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Small farms make big impact on food bank

Dec 1st, 2014 | Category: Community

by Lindsay Hilton

Residents donate roughly 50,000 pounds from home gardens; Winter Fresh launches

This growing season has been busy for the Bellingham Food Bank, thanks in large part to local farmers and individual growers who donated produce as part of one of three programs operated by the Food Bank. This year the programs—Victory Gardens, Small Potatoes Gleaning Project, and Food Bank Fresh—accounted for a whopping 300,000 pounds of local, fresh, and high-quality produce that the Food Bank was able to give residents in need.

Agricultural Programs Coordinator Max Morange unloads corn for the food bank.  PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE COHEN

Agricultural Programs Coordinator Max Morange unloads corn for the food bank.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE COHEN

The programs reinforce the mission of the Food Bank, which Executive Director Mike Cohen said is “to provide access to the best food that Whatcom County has to offer, regardless of one’s ability to afford it.”

With help from the Whatcom Community Foundation and a broad group of generous businesses and individuals, the Food Bank has the flexibility to run programs that are unmatched in creativity.

The three programs have been steadily growing over the last five years as the Food Bank increases the amount of food it’s acquiring and as more farms and backyard growers participate. And that’s a good thing because the Food Bank needs to keep pace with the growing volume of customers.

“We have received great feedback from the families we serve,” Cohen said. Three to five pounds may not mean much to a commercial farmer, but as Cohen points out, “it means everything to a single mom coming in to the Food Bank with two or three kids.”

The Victory Gardens Program, which encourages home gardeners to donate their excess produce, brought in just over 50,000 pounds of local produce this year. Hundreds of individuals donated everything from head lettuce, winter squash, basil, chard, cucumbers, kale, and winter peas, and more.

“Anything you can imagine growing in a garden,” Cohen said.

Collecting chard.  PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE COHEN

Collecting chard.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE COHEN

By year’s end, the Small Potatoes Gleaning Project will have gleaned just over 200,000 pounds of produce. More than 40 local farms and vendors have participated, donating “seconds” (produce that does not meet grocery store standards due to blemishes, or irregular or small size), or produce their machines could not pluck from the ground. Seconds might not meet buyers’ standards for size but as Cohen said, “It’s still perfectly nutritious, hyper-fresh, organic produce.”

The Small Potatoes project was started 10 years ago by Rio Thomas to assist hunger centers around Bellingham, and the Food Bank adopted it about six years ago. They have expanded and increased the amount of food that can be gleaned. The program also benefits other food banks. Cohen delivers food to the Lighthouse Mission downtown and various other programs that provide meals for low-income families.

The Food Bank Fresh initiative, made possible by the Whatcom Community Foundation, is a direct purchase program that allows the Food Bank to purchase produce at wholesale or below-wholesale costs. This year 10 local farms provided 50,000 pounds of produce, including carrots, beets, cabbage, winter squash, spinach, cauliflower, cucumbers, chard, kale, leeks, broccoli and tomatoes. “This program has allowed us to engage in some pretty meaningful purchases for the Food Bank,” Cohen said.

 

Winter Fresh

Food gleaning slows down in the winter, but it never stops. The Food Bank will be launching a new program this winter in conjunction with the Whatcom Community Foundation called Winter Fresh. They have contracted with Osprey Hill Farm in Acme to grow cabbage, beets, and carrots, which will be delivered to the Food Bank from January to March 2015.

300,000 pounds, 40+ participating farms

 

Farms participating in the Small Potatoes Gleaning Project:

Boxx Berry Farm

Terre Verde Farm

Cedarville Farm

Hopewell Farm

Osprey Hill Farm

Moondance Farm

Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Delhi Wind Bamboo

Ralph’s Greenhouse

Hedlin Farms

 

Farms and producers participating in the Food Bank Fresh Program:

(* denotes non-produce donation)

Absolutely Nuts*

Alm Hill Gardens

Bellewood Acres

Bellingham Country Gardens

Boxx Berry Farm

Breadfarm*

Broadleaf Farm

Cascadia Mushrooms

Cedarville Farm

Chow Dogs*

Chowhound*

Cleaarian Berry Farm

Cloud Mountain Farm Center

Delhi Wind Bamboo

Doug Pullar Farm

Evergreen Station

Growing Washington

H&P Farms

HMV Berries LLC

Springfrog Farm at the Holistic Homestead

Hopewell Farm

Joe’s Garden

K&M Red River Farm

KaBloom Nursery

Leaky Dam Farm

Mariposa Farm

Martin Family Orchard

Mount Baker Berry Farm LLC

Mount Bakery*

Northfield Farm

NW Gourmet Harvest

Osprey Hill Farm

Prairie Road Farm

Rabbit Fields Farm

Ralf’s Bavarian Bakery*

Roll Organic Farms

Sage and Sky Farm

Shumway’s Berries

Sm’ Apples

Spring Time Farm

Steve’’s Garden

Sumas River Farm

Sunbreak Nursery

Sunseed Farm

Terra Verde Farm

Wild Fishwives

 

 

(This is part of an ongoing series looking at food banks in our area. To submit information, please send to editor@grownorthwest.com.)

 

 

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