Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Since the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provides over ten million pounds of fresh produce each year to people in need, we are extremely concerned about the impact the drought is having, and will have, on our mission.
Not only is California’s water supply decreasing, but the cost of fuel is increasing. These two factors make for the perfect storm for a hike in the cost of providing healthy produce to people in need.
As members of the California Association of Food Banks, we have access to an enormous supply of fresh produce from the agricultural community.
Over the years, we have increased the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that we provide to the point where it now accounts for more than half of our total annual pounds of food distributed.
Our Farm to Kids program brings produce to after-school programs in low-income schools.
Our Community Produce Program brings fresh produce to clinics, schools and churches in low-income communities throughout Solano and Contra Costa counties.
Produce is also available to the nearly 200 nonprofit agencies we partner with, so they can provide nutritional assistance to the people they serve.
On the positive side, we are still able to receive the fresh produce that we need. The California Association of Food Banks is able to offer us 10 to 12 different produce items on a consistent basis. But we constantly have to make choices about the food we receive, based on increasing costs that are often related to the drought.
When we began receiving produce, we had to match what alternative markets were paying, generally around five cents a pound. Many of our costs now begin at six to seven cents a pound. Some items can cost us 10 to 14 cents a pound. Celery, for instance, is now priced out of our range at 20 cents a pound.
Our ability to help people in our community is also impacted when fuel prices go up, as they are currently.
We are lucky that our warehouses are so close to agricultural resources, but we need to make choices about how far we are willing to transport certain items.
Apples are available to us for four to five cents a pound, but they must be transported from Yakima, Washington. In order to receive a 34,000-pound load of apples, it costs us nearly $1,300.
A 42,000-pound load of potatoes from Tulelake, Calif., costs more than $1,400 to ship. We have hard-working staff members who always take these factors into consideration when purchasing the produce we need.
We have built an effective system of food distribution that we are committed to maintaining, so we must continue to balance the rising cost of food and transportation.
We are encouraged that healthy produce is still available, but we know that we need to raise more money to offset these price increases. We are thankful for our generous donors who provide financial support.
Like us, they also believe that our entire society benefits when everyone has access to good nutrition.