For the 1 in 4 Americans struggling with food insecurity, access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be a considerable challenge. The cost of fresh produce, lack of earby stores offering healthy fare, or even unfamiliarity with how to prepare and cook fruits and vegetables often means that individuals in need simply don’t eat enough. As a result, nutritiona gaps in their diet can often place them at a higher risk for diet-related health challenges and disease.
So what’s the best way to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables available to those battling hunger? Why not start a farm for our food banks?
On May 15, 2015, Raley’s and the Center For Land-Based Learning broke ground on the first ever Food For Families Urban Farm. The one-acre farm is located in West Sacramento, at Yolo High School, and will grow a variety of fresh crops under the stewardship of farmer Sara Bernal, the Urban Agriculture Program Director for the Center for Land-Based Learning. Up to 25% of the produce grown at the Food For Families Urban Farm will benefit Food For Families partner food banks, including Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and Yolo Food Bank.
“For individuals facing food insecurity, access to fresh, healthy food can be a daily challenge,” said Jennie Teel-Wolter, Food For Families Development Officer. “Partnering with the Center For Land-Based Learning to grow fruits and vegetables for our partner food banks is another important and innovative way that Food For Families is working to bring nutritious produce to those who need it most .”
In addition to providing a steady source of fresh vegetables for our food banks, the Food For Families Urban Farm will also serve the community in a variety of other ways. This unique partnership provides a pathway to developing other urban farms, which will increase access to fresh local produce, promote community sustainability, encourage volunteerism and create a built in market for beginning farmers to sell their crops. In the fall, the Washington Unified School District plans to integrate vegetables from the farm in their high school culinary program. And, students at the Yolo High School Campus and nearby West Sacramento Collings Teen Center hope to utilize the farm as a hands-on resource for gardening, cooking, and nutrition classes.
The project also supports Land-Based Learning’s mission to inspire and motivate people of all ages, especially youth, to promote a healthy interplay between agriculture, nature and society through their own actions and as leaders in their communities.
“Partnerships are an essential foundation for building successful and sustainable programs in our community,” said Mary Kimball, Land-Based Learning Executive Director. “A partnership with the Raley’s Food For Families program is an excellent example of how we will be able to accomplish more by working together. In this case, supporting beginning farmers, while at the same time providing fresh food for families in need.”
Planting at the new farm is expected to begin in June, with the first harvest taking place in the fall. Plans include a variety of winter squash and a pumpkin patch for children. The first crop alone is expected to provide up to 2,700 pounds of vegetables for Food For Families partner food banks!
As a community resource, the Food For Families Urban Farm will be open to the public for produce purchase, as well as volunteer opportunities. To learn more about the farm, or to hear about opportunities to get your hands in the dirt, visit the Food For Families Facebook page or the Center For Land Based Learning.