Colder temperatures throughout California have had a major effect on farmers and what they are growing, and in turn, on the Foodbank’s access to fresh produce. While many of the Foodbank’s regular produce contributors found themselves unable to meet all the needs of their customers, donated produce was becoming nearly impossible to access – and would be for months to come. But as word got out about the toll this deficit would take on local families already in need of nutritious food, to the rescue came several of Foodbank’s locally-based produce contributors.
Big business, big hearts
Last year the Foodbank was able to acquire and distribute over 5.5 million pounds of fresh produce, fully half of the total 11 million pounds of food the Foodbank distributed through its own programs and to a network of over 300 member non-profit agencies and programs countywide; in all, translating into about 8.5 million meals.
“Produce was in short supply this winter, but when we found out the Foodbank was short too, anything available was sent to them.” said Art de Goede, Warehouse Manager for Apio, Inc.
Apio, Inc., based in Guadalupe, is one of the largest U.S. suppliers of fresh-cut ready-to-use produce, and has been contributing produce to the Foodbank for the past 10 years.
“Apio supplies fresh produce year-round to customers nationwide and we can occasionally have an overabundance of select items. When this is the case – our first call is to the Foodbank,” said de Goede. “It is a good feeling to know that our products help the Foodbank increase the consumption of fresh vegetables to those in need in our community.”
Fresh broccoli florets, cauliflower, and assorted vegetables from Apio, Inc. accounted for close to 45% of the 14,778 pounds of produce donated to the Foodbank this January and February. In addition, Apio contributed 650 of the 2240 cases of fresh vegetables, fruit and salad donated by 11 locally based growers and distributors.
“It was an amazing surprise when our local suppliers stepped up to give what they can, when we know how challenging this time has been for their entire industry,”said Erik Talkin, CEO, Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. “We want our community to know how generous the largest to the smallest local companies have been; how they are helping us keep families from going hungry, and empowering those families to move from hunger into health with access to better nutrition.”
“It is a pleasure working side by side with these companies,” added Robin Coutu, Food Sourcing & Purchasing Manager for the Foodbank. “We are grateful for the expertise, hard work and high standards that they are sharing with the community through their support of the Foodbank.”
Driscoll’s also provided a very large donation of strawberries, which are not usually available until April.
“We receive so much from our communities,” said Maria T. Cadenas, Philanthropy Manager, Driscoll’s. “It is an honor to be able to give back and help families in need.”
Donations of nearly 250 cases of celery from another contributor also made it possible for Foodbank’s nutrition education programs to stay on track. “We plan nutritional education programs like our Kid’s Farmers Market Program around local, seasonal produce,” said Coutu. “We had planned around a typically plentiful winter crop, but it was not available for donation. It was too expensive for us to purchase, then one of our long-time donors stepped up.”
The Foodbank, and food banks throughout California, look forward to the supply starting to ease back up over the coming weeks, but there is still a critical need.
Those in need are also benefiting from another source of local produce - literally “in our own backyard.” The Foodbank’s Backyard Bounty Program helps local residents keep their extra homegrown fruit or vegetables from going waste. The Foodbank gladly accepts produce donations from your backyard (for yards with more than five fruit trees, Foodbank volunteers may even help pick it).
Non-produce companies can also make a huge difference. This past holiday season, local tech success Network Hardware Resale secured their win in Foodbank’s annual Corporate Challenge with a donation of 19,000 pounds of Satsuma seedless mandarin oranges. The fruit was harvested by employees volunteering at the home of company founder Chuck Sheldon and his wife Missy. NHR has participated since the inception of the Corporate Challenge in 2009 now and are planning to do it again this year.
“Everyone who is prospering in this economy feels a need to give a little back. This is true at Network Hardware Resale,” said Chuck Sheldon, Founder of Network Hardware Resale. “Businesses given an opportunity should respond to volunteerism because it makes people feel good.”
The Sheldons also participate in Foodbank’s Backyard Bounty Program. “Missy and I have been very fortunate,” said Sheldon. “It’s the right thing to do.”
How companies and individuals can participate:
· Learn more about participating in the Foodbank’s Backyard Bounty Program: http://www.foodbanksbc.org/backyardbounty.html
· Opportunities for local businesses and food & produce companies: http://www.foodbanksbc.org/majorfooddonors.htm
· California State measure AB 152 was enacted starting in 2012 to create new tax incentives for eligible farmers who donate produce.
About the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County
The Foodbank is celebrating 30 years of eliminating hunger and food insecurity by distributing nutritious food, education, and other resources through its own programs and to a network of over 300 member non-profit agencies and programs in Santa Barbara County. Last year, the Foodbank distributed 11 million pounds of food - translating into more than 8.5 million meals - of which fully half was fresh produce. This served over 102,000 unduplicated people from Carpinteria to Santa Maria, an amazing 1 in 4 people. For the fifth consecutive time, the Foodbank has recently been given a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest and most-utilized independent evaluator of charities. Only 4% of the charities rated have received at least 5 consecutive 4-star evaluations, indicating that Foodbank of Santa Barbara County outperforms most other charities in America. More information at www.foodbanksbc.org.