The Chattanooga Area Food Bank has launched a new initiative to increase the availability of fresh, local food to those in need across its 20-county service region in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. The initiative, called Farm to Family, is a multi-faceted effort that engages farmers markets, home gardeners, and regional growers to help end hunger and promote better nutrition through their fresh food contributions to the CAFB.
“Our region is one that is rich in fresh, healthy food resources,” said Jane Mauldin, Chattanooga Area Food Bank Garden Coordinator. “However, this same region is home to nearly 160,000 individuals who struggle with hunger. This is a disparity that we as a community can address if we work together, and we intend to lead the charge with our Farm to Family initiative.” The initiative was developed as a response to the reality that those struggling with hunger often face a dual burden of both obtaining enough food and accessing food that is also nutritionally adequate to promote health and prevent chronic disease.
There are several ways the community can engage in the initiative’s goal to give local food to those in need. First, shoppers at participating farmers markets can donate a portion of their fresh food purchases directly to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
Donation baskets are available at the Farm to Family collection booth at these participating markets: Chattanooga Market on Sundays from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m., Main Street Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 4 – 6 p.m., and St. Alban’s Farmers Market on Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. Shoppers can simply purchase extra produce from their favorite farm stand and drop it in one of the collection baskets in the Farm to Family booth.
“This initiative establishes a caring partnership between farmers and market customers to help families in need,” said Bonnie Baranowski, Market manager for the Main Street Farmers Market. “It’s a novel, effective way to address food insecurity in our community and provide fresh, high-quality foods to those who need it most.”
Secondly, home gardeners can support the Farm to Family initiative by growing an extra row of produce in their garden and donating the harvest back to the Chattanooga Area Food Bank. Community and corporate gardens can also participate. There is no minimum donation required and no registration is necessary. “Grow a Row” donations can be made Monday through Thursday between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and on Fridays between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the main facility in Chattanooga, as well as Mondays through Thursdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Northwest Georgia Branch in Dalton.
Finally, the CAFB has begun working with regional growers to purchase fresh food locally, as well as to secure their “seconds”, or “number two’s” by either donation or discount purchasing. “Seconds” are fruits and vegetables that are slightly blemished or bruised or do not otherwise meet retail market standards, but are still nutritious and delicious. Often, these “seconds” cannot generate a profit for the grower and are turned into compost. Instead, through the Farm to Family initiative, the Chattanooga Area Food Bank is supporting the local grower economy by creating a market for these “seconds” and simultaneously increasing the availability of fresh and healthy foods for those with limited access.
“I love that the Chattanooga Area Food Bank is able to accept our donated seconds,” said Adam Colvin of Colvin Family Farm. “It’s a great thing to give that food back to the community and put it to good use”.
The Farm to Family initiative is one of several key strategies the Chattanooga Area Food Bank has developed to carry out its new mission, which was adopted earlier this summer. That mission is to lead a network of partners in eliminating hunger and promoting better nutrition in our region. “Our new mission signals an important shift in priorities from meeting basic caloric needs to improving health,” said Maeghan Jones, Chattanooga Area Food Bank president. “To achieve that mission, our board of directors adopted several ambitious goals, including increasing the distribution of fresh, healthy produce from 1million to 1.5 million pounds this year.” The CAFB has committed to procuring at least 150,000 of those pounds from regional growers and individuals who give through the Farm to Family initiative.
“We at the Chattanooga Area Food Bank are excited to implement our new mission through the Farm to Family initiative, as well as through many other efforts we will be engaging the community in throughout the year,” said Ms. Jones.
Those interested in learning more about the Farm to Family initiative, making a monetary contribution to support the effort, or in receiving the Farm to Family newsletter can visit ChattFoodBank.org or call 423 622-1800.