These girls have got it goin’ on! No fresh and delicious produce from Farmer’s Markets in the San Diego region needs to go to waste any more, because ProduceGood is rolling out its MarketShare program across the county---using teams of volunteers to “recover unsold produce from weekly markets, delivering the bounty to local food pantries.”
Jeri, Alex, and Nita are the innovative women behind ProduceGood, and although they say, “sharing has never been sweeter!”, it just got a bit sweeter with the Market Share program. Not only are they able to “glean” fresh produce directly from growers, donating to people in need via partners, but now they actually get to meet the people who will prepare and eat this food they recover. The fulfillment to mission is keen and heartfelt, and the stories are incredible.
I spent a few hours with these three ladies, along with talented program lead, Felicia, board member Ron Eng, and intern Samantha at the Solana Beach Farmer’s Market. Such a lovely smaller market; we met under an umbrella in the food court area. They were easy to find with their bright orange aprons, graphic logos, and smiles. It was the second stop of the day for the Market Share leadership team. They started their day in Hillcrest at the largest farmer’s market in the county, where they needed to split into two teams of volunteers to gather unsold produce from up to 14 participating vendors at this busy market. The Hillcrest MarketShare currently provides enough fresh produce for three local agencies serving people who are food insecure or in need.
Philanthropy, and private investment, are both essential for innovation in food systems today. The MarketShare program specifically was funded by an anonymous donor of the San Diego Foundation, who was moved by the intersecting problems of food waste and hungry people
Solana Beach Farmer’s Market is the second of seven planned to roll out MarketShare, and benefits from the lessons learned at Hillcrest. The process is finely tuned and organized, but not stressful or harried at all. Think about a stroll through the market, greeting and chatting with farmers and vendors. Then back at the truck it’s time to gear up the trolley with perfectly-sized, collapsible produce crates, bright green labels for accurate tracking and inventory control, and grease pens---old school, but effective.
The Farmers now recognize those orange aprons, too, and send a smile and a word, start a conversation. Besides donating unsold produce from the market, some of the farmers are now bringing additional produce to donate i.e., the donut peaches or the brussel sprouts that are too small to sell and would otherwise go to waste. They are still nutritious and delicious, and it sure took a lot of time, energy, and resources to grow.
The crates of produce they shared were amazing---fresh and beautiful produce, along with crusty loaves of artisan bread, that most people who are food insecure rarely get to eat. Although this donation does qualify for a tax deduction, most donate simply because they want to share.
All of the MarketShare donations are tracked very carefully and efficiently, too. Felicia and Samantha set up the weighing area next to the truck and went to work. Each tagged crate was weighed, characterized, and attributed to the farmer, then stacked in the back of the truck, ready to be delivered to the designated agency. Looking at the “Producing Good By the Numbers” graphic, it is obvious that these programs are successful on a number of levels, including dollar-for-dollar value, community engagement, and reducing hunger with wholesome food.
While we were weighing and recording the 174.5 pounds of donated produce from the Solana Beach market, Ron Eng, talked about tracking “servings” of recovered produce rather than just pounds. To better understand the real people-impact of food recovery, we need to consider that this food is going to feed people, and people can benefit in numerous ways from preparing and eating healthful and delicious food.
According to a recent study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in the U.S. we currently waste “1,217 calories, 33 grams protein, and 5.9 grams dietary fiber per person, per day”. That is nutrition that every body needs, but sometimes it is simply too expensive to provide to those in need.
Recipients of MarketShare produce are excited. A delivery is like a holiday! Fresh produce from the farmer’s market, and lots of it! Since receiving and eating more fresh produce, one person reports having lost weight and is feeling healthier. Another person who had been feeling isolated, uses the additional fresh produce to prepare and share favorite foods with others as a means of connecting. Some recipients have reported better medication adherence, and they look forward to meals more with this fresh produce, and are excited about them now.
We delivered seven crates to an agency in Oceanside after the Solana Beach market. They were helpful and appreciative. We unloaded crates filled with lettuces, spinach, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, squash, brussel sprouts, beans, purslane, mushrooms, corn, radishes, onions, kale, and more. There were people in the kitchen preparing food for dinner, so they added some spinach and lettuce to the meal right away. Some items were set aside to share with a sister agency, and a few other items were put directly into the freezer to save for later.
All in all, a good day for MarketShare---full circle from farmer to the dinner table. Two markets, one bustling and one low-key. Happy farmers, happy volunteers & leaders, and happier, healthier people.
ProduceGood is a nonprofit corporation (EIN: 47-2289712) with the mission of building an active and engaged community committed to finding sustainable solutions to alleviate hunger, reclaim and repurpose waste and promote the health and well-being of all.
We could all use tips and recipes for shopping, preserving, and storing food, especially during peak growing seasons---and a great place to start is at www.SaveTheFood.com.
Post by Barbara Hamilton, Director of Strategic Initiatives