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Re: Another Hunger ending strategy

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Another Hunger ending strategy
  • From: Connie Nelson <gardenfoolery@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Wed, 28 Apr 2004 09:46:01 -0700 (PDT)

As one who spent the last 5 years working for a food distribution center supplying food to 250 food pantries and other hunger relief agencies, I love the backpack idea.  This is an especially appealing program in rural areas where food pantries may be few or non-existent or with little resources to offer, especially in the fresh produce line.
However, as the program manager developing just these kind of projects, a small word of caution.  Make sure you touch base with your local county health department, especially if there are plans afoot to repackage food.  I worked with 59 health departments in 3 states and every one had their own peculiar rules.  Even something as simple as making sandwiches for street kids ended up literally being a legislative matter with several of us working together to put together a statewide usage policy & brochure for approval by the state Department of Health.
Often it was the small things that were an issue.  For example: don't use single use containers such as leftover butter tubs or cottage cheese tubs.  Glass however is ok in most counties as long as there is access to a sterilization procedure, which usually is available in a commercial kitchen.
That said, make friends with your local county health department personnel.  They're still human beings, most with a genuine desire to help keep food safe, and will usually be a useful resource in offering ways to make it work.  They often have strong ties with the local county extension departments who are absolute jewels to work with when developing innovative ways to get healthy food to people.
Also, you might want to investigate Plant A Row.  This national program encourages local gardeners to donate their excess to hunger-relief organizations like food pantries and soup kitchens.  I developed a collaboration with our local PAR volunteer.  The first year we took in somewhere around 1700 pounds.  It's tripled in the last couple of years.  Granted this isn't much for our organization with 12 million pounds, but if you're the pantry receiving it, it can be a real boon.  What was neat about the program was the gardeners delivered directly to their neighborhood food pantry, rather than our warehouse, thus saving 2-3 storage days on the produce.  It was also a rather crafty way to encourage these same gardeners to volunteer at the pantries.  Definitely a win-win all the way around.  The website to see more information about starting a PAR program in your area is:  http://www.gardenwriters.org/par/Campaign.html  By siting community gardens at schools, you could provide not only learning material useful to the teachers through a real life lab, you could have the kids grow their own food and learn the connections between where food comes from and how it gets to us.  I can still remember an incident with an intercity youngster who was amazed tomatoes grew on vines; she thought they just came canned.
Keep on growing!
Connie Nelson
Spokane, WA

Sharon Gordon <gordonse@one.net> wrote:
I recently read about some programs that have added a new strategy for
helping children who experience chronic hunger. In addition to the school
breakfast and lunch programs, some schools have started sending home
backpacks of food over the weekends so that children don't have to go
without food from friday lunch to monday breakfast. They include food that
doesn't need to be refrigerated or cooked, and seem mostly to consist of
things like individual cans of fruit and cereal bars.

As you might expect this food not only helps with hunger and improved health
but also with academics and self-esteem.

In thinking about how community garden anti-hunger programs might help with
this, it seems to me that cherry tomatoes, washed and protected in plastic
containers might be a good addition from August when school starts back to
as long as tomatoes continue to produce in the area. In addition to garden
volunteers in community gardens or school gardens, there would probably need
to also be some parent volunteers who washed the reusable containers and the
tomatoes each week unless the number of children in a particular school
needing the service was small enough that the cafeteria staff could handle
the additional work.

Some other things that might work unrefrigerated for three days:
Small cucumbers
Clean unpeeled carrots with a bit of stem
Clean radishes with a bit of stem
Roasted and salted peanuts or sunflower seeds
Small bunches of grapes protected in a plastic container
White whole wheat raisin nut bread in a plastic container and packed at top
of book bag
Small jars of school canned jam/jelly--so whole jar could be eaten in a
weekend. (may need to pack in bubble wrap in plastic container. Jars could
be reused with new lids)

Additionally for children in summer school:
Cherries in a plastic container

What else might work?


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