Produce is Priority

Working with our partner agencies and through our mobile pantries, the Harry Chapin Food Bank strives to get fresh produce to families, children and seniors.

For years we’ve been told of the importance of consuming an adequate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet. Of course few of us – even those with financial means – actually do. Doctors and nutritionists have been clear: Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of contracting Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, as well as preventing obesity.

(Potatoes, donated by Troyer Brothers FL, await to be chosen by clients during one of our mobile pantries)

Those health-conscious among us could scarcely imagine a world with no fresh produce. Sadly, for many of our neighbors in need, this is very much a reality.

In December 2008, the “Fresh Produce Rescue Program” was created. The concept is simple--to redirect safe, edible, but unsalable produce that might be destroyed and rescue it for families in need. By creating relationships with local growers/shippers, working with our retail store partners, Feeding America, and the Florida Association of Food Banks, we exponentially increased the amount of fresh produce distributed. In 2008, we distributed just 69,000 lbs. of fresh produce. In 2013, this rose to 5.1 million pounds. We’re on track to meet or exceed this amount in 2014.

(Donated green beens, secured for us by the Florida Association of Food Banks, await pickup by our partner agency network)

Not long ago, the fresh produce section in a grocery store was a small wall in the corner. Today, it’s a significant part of the inventory. It’s good that fresh produce is in high demand. That demand means higher prices, however, preventing many low-income families from buying enough – if any – fresh produce. Consider that for $2.00, a family of 4 can buy a pound of spaghetti & sauce, or instead buy maybe ½ of a watermelon. It’s not a tough choice for families trying to feed their children.

(Fresh tomatoes thanks to Big Red Tomato Packers, LLC and squash from JGL Produce Co. Inc. going out to our network of nonprofit partner agencies)

Having a community where so many can’t get the nutrition they need from fresh produce is just not acceptable. Therefore, making sure low-income families have access to fresh produce is a major priority here at the Harry Chapin Food Bank.

(JGL Produce Co. Inc. squash distributed at our 100 millionth pound distribution earlier this month)

Fresh produce represents approximately 30% of the food we distribute. We’re expanding our relationships and existing programs to make sure our neighbors in need will have healthy food choices. Making sure our neighbors in need have an adequate amount of fresh produce is a central part of our mission of Fighting Hunger, Feeding Hope.

After all, we’re only as healthy as our most vulnerable citizens.

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