Farmers to Food Bank Closes out Another Successful Year
As the State College Downtown Rotary Club's fifth Farmers to Food Bank program came to a close last month, it reported 5,819 pounds of fresh food was donated to the State College Area Food Bank in 2013.
That brings the project's all-time total to more than 27,000 pounds of contributions.
Roger Fetter, member and treasurer of the State College Downtown Rotary Club, says since 2008 Rotary volunteers have transported excess food from the Friday farmers' market on Locust Lane to the food bank on Hamilton Avenue. In 2009, the program's first full year, 5,166 pounds of food was donated, he says.
"It's the generosity of the vendors," Fetter says. "Without the vendors contributing ... we wouldn't have anything to transport."
The farmers' market cycle is about 20 weeks long and runs from the beginning of May through mid-November. About 20 vendors participate.
Farmers to Food Bank started after Fetter, a regular at the Friday marker, learned that unsold food from the market was being composted.
"I said 'we need to change this. We need to make this available to folks'," he says.
In 2010 5,466 pounds of food was donated. In 2011 that number was 3,936, and in 2012, donations reached 6,661 pounds.
"If you add these numbers up, the vendors have donated 27,048 pounds of fresh produce and baked goods to the food bank ... that's 13 (and) one-half tons," Fetter says.
Estimating an average of $2.75 per pound, this equates to a value of about $75,000 over the last five years according to Fetter.
Providing fresh produce and freshly-baked goods to the food bank, rather than canned items, presents more nutritious options, he says.
"It's really been well embraced by the clients of the food bank, too," Fetter says.
Not only does Rotary plan to continue the project next year, Fetter is trying to expand the concept to other Rotary groups within the region.
"If you've got a farmers' market and you've got a food bank you need to tie the two together," he says.
Carol Pioli, executive director of the State College Area Food Bank, said thanks to Farmers to Food Bank, plus a group of community gardeners that have also donated produce, food bank clients have been able to have a great assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables during the year.
Fresh produce provides the opportunity for healthier eating, Pioli says, especially during the summer months.
"It's there for them," she says. "(We) encourage them to take as much as they need."
Sometimes the food bank will even pull recipes off the web pertaining to particular vegetables.
Summer donations provide a wide selection of vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, beets, lettuce and radish. And since Farmers to Food Bank runs through mid-November, the options change again with the season.
"Towards the end we were getting some winter vegetables also," Pioli says.