LOCAL PRODUCE LINK
The Local Produce Link Program connects local, family farmers with emergency food providers in order to bring farm-fresh produce to food pantries and soup kitchens throughout the city. The program is funded by the New York State Department of Health's Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) and is managed in partnership with the United Way of NYC.
In 2014, Just Food worked with 8 regional farmers and 49 emergency food programs in all 5 boroughs to deliver over 280,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to the city's most vulnerable residents.
HOW IT WORKS
In the Local Produce Link model, a farmer delivers fresh produce to a "hub" food pantry or soup kitchen each week during the growing season (June through November). On the same day, nearby "spoke" food pantries and soup kitchens pick up their vegetables from the hub, which serves as both the distribution site and organizing entity for the group. Participating agencies receive three to four different types of vegetables each week, totaling approximately 180-250 pounds.
The types of produce that food pantries and soup kitchens receive through this program vary over the course of the season and include both familiar favorites (such as lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes) and less common ones (such as mustard greens, kohlrabi, and leeks).
Farmers are given the flexibility to send down the best fruits and vegetables from their farm, but are expected to deliver one crop in each of the following categories: a salad or cooking green (e.g. arugula, kale, or bok choy); a root vegetable (e.g. beets, radishes, or celery root); and a seasonal vegetable (e.g. corn, summer squash, or eggplant). This ensures that food pantry clients are getting a diversity of nutrients while balancing the fun of a surprise with the ease of consistency.
In addition to providing fresh fruits and vegetables to emergency food programs, Local Produce Link creates opportunities for food pantry staff, volunteers, and clients to learn new cooking skills, develop relationships with regional farmers, and participate in a local, sustainable food system. Some of our educational program components include:
Cooking Demonstrations: Through Just Food's Community Food Education Program, we train food pantry staff and volunteers as Community Chefs. Our Community Chefs facilitate cooking demonstrations at food pantries using the Local Produce Link vegetables. In 2014, we conducted nearly 100 cooking demonstrations at food pantries throughout the city!
Farm Trips: Farm trips are a great way for city residents to connect with their farmer, learn about the Local Produce Link vegetables, share their own agricultural knowledge, and enjoy a day in the countryside. Since 2008, almost 1,000 food pantry staff, volunteers, and clients have visited their Local Produce Link farm. Check out the video below of our visit to Hearty Roots Farm in September of 2009!