Who’s fighting local hunger? Elk Grove food bank is growing quickly. But the constant need for food also rises with the growing population. More people are seeking groceries and produce from the food banks.
See the September 26, 2011 Sacramento Bee article, “As need grows, so does Elk Grove Food Bank … – Sacramento Bee.” Presently, Elk Grove Food Bank Services is a $400,000-a-year operation covering 6,100 square feet and serving 3,500 people a month. Also see the article, Food Banks News – The Sacramento Bee. You might check out the site, Food bank donations: Top 10 needs – MSN Money.
Interestingly, people arrive in cars for handouts of food boxes. They don’t arrive by bus or on foot or on bikes. They come to get the food by car. How can they afford the insurance, gas, and car payments? The image of people getting free food are long lines of the elderly nondrivers, mothers and children, and old, homeless men. But the image is not the reality. People do arrive in cars…in lines of cars.
How did the Elk Grove Food Bank grow? One helping breakthrough was the decision of 14 local pastors who, through their collaborative Church at Elk Grove, decided to finance the lease of a large warehouse on Dino Drive for three years. Overnight, the small operation moved from a small space in two trailers donated by the Cosumnes Community Services District into a full-scale operation.
Besides five food programs, the food bank operates a clothes closet for the community and public school district. It also offers a job readiness program that includes mentoring and counseling. And it provides resources for the homeless through the agency’s People Assisting the Homeless program. It is intended to provide support for an upcoming transitional housing program managed by Sacramento Self-Help Housing, according to the Sacramento Bee article, “As need grows, so does Elk Grove Food Bank – Sacramento Bee.”
Food also is delivered to numerous people, but not at their homes or apartments. The food is delivered to a church. Typical groceries are combination of cereal, dry milk, mashed potatoes, chicken, tuna, Ensure, Jell-O, tea, crackers, oatmeal, beans, vegetables and bananas. The food is meant to supplement food that the people already obtain from other places. Food banks supplement food, and are meant not to provide all the food for an entire family. But the need for free food is growing. The big nutrition question now can be asked: Who’s fighting hunger in Sacramento?
Who Fights Hunger in Sacramento?
The goal of fighting hunger by keeping food local, here in the area has the help of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG). Soil Born, an urban agriculture and education project, located in the Rancho Cordova area of Sacramento, recently won a $240,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Project. This is the first time Sacramento has won such an award in the federal program’s history since the program began in 1996. Also view a Soil Born Farms slideshow about the project.
Why Sacramento needs a nutrition hub is that someone has to bridge the gap between Sacramento and Davis farmers and consumers who live in the most urban neighborhoods of Sacramento. Check out the website for the Davis-based Community Alliance with Family Farmers. See the website, Community Alliance with Family Farmers. What the Alliance is building is a link to closes the gap in the locally-grown food supply chain. Who is making an effort to bring fresh, organic produce to Sacramento’s inner city neighborhoods and low-income areas?
Several ways to fight hunger in Sacramento, which does exist, is through community farms, farmers’ markets, and local produce hubs. Produce from this area’s small farms fuel the “eat-local” movement and also feed the community. The produce also can be sold to schools for meals served to children as the number public school students from low-income homes rises in this area.
Soil Born Farms allows youth and adults to rediscover and participate in a system of food production and distribution that promotes healthy living, nurtures the environment and brings people together to share the simple pleasures of living life in harmony with nature. Soil Born Farms is committed to developing programming focused on organic food production, healthy food education and food access for all residents.
The plan, part of a vision of a local farming-based voice of resilience and self-confidence, is about crafting a rural sustainability strategy for the Sacramento region. Rural sustainability is basic: grow and sell local fruits and vegetables in a produce hub right here instead of shipping farm produce to other states.
It’s now 2011. And Sacramento shoppers can still walk into any given supermarket and see produce imported from anywhere in the world–grapes from Chile, ginger from Thailand, fruit from Fiji, vegetables from Mexico, garlic powder from China, olives from Greece, and the global imports continue. But where’s the local produce even when it’s the right season for specific fruits? Where are the organic grapes or apples from local areas in Sacramento markets even when they’re in season? Why are so many organic apples products also of Chile? Where’s the seasonal, local organic produce?
