Farm to Food Bank is Accelerating Access

There are many steps involved in getting a food item into the hands of a guest at our food bank or a partner pantry. But broadly speaking, food comes to the food bank from two different streams: donations and purchases. Like many other food banks across the nation, the last few years have shaken up our traditional sources due to the higher food cost and supply chain issues. Where once we could depend on over 50% donated food, that number has dropped to around 30%. Because we now need to purchase more food than ever before, maintaining costs while securing good nutrition and a steady supply is essential. 

Led by FMP's new Food Resource Developer, Scott Sacrey, significant progress is being made in securing more fresh produce for our agency partners and the individuals we serve while stewarding relationships with local and regional growers.

Farm to Food Bank is a full circle program that benefits local growers by coordinating with their growing seasons. When sweet corn is abundant in July, prices are sky-high, but by mid-August, prices have fallen, and farmers benefit when they can sell or donate the remainder of their crop instead of seeing it go to waste. Not only does this help the local economy, but it also promotes environmental sustainability and, most significantly, leverages local resources to get good produce into the hands of families in need.

When fresh produce comes into the food bank, it is almost immediately distributed at our Pop-Up grocery distribution events and shipped to our hunger-relief agency partners across the region. Strengthening regional and local partnerships means a greater variety of produce can be possible because it diminishes the time and transportation required to get it here. Produce sourced from outside the region is more expensive and less fresh.

The Farm to Food Bank program is just beginning but has already made significant gains. When we received a $20,000 grant for produce from Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, we were able to secure agreements with three local vendors: Bushel and a Peck (apples), Connell's Family Orchard (corn and apples), and Nuto Farms (potatoes). This will result in over 150,000 pounds of fresh produce this fall! Other efforts include working with Amish and Hmong farmers in the Withee area through an auction warehouse. We need to do more, however. In the near future, we are seeking to make more connections with local meat and dairy vendors.

When asked what it meant to get fresh produce for her and her family, Meagan, a mother in a household of six at a recent pop-up distribution in Eau Claire, replied, "My kids get excited when there is fruit. We don't buy it often - it's so expensive!"

Good food shouldn't be a luxury. Our goal and hope with the Farm to Food Bank program is to make consistent access to fresh food a reality for more families like Meagan's. 

Farm to Food Bank is Accelerating Access