Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Shared Harvest: A Community Approach to Fighting Hunger

By Amanda McCarthy

As the largest hunger relief organization in Yolo County, the Food Bank is often asked, “How can we help?” The answer is simple, get involved. Whether you are an individual looking for ways to help or with a group, business, or other organization, there are countless ways to contribute. With food insecurity on the rise, the community needs your help now more than ever.

As the need for food resources increases, so does the Food Bank’s need for community support to operate our programs. Though the Food Bank has developed specific ways that people can help, we have always been open to new and different ideas. As a result, we have formed many creative partnerships with the agricultural community this year.

Farmers have taken the concept of providing food to the next level. Through unique partnerships with local farms, the Food Bank is able to provide fresh, locally-grown products directly to people who need them most.

Through Shared Harvest, local farms can donate a portion of their crops or proceeds from a crop directly to the Food Bank. In an area with an abundant harvest of nutritious food, there is an opportunity for the Food Bank to be the direct link between local farms and hungry people. Growers at Conaway Ranch spearheaded this initiative through a generous donation. They will donate 160,000 pounds of rice to families and individuals in need of food assistance. Other farms, including Durst Organic Growers, are also making significant contributions.

Creative partnerships have also resulted from Food Connect, a group organized by Board Supervisor Don Saylor to build sustainable food systems to provide healthy food to all of Yolo County. Students from the Center for Land-Based Learning’s (CLBL) Farm Academy are now growing produce exclusively for the Kid’s Farmers Market, a program of the Food Bank. Approximately 500 kids each week take home beets, carrots, herbs, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes to share with their families. CLBL worked with the Food Bank to create a crop plan that included unique varieties of these items so that the kids could try things they may not have seen or eaten before.

After learning about the number of food insecure families in Yolo County, farm owners Shane Tucker and Marsha Baird created Food Bank Farmers, a unique program that uses beginning farmers and volunteers to grow food for the Food Bank. They have partnered with CLBL to farm a 1.5 acre plot that couldn’t be commercially farmed otherwise.

The Food Bank is proud to partner with so many generous people and businesses. In an area so rich in agriculture, we consider it an honor and privilege to provide the community with so much local, healthy food. If you are interested in learning more about how you or your group can get involved please contact the Food Bank of Yolo County at 530-668-0690.

— Amanda McCarthy is the director of programs for the Food Bank of Yolo County. Find more about Food Bank Farmers at www.FoodBankFarmers.org; the Center for Land-Based Learning at www.landbasedlearning.org; and Conaway Ranch at www.conawayranch.com/



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