Originally posted in the Vacaville Reporter: The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano believes that it’s good to think outside of the box; actually, we think outside cans and bags too. We recognize the value in packaged food. It is less complicated to transport, is convenient and has a longer shelf life. However, we also realize the importance of balancing diets with healthier options. That is why we are committed to providing people with fresh fruits and vegetables.
The data is clear, consuming fresh produce is vital for our health. It combats obesity and diabetes, improves well-being and is the natural way of getting vitamins and nutrients that the mind and body need. Unfortunately, fresh produce can be out of reach to those on a tight food budget.
In the early days of the Food Bank, donations of produce were a small part of our operation. We received fruit from backyard trees and received donations from a local produce market. We occasionally got donations of cabbage or cantaloupe from local fields. The produce was welcome, but it was random and was not a significant portion of the food we distributed.
Fast forward four decades and the Food Bank now provides people in need with over 10 million pounds of produce a year. In fact, we have two distribution programs that focus exclusively on getting fruits and vegetables to food-insecure community members.
The Food Bank’s Farm 2 Kids program works in conjunction with after-school programs to provide fresh produce to kids, even when school is out. Many children who receive free or discounted breakfasts and lunches during the school year have no choice but to skip meals during the summer break. Farm 2 Kids helps bridge that gap for thousands of school-aged children.
Last summer, we distributed over 176,000 pounds of fresh produce through our special Farm 2 Kids summer program. This summer we are continuing to build the program. We are making healthy fruits and vegetables available to over 5,900 kids each week, at 46 sites, in partnership with dozens of programs across Contra Costa and Solano counties.
In addition to receiving produce, the children are educated about the benefits of eating healthy. Not only are their growing bodies being nourished now, but healthy lifelong eating habits are being reinforced for their future.
The other program that focuses exclusively on distributing produce is the appropriately named Community Produce Program. We started it in 2013 and it quickly became our second largest distribution program. Fresh produce is distributed year-round using customized refrigerated trucks that serve as mobile farmers’ markets.
Today we have 55 Community Produce Program distribution sites that provide produce to people twice a month. Last year, through this program alone, we provided over three million pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to low-income families. People of all ages, including children and seniors, benefit from this resource and receive produce that they otherwise might not afford.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano believes fresh fruits and vegetables should not be considered a luxury. Our entire society benefits when everyone has access to healthy food. Together, we are not only fighting hunger, we are also strengthening the population’s overall health.