has been involved with Local Foods Connection since 2009. Over the last several years, she has taken on many different roles in the organization including volunteer, staff, and now board member. She currently lives in Iowa City where she manages Ten Thousand Villages, a fair trade, non-profit retail store. She is excited to watch Local Foods Connection evolve to support the Grinnell community and grateful for the opportunity to be on the board of directors while the team continues its mission in central Iowa.