If you buy local, you won’t see foods that grow in Sacramento in the summer on shelves in the winter at most markets–unless you have someone farming in an indoor greenhouse or food is imported from organic farms located in tropical areas.
According to the season, local vegetables and fruits are loaded on trucks. But the trucks the produce from local farmers also will be the same trucks that already carry produce from the entire globe. The mission in Sacramento surrounding local food is to let local farmers enlarge markets and profits.
How do you know what’s locally grown? The produce is supposed to be identified by boxes showing that the produce is locally grown so that each box of vegetables or fruits is traceable.
What Sacramento needs is a hub for the produce to get the vegetables and fruits from the local farmers to the consumers. It’s not only the consumer who wants local produce. It’s also the schools, restaurants, and institutions. Locally grown foods are in high demand.
The goal also is to bring fresh foods grown locally into Sacramento’s low-income areas. Did you ever wonder why food sometimes distributed to low-income Sacramentans so many times says on the package, say of frozen berries, that the fruit is a product of China, but is distributed by one farm or another in California? Does that ever concern you why fruit such as frozen berries isn’t grown locally?
Sacramento area’s Walmart stores vow to sell ‘healthier’ food. But how many organic produce collers, aisles, or sections do you see in the latest Walmart store to put in a large produce and food section in front of the store? At the store on El Camino Avenue and Watt Avenue in Sacramento, you’ll see a few bags of organic oranges. The only bag of organic oranges there a few weeks ago didn’t look too fresh at first glance.
There was one, green and moldy organic orange inside the bag of oranges. So basically, either the bag wasn’t noticed on the pile, or the organic produce section wasn’t labeled in large enough letters or was out of the way, perhaps ignored by many customers in a rush to buy produce.
The rest of the produce, not organic, sold briskly and quickly…and looked fresh. Where’s the organic and natural food sections in Walmart? If Walmart expects to do business with the senior citizens in Arden Arcade, it would be nice to add a special section for organic produce because the store is home to areas of senior citizen’s apartment complexes. And may older people are tired of pesticides in and on their produce. To get more organic food into markets such as Walmart, perhaps Sacramento needs a new approach to creating produce hubs.
What are produce hubs?
How do hubs in Sacramento and Davis overcome distribution-related obstacles with some local fruit farmers with language barriers? Is the problem solved now that next month, finally, Sacramento finally gets a new hub that can bring local farmer’s produce to consumers, especially in low-income areas. If you really look closely at the Sacramento and Davis produce farming areas, a lot of the produce lies rotting in the fields because of the expense of distributing it to consumers.
According to the California Forum, Sacramento Bee article by Daniel Weintraub of March 28, 2010, “Hub seeks to fill gap from farm to table,” there’s a big problem in the Sacramento area where vegetable produce is rotting in many of the local farmers’ fields while people want the vegetables and fruit at a price consumers can pay.
By bringing locally-grown produce to low-income areas of Sacramento and regional areas, it becomes a mission of social responsibility. The new link is going to be called an “aggregation hub,” according to the Sacramento Bee article, “Hub seeks to fill gap from farm to table.” What’s an aggregation hub? It’s a cold-storage warehouse.
Basically, Sacramento, Davis, and other local farmers will be hauling their local produce to the hub. A contractor working for the alliance inspects the small shipments of fruit or vegetables. Produce might be berries or carrots, asparagus or other vegetables coming in small amounts. But the smaller shipments then are combined to fill larger orders that come from a variety of customers.
How will the managers of the distribution hub make a profit? Basically, Sacramento is in the midst of a very much in demand “buy local, buy fresh” campaign. Local foods may be in style, but where are more organic vegetables and fruits in Sacramento? Why is it so rare to find organic spinach grown locally here–especially spinach grown in a vegan atmosphere, not next to where cows are standing all day? Where are the local organic farms and what is standing next to those vegetable farms?
