There are 3 main methods CHS uses to source fresh produce for distribution:
(1) Purchasing Seconds Produce
(Seconds refers to produce not meeting stringent retail standards, but still contains 100% of the nutritional value)
- In 2014 CHS purchased 160,715 lbs. of produce (at an average of $.15/lb.) from 30 farmers who had as much as 50% of their produce not meeting stringent retail specifications, but still containing 100% of the nutritional value. In 2015, CHS purchased 209,311 lbs. of produce (at an average of $.11/lb.) from 40 farmers. In 2016, CHS purchased 175,203 lbs. of produce (at an average of $.11/lb.) from 31 farmers.
CHS is committed to providing this opportunity for local farmers!
(2) Receiving Produce Donations
- Organic Valley Produce Pool and other retail and wholesale distributors provide donations of excess produce from their warehouses for distribution to food pantries:
in 2015, 75,000 lbs. were donated; in 2016, 127,644 lbs. were donated.
“Organic Valley is grateful for Community Hunger Solutions’ service of getting our excess produce to people in the community who can really use it. It makes us feel good to know that food that was grown with so much care will have the chance to nourish people rather then go to feeding animals or be thrown away.”
– Michael Rytilahti, OV Produce Pool Warehouse Manager
(3) Harvesting & Volunteering
- Since 2012 CHS has been harvesting leftover produce from area farms for local food pantries with volunteers and paid workers with varying abilities (at an average of 10K lbs./year).
- CHS coordinates volunteers to harvest leftover produce from fields of partner farms in the region, and to process produce at the Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua, WI for distribution. In 2014, 20 volunteers worked 130 hours harvesting produce for food pantries. In 2015, 30 volunteers worked 154 hours. In 2016, 41 volunteers worked 154 hours (at an average of 4 hours per person).
- CHS facilitates paid workers with varying abilities for on-location farm harvesting. For some it is their first job or first time doing farm work. As proof that they enjoyed the work, four of the five individuals that began working in 2012, returned in 2013 and 2014. In 2015, 3 individuals returned; and 6 new workers with varying abilities joined the harvest team–including three sixteen-year-olds who learned valuable work skills while building their resumes for future employment. In 2016, 7 workers returned, and worked a total of 322 hours (an average of 46 hours per person at an average rate of $7.86 per hour, totaling $2,528). Besides farm work, there are also additional learning opportunities by working in the warehouse processing produce for shipment to pantries. Workers are paid through private grants, and funding from the Wisconsin Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
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