Local Farms Fight Local Hunger Effortlessly (Almost)
A food system is a puzzle. Farm Fresh Rhode Island was born by tinkering with puzzle pieces: engineering markets, a website and other programs to reorient the food system around the needs of Rhode Island farmers and eaters. We haven't stopped tinkering! Here is our latest:
On Saturdays, we gather food after the Hope St Market and bring it back to our warehouse. Many Market Mobile farmers when they drop off.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we deliver the donated food to food pantry sites across Rhode Island
10 food pantries serving over 1,500 families currently benefit from this brand new program
This win-win came to us in mid-August 2011 and we started deliveries first thing in September. In the first 4 weeks, 11 farmers have donated hundreds of pounds of fresh produce and we've delivered it to 7 food pantries in Providence, Bristol, Newport, Peace Dale and Central Falls serving over 1,500 local families.
Farm to Food Pantry builds upon all of the great local food infrastructure that Farm Fresh has already been engineering. Now that we have farmers market and trucks in place, it's so simple to get fresh food to the neediest in our communities. That's what a community-based food system is all about. Farmers in California are not going to be donating to those who are hungry in Rhode Island. Rhode Island farmers play a critical role in our communities, and we can use farmers markets and Market Mobile as a platform to make sure their harvest reaches Rhode Islanders in need.
Farm to Food Pantry reinforces our belief that the Rhode Island we want to live in - with vibrant farms, healthy communities and easy access to fresh food - is all within our reach. There are so many more win-win opportunities all around us. They just require a little tinkering.
A Few of the All-star Farmers with their Veggie Donations
Diana of Arcadian Fields Farm
Amy of Woodstock Farm
and Skip of Wishing Stone Farm
Kathy of Cooks Valley Farm
How Local Food Systems Play a Critical Role in Hunger
Food waste was one of our original dilemmas at Farm Fresh. There is so much good food that never reaches a dinnertable, from the food left unpicked in the fields to food that goes unbought on grocery store shelves. It would seem that hunger is more a matter of how we distribute our food rather than a matter of not producing enough.
Looking to our local food system, having extra produce available at local farms can be a solution to local hunger, if we can figure out the distribution. Farmers bring produce to farmers market and only some of that produce will sell. Similar to a grocery store, not all unsold produce looks so hot at the end of the market day. So farmers could either donate it or bring it back to the farm to compost into soils that will nourish the next crop. In many ways, the composting option is easier, since farmers are exhausted at the end of a market and there isn't always an obvious donation site or one that's open on their way home. Likewise, food pantries are usually not equipped to drive around and pick up donations.
But combining Market Mobile with our network of farmers markets, we can make Farm to Food Pantry the easy option! The farmers market functions essentially as an aggregation site. Extra produce from the market is then transported to a slightly larger, cooler-equipped aggregation site where we gather food for our Market Mobile program. And then the next day the extra produce gets loaded on the same Market Mobile trucks delivering food to restaurants, grocers, hospitals and workplaces.
One of the neatest aspects: the Farm to Food Pantry program can deliver a few hundred pounds of fresh local produce each week but it is practically free to run, because of systems already in place (successful retail farmers markets and wholesale delivery). It takes the farmers a minute to bring the extra produce to us and saves them the time of loading/unloading the box from their truck. It takes our drivers a few minutes to make a stop at the food pantry site. We identified food pantry partners that are conveniently along the way of our existing delivery routes.