June 1, 2011

Want it fresh? You got it.

Big news from our pantry: starting today, and running through the rest of the harvest season, clients of Bread for the City’s food pantry will enjoy a new level of choice: all fresh produce, for any who want it!

This is a true milestone in our Nutrition Initiative, which is now heading into its fourth year of great progress in advancing the health of our community. In 2008, we overhauled our menu to feature all healthful items; in 2009, we committed to provide at least one item of fresh produce in every bag; last year, we adapted a “choice” system that enabled clients to decide what items they wanted (strategically promoting fruits and vegetables in the process). As a result, our clients are reporting increased satisfaction and increased preferences for healthier, greener offerings.

Now, thanks to the tremendous success of our Glean for the City program, we’re pleased to offer clients the option to skip canned goods entirely. If clients want to receive all fresh produce, we’re now happy to provide it!
It’s a great step for the health of our community. Says our nutrition maven Sharon Gruber: “Health-wise, our menu of canned goods is already pretty good -- with minimal additives, low sugar and sodium, and so on. But fresh veggies just taste better, which encourages people to have more of them. And if eaten raw, they have enzymes and other healthy things that are missing from many canned foods.”

“Plus,” Sharon adds, “the diversity of our fresh produce will far outshine the canned goods we offer. People can try new things, get things that are otherwise cost-prohibitive, and get more of an array of vitamins and minerals.”

As our client and garden volunteer Erika Moses explained to WAMU’s Sabri Ben-Achour last week in our rooftop garden, this kind of exposure even in small amounts can have substantial impacts on people’s diets. (Listen to that story in Real Audio here, Windows media here.)

As great as all this is, we can’t help but also note that this all-fresh step will actually save us money! The gleaned produce is obtained for free from regional farms and local markets. The only costs are staff time, transportation, and some equipment like bins and gloves; that works out to about 20 cents per pound, by far the cheapest of all our food items. This will greatly help our pantry’s budget for the winter months. (Which is especially important, since food prices are on the rise again.)

That said, we do expect a need to increase our capacity for storing all this produce. During the harvest months, our pantry staff pack their fridges literally to the max. In fact, last year, we lost some produce to rotting and had to cut the harvest season short due to lack of storage.

To fulfill this pledge to our clients throughout the year, we very well may need to expand our fridge capacity! That may cost us as much as $15,000! Can you help us maximize our freshness? Donate today to help us upgrade our fridge capacity.

This great step forward is made possible by two essential sources of support. The first is farms and farmers markets -- so a huge thank you to the West End Farmers Market of Alexandria and the Bloomingdale Farmers Market here in Northwest. And the second is people like you -- so please support our efforts today.

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