As the “produce capture” season begins, we’re starting to gather hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables from farmers in our region. New financial support is now available via the “Farm to Foodshelf” grant—a $2 million appropriation funded by the State of Minnesota, to help Minnesota agricultural producers and processors offset the cost to harvest and package their donated fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go unharvested or be discarded.
So far this harvest season, we’ve received 1.1 million pounds of produce—double the amount of produce we collected at this time last year.
So where does the produce go? The fresh food is delivered to food shelves and other meal programs across the state, by the six Feeding America food banks serving Minnesota, including Second Harvest Heartland. Neighborhood House, a social service agency serving immigrants, refugees and low-income populations in St. Paul, is just one of those agency partner programs that benefits from donated produce. Already this year, Neighborhood House has distributed 182,517 pounds of produce to 3,015 households consisting of 14,295 individuals—half of which are children.
According to Christine Miller, food support manager at Neighborhood House, the number of community members needing food shelf assistance is increasing. And while the agency’s food shelf’s donations are also increasing, they are not increasing fast enough to meet the demand.
“That’s why extra produce (available through Second Harvest Heartland) is so important,” said Christine. “Eligible families may access food shelf services here one time per month; we’re seeing them come back before the month is over in need of more food—this is especially true during the summer months when kids are home from school and needs to eat three meals at home. This extra produce helps supplement the food they’re already getting from the food shelf.”
Above are photos from a recent produce distribution day at the Neighborhood House food shelf. Bags of corn, potatoes, greens, cucumbers, green beans and peppers were distributed to eligible families; the waiting line stretched around the building and down the street.
We have only just begun!
With at least two more months of the harvest season to come, we have only just begun! Thanks to the State of Minnesota, all the farmers and growers who have donated produce, food shelf staff, Feeding America food banks serving the state, and everyone who has had a part in this exciting program.