Georgia pilot program taps growers to help feed the hungry

01/28/2013 01:57:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

surplus lettuceRuss TolerNature Crisp farm, Soperton, Ga., donated 300 heads of lettuce to the Farm to Food Bank pilot program. A leading national hunger charity has teamed with Georgia MarketMaker, Georgia farmers, the Georgia Food Bank Association and the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development to tap into potentially wasted food.

The group is currently recruiting Georgia farmers for a pilot Farm to Food Bank program, according to a news release.

The goal is to connect growers to local food banks using the latest technology, such as Web portals or smart phone apps.

Food banks will be able to use the technology to communicate with their local counterparts about excess produce.

The program also taps into the Georgia MarketMaker, an extensive online marketing database for the state's producers and buyers.

MarketMaker was developed in partnership with land-grant universities and the state department of agriculture.

It is hoped that using the technology to streamline the communication process will enhance the fresh fruits and vegetables that food banks have to offer.

It also is expected to allow producers to quantify the amount of food they donate and its value.

Phil Jennings IV, co-owner of Nature Crisp vegetable farm in Soperton, said the process was simple. He called, let them know what he had 300 heads of lettuce, and they arranged a time to pick it up.

""When we had excess produce, we would usually give it to friends and employees for their families, feed it to livestock, or simply throw it away," Jennings said in the release. "My father and I had talked about finding a place to donate the extra food we had on hand, and it was that same week when we were told about the program down in Savannah. Of course we loved the concept and jumped onboard."

Feeding America chose Georgia for the pilot program because of its long growing season, existing network of food banks and networks of farmers.

Georgia's seven large regional food banks are networked through the Georgia Food Bank Association.

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