Hunger is a very real problem in Utah County and can occur in any neighborhood, for a variety of reasons. Many of our fellow community members often have to choose between food, medicine or other essential items due to financial difficulties.
Last month in the Daily Herald, I reported about the fresh produce shortage occurring this summer at local food banks and pantries. Thus, less fresh produce is being provided for those in need.
In food-insecure homes, sometimes the problem is not the lack of food, but the quality of the food. Often, food that is donated is canned or processed food, which is a good way to provide meals that alleviate hunger, but important nutrients may be lacking.
“We have had many clients comment how grateful they are when we do have produce because it’s not something they can afford,” said Wendy Osborne, Tabitha’s Way Food Pantry founder. “It may seem odd to imagine; but to some of these families, apples are a luxury.”
Osborne said that recently, a mother of a small family who has fallen into tough times commented about how her family had only eaten items from their food storage reserves for several months before coming to the food pantry.
“She was delighted when she was able to receive some produce. She said, ‘Forget the cookies. My kids are going to go nuts when they see I have brought home oranges,’” Osborne said.
Community Action Services and Food Bank in Provo and Tabitha’s Way Food Pantries in American Fork and Spanish Fork accept donations of fresh produce, which they distribute to thousands of people every month. There are ways to make collecting and donating produce fun.
Hosting a community garden is a great way to bring people together for a common cause. Each participating family or individual can not only grow some produce for themselves, but grow some for the needy as well.
In some areas of the country, farm owners invite volunteers to come to the fields after they have been harvested. These volunteers gather produce that is left behind and, rather than let it rot, it is donated to the needy.
Many neighborhoods have a harvest-sharing booth where extra produce from gardens is placed and anyone in the neighborhood can pick it up. In some neighborhoods, one day each week is designated for produce to be donated to local food banks or pantries. That leaves the remainder of the week for sharing with neighbors, which could also help those in our own neighborhoods who may be struggling.
Are you cleaning up your yard below the trees where fruit has fallen? If it is still edible, that fruit can be donated. You’re going to pick it up anyway — it might as well go to someone who will eat it, rather than be thrown away.
Some gardeners have begun the practice of “Grow a row, give a row.” Half of the food that is harvested is kept, half is donated.
A fresh produce scavenger hunt can get an entire neighborhood involved. Families or youth groups go from house to house in search of fresh produce. Given a list, the hunters scavenge for items such as apples, peaches, squash and peppers. It could be a fun competition and a great way to share with others.
Some groups choose not to compete and simply tell their neighbors that they will be coming around on a certain day to collect fresh produce for the needy. If they are able to donate, the neighbors simply set it on their porch. It is exciting to see how much one group can collect.
Just this past week, an Eagle Scout candidate held a pinewood derby in Lindon. The entry fee was a food donation. More than 50 people donated food, which was then donated to Tabitha’s Way in American Fork.
However you choose to collect fresh fruit and vegetables, many in our community will benefit.
“Although our pantries serve senior citizens, veterans, families and persons with disabilities, the largest demographic we serve is children, who make up on average 50% of those receiving food,” Osborne said.