Fresh produce drive at farmers markets a success

The fresh produce drive as described in the post from 2012 below continued in 2013. Two new photos:


2012 Post

AUDIO EXTRA: A look at food issues in the community and how this project has worked

United Way in partnership with HACAP has conducted several fresh produce drives at downtown Cedar Rapids Farmers Markets in 2012. They were successful and helped our neighbors!

Overall, 2,600 pounds of fresh produce were donated. In comparison, during all of the 2011 farmers markets 315 pounds of food were collected.

“We know this food is helping hungry families in our area,” said Judy Stoffel, a United Way Community Building manager. “We want to thank the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance for being supportive of this project and of course the vendors and farmers market shoppers who have donated produce. Thank you!”

United Way staff tried some new techniques at one farmers market and collected 1,300 pounds of food. The lessons learned were then shared with HACAP, one of our community partners, who is now implementing some of the new ideas.

“While we don’t have the staff power to run drives like this twice a month we try to help find solutions to help us all improve this community,” Stoffel said.

Some photos from the food drive


Check out the food donation received by Kroul Farms.



Fruits and Vegetables


Posted in Financial stability, HACAP, News, Podcasts

Podcast transcript

Fresh produce drive at farmers’ market a success

Christoph Trappe: Christoph Trappe here with United Way of East Central Iowa and today I’m joined by Amanda Pieper with HACAP, one of our community partners, and Judy Stoffel, one of our community building managers. And we wanted to talked about some of the needs when it comes to hunger in the community.

A few weeks ago United Way ran a fresh produce drive at the Farmers’ Market in downtown Cedar Rapids and basically we had attendees drop off I think around 300 pounds of fresh produce. They bought it and then they dropped it off to us and then we could share it with people in need. And then we also had vendors donate leftovers at the end of the market. The total for that day alone was 1,300 pounds of fresh produce.

I participated that day and I thought it was just, it was unbelievable. The vendors, you know, I mean people stopped me and said “can you take this?”—even people I hadn’t been talking to all day—and so lots of people donated fresh produce for people in need.

So that begs the question: Why do we need to run fresh produce drives?

Judy Stoffel: Well United Way is interested in addressing hunger in our community, not just for people who are not able to meet their basic expenses but also because it has a negative impact on our community’s ability to address other community change that we’re committed to. So, one, for example is we want young children be ready for school. So we know that if there’s hunger in those households that it will impact their academic achievement and so it’s important to us to get to the root cause of some of those issues and often times that can be hunger.

Another example would be, how do we ensure that older adults have access to the appropriate nutrition that they need so that they can stay independent in their home as long as possible and not prematurely be placed into institutional-type care. So hunger really is an issue that we want to get to the root of so that we can have some positive movement on many of our community goals.

So what we understand about hunger in our six-county service area, which includes Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Jones, Linn and Washington counties is that over 37,000 individuals are uncertain about where their next meal will come from, and about 58 percent of those individuals are not eligible for supplemental nutrition assistance program, which is formally known as the food stamp program. So many of those families are relying upon local resources, like food pantries, to help supplement their nutritional needs. So we are very appreciative of the partnership with the HACAP food reservoir, which has many partners across that six-county service area that can help us get food to people that need it.

Christoph Trappe: We’re joined by Amanda Pieper. How much food is actually needed to address this need? I mean 30,000, that’s a lot of people.

Amanda Pieper: There are definitely a lot of people out there that need food, and nutritious food. About 4 million pounds is what it would approximately take to fill the hunger within this service area. Right now HACAP food reservoir is on the way to distribute about 2.3 million pounds, so just over half of what it would take, but definitely there is still a huge need.

Christoph Trappe: But even 2.3 million pounds, that’s a lot of food right there. How do you actually go about acquiring that much food?

Amanda Pieper: Most of the food comes from local donations, but we do receive some from commodities, from the federal government, although a lot of people, as you know, those numbers are dwindling each year. Also from local businesses that will contribute in food drives and also like I said before, at local farmer markets, which is why we’re talking today.

Judy Stoffel: So one of the things that we have the opportunity to do is work in partnership with HACAP. Annually there is a Freedom from Hunger Food Drive and so we tried a new strategy and we invited vendors at the farmers market to donate their fresh produce as well as we put out the invitation for people who were shopping at the farmers’ market this summer to donate fresh food. And so we just had a significant response to that and people were very interested in knowing whether or not we were going to be doing that again. And so we found some techniques and strategies that were really helpful and that particular day alone we had acquired over 1,300 pounds of fresh produce, which food pantries and meal sites across these communities really value because they are supplemental items that many low-income populations are not purchasing on their own because they are pricier in the store. So this helps us really look at that nutritional value and that component to addressing hunger in the community.

So we shared what we had learned with HACAP and HACAP has run with that and we’ve really seen a significant increase in fresh produce donated by vendors at the market.

Amanda Pieper: Last year (2011) we raised about 300 pounds of fresh local food. This year (2012) I am proud to say that we have over 2,600 pounds of food. So it’s awesome.

Judy Stoffel: So this is really a great opportunity for us to say a very big thank you to the vendors of the farmers’ market who have made the choice to really work in partnership with us to address hunger in the community, but also to those who had participated in our Free from Hunger Food Drive this summer at the farmers’ market for making a commitment to help us not only address hunger but address the nutritional value of the food that we can offer to people in need.

Christoph Trappe: You know I just want to mention again that I was out there whenever it was a few weeks ago (I think it was July perhaps when we did this) and people were pretty much high-fiving each other. I remember the police department was saying “how much have you collected?” and they were like “that’s awesome”; the Economic Alliance, same kind of comments I heard from them. Vendors were really gung ho about donating and they were really impressed by how much we were able to collect from all those different people. So that was really great. And next year (2013)?

Amanda Pieper: Next year is a for sure. We haven’t figured out the complete schedule yet, but we’ll definitely going to have a presence there.

Christoph Trappe: So next year looks like probably over 3,000 pounds of food I would think.

Amanda Pieper: Yeah.

Christoph Trappe: Again, thanks to everybody for the help and another great example when good things can happen when everybody works together. Thank you.