Is the existing system for distributing produce from farm to consumer locally too expensive? Why are so many vegetables left to rot on local farms? Why leave the food to rot when it could be donated to the kitchens feeding the needy or homeless? The expense is in the distribution from farm to organizations that feed the poor, give food to needy families, or provide meals to the homeless.
The new Sacramento hub will have a broad social mission when it starts operating in about a month. The goal is to make more fresh food accessible to low-income local communities. The hub might be housed at a food processing building near Executive Airport.
For further information and a more in-depth and detailed article on the new food hub, check out the Sacramento Bee article, “Hub seeks to fill gap from farm to table.” Numerous local farmers are Southeast Asian immigrants with language barriers. Also check out the website of Soil Born Farms: Urban Farms in Sacramento.
One of the first priorities that local farmers in South Sacramento have since Soil Born won a government grant is to create new opportunities for Southeast Asian immigrant farmers in South Sacramento. It’s going to be a new produce hub. And the goal of keeping food here in the area will have the help of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG). View a Soil Born Farms slideshow about the project.
Soil Born, an urban agriculture and education project, located in the Rancho Cordova area of Sacramento, recently won a $240,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Project. This is the first time Sacramento has won such an award in the federal program’s history since the program began in 1996.
In the past, in the Sacramento Bee, a news article appeared, “Plan for nonprofit produce-handler part of local-food movement,” Sunday, Oct 25, 2009, that promised to create a hub for vegetable and fruit produce in Sacramento from local farmers’ harvests that each year will feed local school lunches and area-wide farmers’ markets.
It’s about time because annually, area farmers here are sending to distant locations more than 3.4 million tons of vegetables and fruits grown locally. When we walk into Sacramento supermarkets, we see organic apples imported from Chile, oranges from Australia, fruit from New Zealand, Fiji, ginger from Tawian, sun dried tomatoes from Turkey, and other far-away places. Why isn’t the local produce in area supermarkets?
According to the Oct. 25, 2009 Sacramento Bee article, Soil Born Farms in Sacramento’s Rancho Cardova is “at the hub” of a movement “to get more of Sacramento’s bounty” into Sacramento. Some local farmers use their back yard to grow produce, if they have large enough space, even one-acre plots.
Many of the small local area farmers are in south Sacramento. Some are Southeast Asian immigrants. When the center for produce, the vegetable and fruit hub is set up in Sacramento, these farmers could bring in their produce to the center. When many small, local farmers bring in the vegetables and fruit, all that produce could be put together like a salad bowl to sell to school cafeterias. That way schools could be serving more vegetables and fruits instead of trying to cut back on fresh fruits and vegetables in school meals.
Why not set up neighborhood farm stands and have block parties to sell whole food products such as pomegrantates in season, figs in late summer, or basic vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, and whatever else grows with the seasons in Northern California.
There’s an incredible demand for local food in Sacramento. Mainstream distributors could also buy from local farmers. It’s a vision, but it will come into being because it’s being backed by a federal grant.
The federal grant is for the purpose of using local food networks to solve problems in Sacramento related to obesity, diabetes, and other nutrition-related issues as well as lack of available fruits and vegetables in poorer neighborhoods locally in Sacramento and Yolo County.
Go visit the local Sacramento Farmers’ Markets. There’s one under the W-X Freeway in Sacramento on Sunday mornings and another in the parking lot of the Country Club Shopping Center bordering on Butano, near El Camino and Watt on Saturday mornings from 9:00 am to 12 noon.
Market research shows that the fastest-growing grocery source for the Sacramento area Wal-Mart ‘supercenters’ is “almost certainly outstripping” the growing sales at farmers’ markets. It’s now 2011, and progress is being made, according to the 2009 Sacramento Bee article. But where’s more of the organic produce in markets such as Walmart? If you put in more organic food, will the consumers actually but it, and at what prices? That remains to be seen. The search for organic produce in food markets continues in Sacramento.