How is our produce distributed to over 20 states?

By Tristan Wallack, Vice President of Programming & Operations

If you’ve volunteered at any of our four farms, you may have seen tractor trailers being loaded with bins and cases of tomatoes, eggplant, squash, or one of the other 18 varieties of produce we grow. The intricacies of farming and food banking involve numerous variables and challenges. We’re always navigating factors such as weather, soil conditions, disease, pests, in addition to volunteer and refrigeration capacity. But once our produce is ready to be harvested, the countdown begins to coordinate with feeding agencies to ensure no produce is wasted. Our distribution process has evolved so that we can now send produce across the United States!

Did you know that most of the produce that our groups harvest leaves the farm on the same day? Our “pick and haul” model involves volunteers picking produce directly from the fields, which is then immediately loaded onto a food bank truck. Doing this ensures the produce reaches food banks in its freshest state without the need for double-handling or cooling. Time is of the essence once the produce is harvested, and while some varieties like cabbage and apples are more hearty than others, our goal is to distribute it as quickly as possible to those in need.

In the early years of the organization, as Chip (our President & Founder) became aware of the concept of food deserts, he recognized specific geographic areas in dire need of more fruits and vegetables. It was at this time he started working with nonprofit organizations around NJ and eastern PA to offer Free Farm Markets in those communities. Today, we engage with partners who oversee nearly 40 Free Farm Markets in areas where people otherwise may not have access to nutritious food.

In addition to the local Free Farm Markets, we donate produce regionally.  We reach every county in New Jersey through partnerships with the Community FoodBank of NJ and Farmers Against Hunger. In addition, we reach all boroughs of New York City in partnership with City Harvest. Finally, we reach the Greater Philadelphia area through our collaboration with Philabundance. These large food bank partners regularly pick up produce from us during the 16 week season when our volume is the greatest. Sometimes partners reach capacity for a variety of reasons and are unable to accept new produce. In these situations, we interface directly with Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger relief organization. We list excess produce on their Meal Connect platform which opens our produce up to their entire national network of approximately 200 food banks, any of which can choose to pick up our produce.

Now that we partner with so many hunger relief organizations, each fall we create a distribution plan for the upcoming year. This plan serves as the foundation for our donation strategy outlining the allocation of produce to each organization. This plan is flexible, allowing us to collaborate closely with our partners to adapt to their weekly requirements.

Whether our produce is traveling 15 miles or 1,500 miles, our goal is to distribute where it is most needed, and ensure that someday everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables!

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