Fresh Produce and Food Pantries

By Emma Hyatt
Fight Hunger

Fresh produce in food pantries is hard to find. Most pantries are stocked with non-perishables, canned fruits and vegetables, and food that is shelf stable. While this helps fight hunger and food insecurity, this doesn’t help reduce risk factors that are associated with poor diet and low intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

An online survey by the NCBI taken by adult residents in Michigan in the summer of 2020 revealed that out of 464 respondents, 32% of those adults were classified as food insecure. Research showed that those who were food insecure were 2 to 3 times more likely to not consume any fresh foods or vegetables than those who were food secure. What prevented these families from purchasing nutritious, fresh food? Keep in mind that in June of 2020, we were still in the midst of a pandemic. Therefore, a lot of families frequented grocery stores less and bought food that was not going to spoil. During this time, families were unable to find fresh food of good quality, and the quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables were becoming less available in stores around Michigan. Those that were available were priced higher, making it less affordable for households classified as food insecure. 

The NCBI study stated that “The US Congressional Budget Office forecasts that unemployment may not return to pre-pandemic levels until after 2030, indicating that the food insecurity consequences of COVID -19 will be long-lasting”. Food insecurity has negative health impacts due to its association with poor diet. An inadequate diet is connected with the increased prevalence of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Food pantries are doing everything they can to conquer hunger and food insecurity in their communities. We can help them by donating fresh produce to make those they’re helping become food secure and healthy! Community gardens, home gardens, and farms are a great resource of local produce for food pantries. AmpleHarvest is a free, opt-in, nationwide registry that enables farmers and gardeners who’ve grown too much food to find a food pantry in their community that accepts fresh produce, eliminating the large amount of food wasted each day. 

AmpleHarvest states that “America is in the midst of a food crisis. Food pantries typically lack fresh produce, and are typically only stocked with canned fruits and vegetables.” There are 42 (1 in 6) million people in America without access to fresh food and $218 billion dollars (which is a third) of ALL food is wasted annually. 50% of our produce is never consumed. These statistics show that we need to do a better job about food waste, especially since there’s a very easy solution. 4 out 5 gardeners are willing and able to donate their excess food to food pantries and  28 million people could be nourished annually if farms and gardeners started donating their food. 

The Produce Box in North Carolina is an organization whose mission is to sell the most North Carolina produce to North Carolinians. Every time you order from The Produce Box, you help send fresh produce to families in need who couldn’t afford it otherwise. PORCH will be partnering with The Produce Box to help give out fresh food to our community to those who are food insecure. Check out our website and look into how you can help give fresh produce to a food pantry near you!