With increased awareness of the link between diet and health, our top priority is to provide a variety of healthy food to the people we serve. The individuals who rely on food pantries have an unmet need for a consistent source of nutritious fresh fruit and vegetables. At the same time, the farming industry is making millions of pounds of surplus produce available to us. Our goal is to connect people in need to a reliable, year-round supply of fruit and vegetables.
The Foodbank launched the Produce Initiative to accept and distribute millions of additional pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to those who need it most. Due to increased expenses to refrigerate, transport, and rapidly distribute produce, it costs us $.30 per pound to handle produce, approximately double the cost of handling nonperishable food.
To increase donations of produce, the Foodbank joined the California Association of Food Bank’s Farm to Family Initiative to receive thousands of pounds of fruit and vegetables. We are contracting with a Produce Solicitor to boost donations from local and regional growers, who are our major sources of produce. In five years, we have increased the amount of produce distributed from 1.7 million pounds to 5.5 million pounds annually – and we are focusing on continued growth.
We have made a commitment to ensuring everyone who needs fresh produce has an opportunity – regardless of where they live – to be able to access nutritious foods.
How Does the Foodbank Use Produce
Mobile Farmer’s Markets
In 2006, we launched this new program as part of our Produce Initiative delivering in season fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis to six nutritionally underserved communities countywide. Modelled from this type of distribution, the Foodbank created Kid’s Farmers Markets and Healthy School Pantries to reach more children and families.
This has been a highly successful tool for the Foodbank; making thousands of pounds of fresh produce available to underserved neighborhoods throughout Santa Barbara County. Each week six Foodbank Mobile Farmers’ Markets deliver and distribute fruits and vegetables to and through community centers and churches.
California Association of Food Banks
The Foodbank is a member of the California Association of Food Banks and an active participant in their Farm-to-Family Program, other memberships include Ag Against Hunger in Salinas, CA. These partnerships allow us to access produce from farmers and growers throughout the state providing fruits and vegetables that may not be grown in our area.