Program Helps Ohio’s Hungry Enjoy Nature’s Harvest
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The value of fresh, local food is being celebrated during National Farmers Market Week, but lower-income Ohioans are often unable to partake in nature's harvest.
Lora Davenport, community relations manager for The Food Bank in Dayton, explained fruits and vegetables are often expensive, and food drives typically accept only nonperishable items. The Agricultural Clearance Program works to solve those problems by making local farmers' excess produce available to Ohioans who struggle to get by, including the one in six considered "food insecure."
"Somebody who is food insecure, meaning that they don't always know where their next meal is coming from, it can be hard for them to get their hands on fresh produce," she said. "With this, they're able to not just fill their bellies with food, but fill them with nutritious food."
Today, the Food Bank is hosting a mobile food distribution event at the Nutter Center near Dayton, where truckloads of produce, including potatoes, corn, green beans, summer squash and peaches, will be given to those in need. Davenport adds Ohio food banks host similar distributions throughout the summer.
According to Erin Wright, who manages the Agricultural Clearance Program, over 40 million pounds of food were distributed last year throughout the state. She noted the clients are very appreciative, and include seniors and families with children.
"When you're standing at one of the mobile markets and you hand a small child a watermelon, it brings tears to your eyes," she said. "This is something that Mommy can't get at the grocery store; and they are all so grateful."
Funding for the program is available through a grant from the state, with farmers receiving 20 cents per pound for the produce. And Wright noted it's a project that benefits the hungry, local farmers, and the economy.
"It's Ohio tax dollars helping Ohio farmers clear their product without plowing them under," she added. "It gives their employees longer hours and then, that money in turn is put back into the local areas."
Sites and dates for mobile produce distribution events in Ohio are online at ohiofoodbanks.org.