Rutabaga Project launches documentary on its localized efforts

VIRGINIA — How did the Rutabaga Project form and how can you replicate its success? A new documentary released by the organization sets out to explain just that.

The Rutabaga Project’s documentary “For Access to Local Healthy Food: Telling our story step-by-step” is about 30 minutes long and features many community members on the Iron Range.

“One of our main goals with making this documentary was so others could watch and replicate our success in their community,” said Rutabaga Project Manager Kelsey Gantzer on Wednesday. “Viewers will see the steps we put into place that helped make the Rutabaga Project successful and learn from some of our stumbling blocks.”

One stumbling block highlighted in the documentary was the need for transportation. The group has tried using Arrowhead Transit to transport community members so they can access healthy, local food, but the model didn’t work in Virginia.

“I think people here aren’t used to using public transportation,” explained Rutabaga Project Volunteer Marlise Riffel. “It is not part of our culture on the Iron Range.”

But the group is not deterred.

“We are continuing to look for a solution to this issue,” said Riffel.

The group’s resilience is proven by the ups and downs they have experienced through many grant application processes.

“We conceived of this idea for the Rutabaga Project in 2013,” recalled Riffel who was part of the initial conversations, “but didn’t receive any funding until the end of 2015.” She went on to explain that they applied to the Bush Foundation three times before pursuing funding through a SNAP education program. “We had to change our focus to just Virginia and away from all of St. Louis County, like we had planned.”

But the group believes all has worked out for the best.

The documentary also describes the variety of programs made available by the Rutabaga Project. Like the roots of an Iron Range grown rutabaga plant, after which the initiative is named, programing has increasingly spread, reaching deep into the communities which make up Virginia.

“We are continuing to look into grants- public, private, federal, partnerships — whatever it takes to keep us going and growing,” said Riffel smiling at Gantzer. Gantzer’s face lit up as she verbalized several grants they could apply work on to further enrich programing.

Sparking this creativity and community enrichment is the purpose of the documentary.

“We have resources for others interested in creating local programing,” said Gantzer.

The Rutabaga Project’s documentary “For Access to Local Healthy Food: Telling our story step-by-step” is available on YouTube by searching Rutabaga Project or on the Mesabi Daily News website along with this article. It is also on DVD and those interested in a copy should contact Kelsey Gantzer, Rutabaga Project Manager, by calling 218-404-8466.

The Rutabaga Project is a shared initiative between Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency (AEOA) and Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability (IRPS), with the mission of making healthy, local food accessible to everyone in the Iron Range. The documentary was made possible through a grant by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota Center for Prevention.


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