Are you up to the ‘Farmer Foodshare Challenge’?

I’ve been reading a lot about the “Farmer Foodshare Challenge” this Saturday at these Triangle farmer’s markets: Carrboro Farmers’ Market, Durham Farmers’ Market, South Estes Farmers’ Market in Chapel Hill and the Western Wake Farmers’ Market in Cary.

The challenge is a one-morning effort to raise as much locally grown NC produce as possible for the neediest in our communities. The day’s goal is 4,000 pounds. What I wonder is how can so much fresh produce be used so quickly? I’ve volunteered to prepare meals at a Durham community kitchen and we were hard-pressed to use all the awesome donated veggies. And that was on a regular day.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for getting fresh food to people who need it. I was very happy to read that this ongoing food donation program has delivered more than 13.4 tons of locally grown, top-quality farm fresh food to more than 16 nonprofit agencies serving the hungry in five NC counties (Chatham, Cleveland, Durham, Orange and Wake). Also, the program has raised over $5,000 in shopper donations to buy food from farmers and donate it to hungry children, seniors and adults.

So my question is not, is this a good cause, but is this event the most effective way to get food to people who need it? Will food be wasted in the short term? How does this help the cause in the long term?  Am I the only person wondering this? I’d love to hear what others think.

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5 Responses to Are you up to the ‘Farmer Foodshare Challenge’?

  1. Hi Diane,
    Speaking on behalf of Western Wake Farmers’ Market, thanks for sharing information about the Foodshare Challenge on Sat. Your concern is a valid one, but Farmer Foodshare has planned this event in conjunction with numerous organizations who will be receiving the foods. The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, which is picking up foods at WWFM and the other markets, works with multiple agencies to make sure that they do not get more food than they can handle. Instead of sending the food collected to just one location, IFFS will distribute the food doantons all over the Triangle and specifically to places that have an interest in and capacity for receiving fresh produce! Thanks for your support!

    Other groups are involved in picking up and delivering foods collected from the other markets as well.

    • didaniel says:

      Thanks Michele. I appreciate the response. I do still wonder how this advances the cause in the long term, but certainly you’ve gotten great publicity for this Challenge. That’s part of the goal, I assume, to raise visibility for Foodshare and the cause. I recently wrote a piece on food waste for Ode magazine (not out yet or I’d link to it), and after talking to many experts I’ve concluded that, in regards to hunger/food insecurity, food donations can help moderately, but real change in policy is the answer, especially food stamps. People don’t like to hear that government is an answer, yet many food charities (food banks, kitchens, etc) receive government support. As you know, it’s a highly complex issue, not one to solve here. 😉 Thanks again for commenting!

      • didaniel says:

        Michele later replied to me directly:
        “Yes, we’re looking to support local farmers and help the growing number of hungry people in our area. The numbers are staggering. This is also why our market (and Carrboro, not sure if the other 2 markets do or not) accept EBT cards at market. Everyone needs fresh fruit and vegetables!”

        As I told her, I appreciate their efforts greatly. What they’re doing is tons of work.


        • didaniel says:

          Here’s another comment sent to me directly from Margaret Gifford, one of the organizers. It’s a bit long, but I think important to post here:

          Thanks for the question. It’s completely valid and one that we also were concerned about.

          That is why we give to places that have the capacity and the demand to move fresh food very quickly. We also give directly to the people who need it in some cases (low income senior center, a Human Rights Center that serves Latino families at risk for hunger, TABLE — serves children at risk for hunger. We’re also 100% not interested in building a successful effort based on “gleaning,” as we believe, along with most of our partners that gleaning isn’t the answer to creating system change in a broken food system.

          That said, as our good friend and local farmer, John Soehner said to me once, “Folks got to eat!!” So, we get food to the places it is needed and we raise local funds for local farmers to get local food to meet local need.

          Michele already provided thoughts from the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (our distribution partner for this event.) However, here’s some thoughts from the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service, one of our primary partner recipients in Chapel Hill/Carrboro:

          “Donna Bradley (Kitchen Coordinator) says everything gets used, nothing is wasted. If there is too much to serve in the kitchen, it is distributed in a timely manner to people who need it (i.e. through Saint Joe’s).

          And bear in mind that the IFC kitchen served 87,288 meals last fiscal year.

          Kristin Lavergne (Community Services Director) says that the food pantry can move a whole lot of fresh food very quickly. She also noted that when they receive food from the farmer’s market it is so fresh that it will last several days (unlike some donations from grocery stores that is already old when it arrives).”

          I hear you on the question about systemic change. That is why many of our volunteers (and Farmer Foodshare) are members of various state coalitions and advocacy groups (like the CFSA, UNC’s FLO, CEFS’ WIT on Food Access , RAFI’s Come to the Table, the Human Rights Center and others).

          We’re working on both getting policy right for farmers – like making Farm to Institution rules manageable for small to mid-sized farmers, looking at healthy snack policies and nutrition ed in community afterschool programs, cooperating with the farmers’ market EBT programs and garden to create a path to food independence — and on making sure that people who need fresh, nutritious top-quality food get it.

          It’s easy to stay grounded in this kind of work, b/c when you make a delivery of fresh, tier one, “just picked” farmers market food to people who rarely get this kind of food on their plates and you see the reaction of delight and joy — that the “farmers care about us” — it makes it all worthwhile.

          A sustainable local food economy is only sustainable if _everyone_ has access to it. We’re excited to be part of this amazing movement.

  2. Derek says:

    I find it pretty challenging to find places to accept our left over cooked foods from my workplace. I have sent out probably 8 or 9 emails this past week and have not had 1 response. I do not have alot but would like to donate what I do have.
    Also, I am trying to get F.H.F.H. (farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry) in this area. With the amount of Deer we have running around this whole area it just makes sense. Especially when 1 deer makes approximately 200 meals and our Hunting laws are very liberal as to countethe exploding Deer population. I don’t really see why we need to give out more food stamps, if we use our renewable resources that we have right in front of our faces, get the animal rights groups in check and off of farmers and hunters backs I feel the problem of hunger could be solved. In our area especially. Other areas I am not sure that would work, but definitely in the entire Piedmont region.
    As far as days like this to have 1 massive day of donations….it is what it is, a marketing tool to get the word out and plant that seed. You have to start somewhere.
    Just me 2 cents.