Picture this—you’re lining up at the local food pantry’s weekly grocery distribution expecting to get a bag filled with dried macaroni, peanut butter and canned tuna. To your excitement, the bag you receive is filled with fresh produce—plump and fragrant tomatoes, bright orange carrots and crisp lettuce. What’s more, you find out that in addition to being fresh and delicious, these vegetables were grown without the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals on a farm just beyond the District lines in suburban Maryland. This kind of experience is part of the magic of the From the Ground Up Fresh Produce Grant which is run by the Capital Area Food Bank’s Healthy Eating Department.
Here at the food bank, the New Year marks a new season of the fresh produce grant program. In 2012, many of our partner agencies will apply for one of about ten spots in the program and will allow the organizations to receive produce biweekly from Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Partner agencies will be selected based on a number of criteria, specifically their capacity to pick up, store and distribute the produce granted to them. The program’s development over the years has allowed the grant’s scope to widen to include distribution of produce sourced from Waterpenny Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and from the Parkside Farmers Market right here in Washington, D.C.
You may be asking yourself, “What good would all of this fantastic produce be without knowledge on how to best use it?” This is why the Healthy Eating department devotes a lot of time and resources to developing educational programs for clients and capacity building workshops for partners to ensure that the link between fresh produce and health is very clear. One of our departmental goals is to ensure that hunger is alleviated with healthy food and knowledge on how to use this food to its full potential.