Recent farming trends showcase the public interest in a “farm to table” approach, which promotes a transparent process of food handling for the consumer, but this movement has reached beyond the individual consumer as farmers have developed relationships with larger operations such as food banks to provide those in need with the same healthy advantages.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture recognizes December as Farm to Food Bank month and in California farmers have donated more than 127 million pounds of food to farm banks so far this year. Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca serves 355,000 thousand people a year including several non-profits in the area which purchase their food from the food bank, such as the United Samaritans Foundation of Turlock.
USF administers up to 1,800 lunches a day through its Daily Bread Mobile Lunch program and fed 372,000 people in need in 2012. USF utilizes Second Harvest for a variety of needs, but a significant partnership has been forged through the Farm to Family Program culminating in Second Harvest providing USF with fresh, seasonal produce to include in the daily lunch program.
“We work with local area farmers to ensure that seconds come to us versus not going anywhere. We purchase the produce at a very discounted rate and then provide it to those in need. The product is amazing, there are carrots, apple, oranges, stone fruit. It is all fruit that is not store-ready but fully edible,” said Jessica Vaughan, community development coordinator at Second Harvest.
USF has signed a contract with Second Harvest to pick up weekly shipments of produce, which varies week to week depending upon seasonality and availability, and this partnership has allowed USF to increase the quality of meals it offers.
“It’s been very valuable for us. We wanted to provide more fresh produce in lunches and we’ve been able to do that,” said Barbara Bawanan, director of USF.
Second Harvest stores food that is purchased, received from grants or donated by local farmers or grocery stores. According to Vaughan, although the demand ebbs and flows, Second Harvest is able to provide regularly for the agencies that depend on the food bank.
“We are very blessed because we are in the Central Valley, so we have a lot of fresh produce and a lot of stores,” said Vaughan.
USF has utilized Second Harvest since 1995, though the food bank laid roots in Turlock prior to that. Maris Sturtevant, chief operating manager of USF, has worked with Second Harvest since 1992 as the co-founder of the Daily Bread lunch program through Sacred Heart Church in Turlock, which was the predecessor of USF.
For more information on Second Harvest Food Bank, or to donate food or funds, visit www.localfoodbank.org or call 239-2091.
For more information about United Samaritans Foundation and its Daily Bread Mobile Lunch program, or to donate food or funds, visit www.unitedsamaritans.org or call 668-4853