Food rescues includes more fresh fruit, vegetablesSecond Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank is experiencing an increase in its rescue of nationally and regionally donated fresh produce.
Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank is experiencing an increase in its rescue of nationally and regionally donated fresh produce. Over the last six months, the food bank has rescued 1.6 million pounds of food — 533,000 pounds or 32 percent of which has been fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We’re really excited about fresh produce,” said Shaye Moris, Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank’s executive director. “We want our agency partners and individuals in need to have access to healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Moris states that this trend is particularly good news in light of recent reports that U.S. obesity rates continue to increase.
“Access to nutritional food is a conversation happening throughout our region,” Moris said. “We’ve been happy to see this trend and be a supplier of food to so many people who are struggling to put food on their table. Produce is expensive for families to purchase and if you are on a fixed or limited income, it can be nearly impossible. It will also lead to better health in our northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin communities.”
Moris said produce used to make up a much smaller portion of the food bank’s product. That’s because when food banking started in the ‘70s and ‘80s, it focused primarily on manufactured nonperishable foods or what some people would term “canned foods.” Now that food production lines are more technologically savvy there is far less of this product to be rescued and food banking has evolved into the rescue of more fresh and perishable foods.
Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank attributes its success to a few key initiatives. Last September the food bank hired Food Resource Developer, Heather Murphy, to actively seek sources of food from regional donors which resulted in more food. Partners like Super One Foods, Cub Foods, Whole Foods Co-op, Target, Walmart, and Sam’s Club, are donating much of this regional supply of produce.
In Minnesota, food banks have also benefited from a relationship with Open Your Heart to the Hungry and Homeless, which provides funding for the rescue and distribution of produce statewide. In addition, Hunger-Free Minnesota is working on a pilot program this fall with Minnesota growers to access large supplies of surplus or unmarketable sweet corn and potatoes, which adds to the food banks’ donated product mix. Hunger-Free Minnesota, in partnership with Minnesota Public Radio, is also encouraging individuals to donate produce to their local food bank or food shelf as part of the “Good to Grow” campaign.
Moris is hopeful these initiatives and their trend in rescuing fresh fruits and vegetables will continue.