A Commitment to Fresh Produce

August 2021

When you think of the food coming out of a food bank, the images that come to mind probably involve canned goods and dry beans…

But if you walk back into our warehouse, you will regularly see pallets and pallets of fresh heirloom tomatoes, wooden crates of corn stacked higher than you can reach, and countless boxes of deep purple eggplants. We are full to the brim with fresh produce. 

Daily consumption of fruit and vegetables is critical to the nutrition and health of the individuals we serve. The Community Food Bank is committed to increasing our neighbors’ access to fresh and healthy produce, which is why in addition to donations, we are purchasing and giving out more than ever before. We have committed at least $500,000 to this initiative in 2021 alone.

Starting in February this year, we developed an improved version of the Farmers to Families program to help support the growing need for fresh produce within central Alabama. We are placing more fresh produce in the hands of our neighbors in a number of different ways… via Farmers to Families distributions, agency deliveries and mobile pantries. 

At each Farmers to Families distribution, we provide households with 20-pound boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables. These distributions increase the access to fresh produce to families across central Alabama, especially to those who may not be able to regularly access nutritious food. We partner with over 20 distribution sites to help give out this produce, and with their help, we are able to serve nearly 9,000 households a month through this program alone. 

A few specifics: each week, we purchase 1,800 produce boxes from Southeastern Regional Cooperative (that’s 36,000 pounds a week!), filled with things like squash, bell peppers, potatoes, cabbage, corn, and more. Twice a month, Publix donates 30,000 pounds of fresh produce. (Picture this: an entire semi-trailer filled to the brim with a fresh assortment of fruits and vegetables.) On top of that, starting in June, we began receiving 1,600 boxes of fresh produce from the USDA monthly. 

While the final numbers of this summer are still being calculated, we distributed more than 7.1 million pounds of FRESH produce in central Alabama over the past year (May 2020–May 2021), thanks to partnerships with Publix, Southeastern Regional Cooperative, Kontos Fruit, as well as generous produce donations from our network of retail partners. We would not be able to provide our community with this many fresh fruits and vegetables without the unwavering support from our donors and volunteers. 

 

Check out our recent article in Southern Living about Giving Gardens, and see how you can donate the bounty of your backyard garden to the Community Food Bank!