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Tag ‘ fresh produce ’

Food Bank Has Developed Greatly Through the Years

Originally posted in The Vacaville ReporterThe Food Bank has moved a long way from providing emergency food to people every now and then to becoming a major part of the safety net.  Trying to end hunger means we have to be in this for the long haul because the end of hunger is not yet in sight. We have a sophisticated distribution system that provides over 60,000 pounds of food to low-income people in our community every working day.  In order to make this possible, we have developed a variety of ways to get food to the people we serve.

Many of the distribution systems we developed came about because the nature of the food available to us changed.  As the amount of processed food diminished and the amount of fresh produce increased, we had to move food more quickly.  The majority of the fresh produce we receive is the “less perishable” type (apples, oranges, potatoes, cauliflower, etc.) but it still needs to get to people quickly.  In order to make produce available to the 180 agencies we serve, the Food Bank established remote distribution sites where we meet local agencies in their community.  We meet agencies every week (twice a week in some communities)in a parking lot where we provide them the shelf stable items they order from a shopping list of available food, and give them access to bins of fresh produce.

While we are doing well providing more food for agencies to distribute to the community, we also bring the food directly to the people in need of help.  Our Farm 2 Kids program depends on a driver and truck making deliveries to after-school programs at low-income schools.  This program distributes enough fresh produce so each child can take home three to five pounds to share with their families each week during the school year.  We were granted  two trucks that are set up to be like a mobile farmer’s market and created the Community Produce Program  Those trucks go to over fifty sites in Solano and Contra Costa counties, making it possible for low-income people to receive over twenty pounds of fresh produce every other week – at no cost to them.

These programs work because the community wants to see people have the food they need to be healthy.  Volunteers bag produce in our warehouse so it is easier to distribute.  Volunteers come to the distribution sites and help prepare food bags so it is easy for people to obtain.  A generous community helps us cover the costs involved in proving people in need with millions of pounds of food each year.  Our work has changed, but what we can accomplish has improved significantly.  We are part of a community that does all they can to help their neighbors in need.

 

 

Farmers’ Markets for All

By Heidi Kliner, AmeriCorps VISTA: There is a common misconception that farmers’ markets are just for the privileged due to the idea that farmers’ markets are significantly more expensive than grocery stores, but many studies have shown that farmers’ market prices are not much higher than supermarket prices, with many of the fresh, seasonal produce being comparable or even less expensive than the same items in the supermarket, and with the added benefit of better quality and a boost for local business and community.  In truth, farmers’ markets can be a great way for low-income individuals and families to access healthy food, especially if they have CalFresh (aka Food Stamps)!

The way it works is someone with CalFresh goes to the information booth and tells the market manager he or she wants to use their EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card.  The market manager then swipes the card on a POS machine for the amount the person plans on spending at the market, and then gives tokens, each worth a dollar, which can be used at the different vendor stands like cash.  These tokens can be used to purchase produce, dairy products, baked items, meat, seafood, and even plants for growing one’s own food.

Tips for saving money when using your EBT card at the market:

  • Ask about incentive programs for people using EBT.  For example, all the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association markets this year have the Market Match program, where someone spending at least ten dollars in tokens at the market will receive five extra dollar tokens to be used for produce.
  • Split up some of the shopping based on price.  If some of the items like the meat or baked goods seem more expensive than in the grocery store, consider splitting up your shopping by buying all your fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ market and your other items at the store.
  • Shop later in the day.  Vendors may discount their items near the end of the market day in order to get rid of it.
  • Buy a plant.  If you have a yard or a porch you can use for growing food, purchasing a plant at the market can be a low cost way of having several fruits or vegetables throughout the season (just be sure to look into whether your market is currently selling edible plants).

Veggies for Everyone

We often look for other agencies to partner with in our produce distribution program while school is out, and this summer we provided food to children of migrant farm workers.

When I did my regular site visit, the program staff told me how the produce really helped out the families each week since all the families are low-income and have difficulty putting food on the table.  It made me feel really good about what we do as I saw parents returning from a long day working in the fields to pick up their children and the food we were able to provide.  I also thought of the irony that we were providing fresh fruits and vegetables to the very people who did the back breaking work to grow and pick them.  All the children in this distribution have working parents, but those parents do not earn enough to afford the very product they are producing.

We know we are doing the right thing in providing food to the people we serve, but we also know it is important for our advocacy program to focus on protecting the social service safety net.  The community needs to understand what we can do to make life better for low-income people in our neighborhood.

Children from Meadow Homes Elementary with their Farm 2 Kids produce

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