In past issues, we’ve told you about the more than 200 million pounds of heartland fresh produce that goes un-harvested or unsold in Minnesota alone…..
…..a staggering number, difficult even to understand when you consider that amount would fill 5,000 semis. But what we can easily understand is that the corn, potatoes, watermelon, peppers, peas and other produce that go to waste on Minnesota farms each year would be of great value to so many families at risk of going without a meal today—if only we could find a way to make the connection.
That’s where Harvest to Home, the local agricultural surplus program anchored by Second Harvest Heartland, comes in.
At a time when food manufacturers are increasing efficiencies, resulting in less surplus product, and demand on food shelves is high, it’s more important than ever that hunger-relief organizations continue to forge new partnerships to connect the abundance of the heartland with the dinner tables of those we serve.
Last year through Harvest to Home, we collected more than 2.3 million pounds of sweet corn, potatoes, watermelon and green peppers from over 40 different farms. This season, we collected more than 4.3 million pounds of sweet corn, potatoes, apples, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, watermelon, green beans, peppers, squash, tomatoes and zucchini that has already been sent out through our network of food shelf and other agency partners for distribution to families in need. This year, more than 60 different farms and processors across our state participated with donations.
Without action, a bounty can turn into over abundance
When we got the call that Seneca Foods had 600,000 pounds of corn available if we had the capacity to collect it, we responded immediately. Trucks that would normally have moved the corn in Renville County to a Seneca plant instead moved it to Cargill’s grain storage facility in Savage. Cargill employees packed 12 truckloads of corn into totes, and SUPERVALU supported the effort with refrigeration and transportation.
But like any fresh food, corn is perishable. We knew Minnesota’s emergency food system couldn’t quickly enough absorb more than 100,000 pounds of it—so the Second Harvest Heartland Food Sourcing Team sprung into action, making connections with other food banks in the Feeding America network to share in the bounty. Within days, truckloads of corn were on their way to 18 food banks in 10 states—from the Greater Food Depository in Chicago, Illinois to the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas, Texas.
Local growers dedicate crops to the cause
While the vast majority of the pounds contributed to this program has and will come through partnerships with large-scale processors like Seneca, donations from smaller, local growers make a huge difference. Take Gary Pahl, owner of Pahl’s Market in Apple Valley, as an example. Last year, Gary learned of the program and told us, “I never would have figured in my whole entire life that this network that they have established and put together throughout the country could do what they did, and get (the produce) out to people.” This year, Gary planted crops specifically planned for donation, amounting to more than 230,000 pounds of corn, cabbage, green beans, cucumbers and peppers.
Partnerships will shape the future
Not one of the successes experienced this year could have been accomplished without the dedication and commitment of caring partners on the front lines of hunger relief. From the major processor to the local community garden, the contributions of each and every partner make a tremendous difference in the lives of people experiencing hunger. As the autumn fades into winter here in the heartland, we look forward to an off-season full of brainstorming, connecting and planning for future years when we can capture even more of the 200 million pounds of abundance waiting to be picked and placed in front of a hungry child, senior or working parent to enjoy.