Bringing Garden Fresh into Food Banks
When people think of food banks, they often think of non-perishable food drives. Stacks of boxed mac and cheese, tons of canned foods, big bags of pasta and rice. Those foods certainly do fill bellies, which is good, but some organizations are stepping up their efforts to ensure more balanced nutrition and fresh foods for food insecure families. By thinking outside the box and engaging with local communities, schools, and farmers, these amazing programs are revolutionizing the food bank system.
- In Toronto, the Second Harvest food bank is the main provider of fresh food to people in need in that city. Working with local food retailers, manufacturers, restaurants and caterers, they collect and distribute over 6 million pounds of fresh food over the course of a year. In addition to giving fresh food to families, bagged lunches for children, and meals for seniors and people with special dietary needs, they also help to reduce pollution by diverting excess food from landfills (resulting in reduction of over 3 million pounds of greenhouse gases each year).
- In Ottawa, the Ottawa Food Bank has a stand at the Ottawa Farmers’ Market. Last year, through donations from market vendors and market patrons, the Ottawa Food Bank collected 11,000 pounds of fresh produce and baked foods. Some of the vendors, like Roots and Shoots, even have entire acres of their farm dedicated to growing food for the food bank.
- Heritage Academy, an Ottawa school for students with learning disabilities, is running a potato project, using reused olive barrels to grow potatoes vertically. By the end of the growing season, each barrel should yield around 40 pounds of potatoes. This project adds to the arsenal of school gardening projects at Heritage Academy, which started seven years ago when a grade 8 student asked how to grow pickles. In a blog post, the school wrote about the garden revolution that is happening in schools and explained how its program grew from that one pickle patch to eight organic vegetable beds and the potato project.
- In Los Angeles, food banks like the Westside Food Bank accept donations of backyard fruit. Instead of having excess fruit rot on your lawn, the food bank accepts drop-offs of fruit and will also help out picking or transporting the fruit if necessary.
These amazing, sustainable and nutritious ways to fight hunger while also educating people about food sources, are excellent examples of the food revolution. Does your community have initiatives that combine volunteerism and learning to bring fresh food to hungry families?
Photo credit: Woodley Wonderworks on flickr