Community Nutrition: Bringing orchard apples to FareStart meals

Sound Consumer September 2020

Apple orchard

Family farms typically operate on thin margins and expect the unexpected. Still, no one could plan for the situation growers like Collins Family Orchard saw this year.

The fourth-generation farm in Selah, Washington, established in 1905, typically sells its tree fruits directly to restaurants and through farmers markets and a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. When the coronavirus pandemic closed businesses, the farm had almost no outlets for its abundance of perishable fruit. Simultaneously, the crisis meant that PCC partner FareStart urgently needed to expand its meal program and provide more nutritious foods. The Seattle-based nonprofit has served community meals and provided job training since 1992.

Looking for solutions that would support both landmark agencies, we donated $50,000 to FareStart to purchase fresh fruit from Collins Family Orchards for its community meals. Additonally, PCC coordinated efforts with our partners at Neighborhood Farmers Markets (NFM) and Harvest Against Hunger (HAH) to manage deliveries from the farm to Seattle. Soon, 5 tons of apples traveled from the orchard in Selah and made their way into the meals that FareStart provides to thousands of individuals and families in Seattle and the surrounding area.

The success of this endeavor relied heavily on the expertise and experience of NFM and HAHA.

NFM strengthens local farms by providing emergency relief, advocating for policies to protect small-scale farms, and providing direct sales opportunities.

HAH (formerly Rotary First Harvest), is an organization that develops and shares innovative hunger relief solutions and plays a unique role with their Farm to Food Pantry Program and King County Farmers Share. They connect produce packers, volunteers, farmers, transportation providers and hunger relief organizations to get produce from farms and fields to those in need. Within the Farm to Food Pantry program, in 2019, 93 farms participated, and 163 food pantries received the farm-fresh food.

For years, PCC has sponsored farmers markets, supported local farms, contributed to food banks and sought to build long-lasting relationships with outstanding organizations in the community. The dedication and commitment we’ve witnessed in the leaders in the emergency food system has been deeply humbling and inspiring. While our food access programs include a wide range of offerings, over the past few months, PCC has prioritized supporting the emergency food system, responding to requests from our partners as quickly as we can, from practical donations like handwashing facilities to financial support. As farmers market season draws to a close for 2020, we’re glad to know that we could play a role in keeping family farms like Collins harvesting their stone fruits, pears, and apples for years to come.

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