Chattanooga Food Bank Increases Fresh Produce Distribution By 220% Over Last 3 Years

Monday, March 7, 2016
Melissa Blevins
Melissa Blevins

Melissa Blevins, Chattanooga Area Food Bank (CAFB) director of operations, will lead a best practices session on Monday at the 2016 Feeding America Fresh Produce Summit in Tampa, Fl. The Chattanooga Area Food Bank has been recognized as a national leader for its success in securing and distributing fresh produce throughout its service area.

During a session entitled “Best Practices Addressing Barriers: What’s Working?” Ms. Blevins will present insights on growing produce programs to representatives of Feeding America’s 200 food banks nationwide. 

“Melissa’s collaborative approach to working with Chattanooga Area Food Bank agency partners has enabled CAFB to rapidly distribute significantly more food throughout our region” said Christa Mannarino, CAFB interim president. “By way of Melissa’s operations leadership, we have not only become more efficient, we’ve provided those in our community who are most in need with access to healthy food.” 

In her role as director of operations, Ms. Blevins has overseen dramatic growth in CAFB’s food procurement and food distribution. In just three years, CAFB increased its overall food distribution by 54% throughout the Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia region. This year, CAFB expects to distribute approximately 14.8 million pounds of food—the equivalent of 12.3 million meals—to children, families and seniors struggling with hunger. Fresh produce has played a critical role in CAFB’s food distribution growth. During the past three years, CAFB increased its fresh produce procurement from one million to 3.2 million pounds of food per year. 

The increase in fresh produce has had a significant impact on the way the CAFB operations team handles and distributes food. In partnership with the CAFB senior leadership team, the CAFB Board of Directors, a volunteer operations committee and CAFB agency partners, Ms. Blevins has overseen a major operational transition to just-in-time deliveries. By way of her presentation to Feeding America food bank operations representatives, Ms. Blevins will educate operations leaders on how best to collaborate with partner food pantries, soup kitchens, churches and community groups to deliver and distribute fresh produce. 

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