On a sunny Thursday morning, steps from the San Francisco Bay, towers of squash, broccoli, oranges, strawberries and watermelon stood waiting.
At 9 a.m., agency staff and volunteers driving station wagons, vans and SUVs pulled in, ready to pack up fresh produce for their Berkeley clients.
That’s just one site for the Food Bank’s new produce hub program. Each week, produce hubs at parking lots in Oakland, Berkeley and Hayward pop up to offer fresh fruit and vegetables to our small and medium-sized member agencies, like food pantries, soup kitchens, after-school programs and community centers.
The program helps the Food Bank, too, by freeing up trucks and drivers for donation pick-ups and deliveries to our largest agencies, allowing us to expand our capacity and stretch donor resources.
So much closer
Just about all of our agencies want to offer more of the Food Bank’s free fresh fruits and vegetables to their clients. The produce hub saves our smaller agencies the time and cost of trekking to the Food Bank.
For Vicky Luckett of Magnolia Women’s Recovery Program in Hayward, driving as many as 28 miles in Bay Area traffic for the few boxes of potatoes they need just doesn’t make sense. So Vicky has been taking advantage of the produce hub in Hayward for several months now.
“Out here in Hayward, we weren’t always able to get to the Food Bank to get fresh produce,” Vicky said. “For the first time, we’re able to really get the produce and the fruit our clients really enjoy. We don’t have to go out and spend money on produce.”
Just what you need
Produce hubs allow agencies to select the types of food they want and need most for their clients.
"I’m so glad to see strawberries today,” said Gary Simons, a volunteer at Meals on Wheels in Berkeley. “Coming here to pick up means we can offer fresh fruit to 150 clients. They really like that.”
Because his clients can’t cook on their own, he can’t use much fresh produce to supplement the clients' frozen meals. But if he knows the hub will have the fresh oranges or berries his clients can use, he’ll come out. An email or fax from the Food Bank includes a list of expected items, helping agencies plan their menus or pantry bags.
Doing a lot with a little
Doing a lot with a little is a specialty of our member agencies. The produce hub’s convenience is a major plus for agencies working with small budgets and without special equipment.
“It’s so much closer than the Food Bank warehouse,” said Deacon James Graham of Liberty Hills Baptist Church in Berkeley.“Before, I could only get a couple of boxes of plums or apples, because the vehicle would fill up quickly with all the other stuff we need. We’ve wanted to be able to offer more fresh food for a long time. Now we can!”
Half an hour after the first station wagon arrived, those tall stacks of fresh fruits and vegetables were gone – on their way to people in need.