Phantom of the Okra
What picture comes to mind when you hear the phrase “food bank”? Maybe this scene?
We’re not as conventional as you might think. In fact, many food banks are making headlines with the increase in fresh foods offered to clients. Manna has a number of partnerships with local farms and farmers markets. Last month, Manna received 19,000 pounds of fresh farmers market produce, all the shapes and colors of summer’s bounty.
Our volunteers put them right into the open boxes for our clients, who pick up seasonal recipes on their way into the lobby. 19,000 pounds might sound like a lot of tomatoes, okra, peppers and greens, but hundreds of pounds more are stored away for winter months. The extra vegetables make a pit-stop at Farm to Freezer, a Bethesda organization that preserves fresh local produce to nourish the hungry.They support local farmers by purchasing their surplus, reduce the amount of food waste after farmers markets, and raise local awareness about homelessness, nutrition, and locally-grown food. They chop and blanch surplus vegetables for freezing, or create frozen sauces to serve clients throughout the winter. After the incredible individuals at Farm to Freezer prepare summer produce for winter distribution, it comes right here to Manna so our clients can receive healthier food year-round.
Last week, Kingsbury Orchard donated 384 pounds of juicy yellow peaches. Many even still had the tender green leaves attached, delivering further ooohs and ahhhs. There were so many peaches, and with the weekend fast approaching, I accompanied the peach pile outdoors to hand (by the bagful!) to smiling clients along with four unusual peach recipes (peach barbeque sauce! chicken and peach salad! five-ingredient cobbler!).
Low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where residents can buy a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (Beaulac et al., 2009; Larson et al., 2009). Households with limited resources to buy enough food often try to stretch their food budgets by purchasing cheap, energy-dense foods that are filling – that is, they try to maximize their calories per dollar in order to stave off hunger (DiSantis et al., 2013). With our clients facing fewer opportunities for physical activity and limited access to health care, providing our clients nutrient-packed, fresh foods is the direction we want to keep heading. This is only the beginning of our work towards a healthier community.
You can help Manna cultivate a healthy climate with whole grains, low-salt and low-sugar donations or volunteering with Farm to Freezer. Thank you for all your support!