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Mar 13 2015 | 

Author: Christen | 

Blog Category:

On February 23, the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) hosted the first ever national Farm to Family Conference in Fresno, California. Food bankers travelled from Ohio, Missouri, Texas, Maine, Indiana and a dozen other states from across the country to learn about Farm to Family’s innovative program model.

CAFB’s Farm to Family program connects farmers with food banks to provide fresh produce to Californians in need. The program has been featured in national media, including the New York Times, and is also recognized by Feeding America as a model for produce recovery programs. Not surprisingly, our Farm to Family staff receives a multitude of inquiries from food banks across the country eager to start or expand their own produce recovery programs.

Now, thanks to a generous grant from the Walmart Foundation, CAFB was able to hold an in-depth, three-day training conference that provided other states with the knowledge and skills needed to launch or expand produce reclamation programs. The conference drew 32 food bankers representing eighteen states, fifteen food banks, and eight state food bank associations.

Farm to Family founder Gary Maxworthy kicked off the conference, leading attendees through the 20-year history of the program, from its inception at the SF-Marin Food Bank to its current status as the largest and most advanced produce reclamation program in the nation capable of moving 140 million pounds each year.

Over the next two days, information-packed workshops were led by Farm to Family staff and representatives from SF-Marin Food Bank and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Topics covered the entire programmatic spectrum from soliciting donations to transportation logistics, distribution models, funding sources, financial management, and balancing volume and variety to provide fresh produce year round.

Sue Sigler, Executive Director of CAFB, and Angie Rodgers, President and CEO of the Arizona Association of Food Banks, joined Farm to Family Director Steve Linkhart in emphasizing the need to build local, regional, and national partnerships in order to meet the increasing need for fresh produce in low income communities.

Attendees experienced an up-close tour of the Fowler Packing Company, one of Farm to Family’s largest and longest standing donors, where they saw first-hand how surplus citrus is collected and packed for pick-up by Farm to Family shippers. Participants were also treated to a tour of the Fresno Community Food Bank facilities and a look at its “Nutrition on Wheels” mobile demonstration kitchen and education program.

Participants left the conference armed with knowledge, inspiration, and a toolkit of ideas and examples to apply to their programs back home. Comments included:  “I’m buzzing with ideas and motivation!” and “looking forward to even more regional cooperation.”

CAFB is thrilled by this response and would like to thank all of our attendees, speakers, and our gracious hosts at Fowler Packing and the Fresno Community Food Bank. Special thanks to conference organizer Jeff Dronkers for bringing everyone together from far and wide. Finally, we want to thank our conference sponsor, the Walmart Foundation, whose support was vital in making this event such an overwhelming success. As one of our attendees said, “We can’t wait to continue the conversation!”

About the Walmart Foundation:

Through its commitment to sustainability and hunger relief, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are helping food banks nationwide save energy and feed more people.  In 2010, Walmart launched a five-year initiative, “Fighting Hunger Together,” that pledged $2 billion in cash and in-kind commitments.  Walmart delivered on this promise one year early by donating a total of $260 million in cash and $2.6 billion in in-kind donations, along with millions of volunteer hours. Find out more at http://foundation.walmart.com.

 


Attendees went on a tour of Fowler Packing’s mandarin packing operation in Fresno.



Attendees watch thousands of Halos make their way through Fowler’s facility.

 



A staff member from the Fresno Community Food Bank demonstrates a lesson from their “Nutrition on Wheels” program.

 

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