Many years ago when I was still on the Oxford farmers Market Uptown governing board I made the suggestion that we should figure out a way to get the left over food that farmers have at the end of every market to people who need food, i.e. a food pantry. Everyone on the board thought that was a great idea and voted it in. And we thought from there it would be easy to set up a system to get food from market to the needy.
Not so. It seems that at the time none of the local food pantries around Oxford (there were two at the time-family Resources and the Food Pantry of St Mary's/St Vincent dePaul. These merged in 2007 to form The Choice Pantry) had much, if any, refrigeration and were not open on Saturdays and had no real way to deal with perishable fresh foods. There also was no one to pick up the food and take it where it needed to go.
The first couple of years were hit and miss. It was obvious it was up to the farmers market to get things together such as coolers and humans to get the job done and this happened (we have a really great support system and community with this market). But it was not possible to find people every week to pick up food from the vendors and take it to the food pantry location and I know on at least one occasion the food pantry forgot about the Saturday delivery and the volunteers had no way to deliver the food. And there was also the issue that the needy people who were getting this food were not familiar with much of the produce being donated like arugula, heirloom tomatoes, specialty peppers, eggplant, daikon, fennel, etc., etc.. So they were not using the food and it often went to waste.
But that was 4 or 5 years ago. Than in 2007 the two pantries merged into Choice Pantry, run by St Mary's Catholic Church. They are well run and have refrigeration (because they knew about us farmers when they set this new pantry up and made sure they could utilize us). And they have Miami students hold classes to teach the food needy about cooking, nutrition, etc., so these people can use the food from the farmers market (more utilization). And we have Mike coming by just about every Saturday at noon to gather together food that would other wise be wasted (okay not exactly wasted as we and most other farmers at the market would do something like compost the produce or feed it to livestock-it would not be land filled in most cases) and he takes that food to the pantry for distribution that very day (unlike the past where the fresh food would sit around until Monday before distribution). It has become a very workable system.
So we have been donating a lot of food most weeks. Most weeks the pantry gets about 3 bushels of food. I think there have been only 2 or 3 weeks where we did not have much of anything left to give (and what we had was probably too weird for the food pantry-we do grow and sell a lot of unusual varieties). Over the season we have probably donated more than a ton of food.
It feels good to be able to do good works but it sure ain't easy to get these good works started up. But happily, in Oxford, OH they have it figured out.