BEND, Ore. – Imagine a pile of local carrots, a bright tower of healthy fresh produce taller than a first-grader. This month, 11 first-graders volunteered with the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance to bag over 1,100 pounds of farm fresh carrots and apples for NeighborImpact, and they were all prepared for storage by pint-sized students in a matter of minutes.
These Central Oregon-grown carrots, donated from CalFarms in Madras, are considered to be seconds and are deemed “ugly” because of their different shapes and sizes. The apples were gleaned by HDFFA Volunteers from an orchard in Prineville. This produce would normally end up in the compost or decompose in the fields, but instead it will contribute to 800 meals for families who need it.
The Waldorf School of Bend first-graders were on a field trip to NeighborImpact, organized by HDFFA and their teacher, Meghan Allsopp.
Allsopp explained, “One of the pillars of our school is global citizenship and environmental stewardship, our curriculum includes gardening and culinary so it was a natural combination to work with HDFFA to bring all of that together in a really fun field trip. (The students) couldn’t believe how delicious the ‘ugly’ carrots were, they all want to go back and volunteer more.”
This was one of several fall events in which HDFFA partnered with regional farmers and the Central Oregon food bank, NeighborImpact, to increase access to locally produced fresh food through their program called Grow & Give. This fresh food donation program collects farm fresh food from residents, gardeners, and farmers at farmers markets and through on-farm gleaning events.
Since the inception of Grow & Give in 2015, HDFFA and their partners and community members have donated over 40,000 pounds of fresh food for families experiencing food insecurity or hunger in Central Oregon. That’s 20 tons of fresh produce!
In Central Oregon, over 28,000 individuals are food insecure meaning that they may be hungry or not have money to buy more food. Improving food insecurity doesn’t happen overnight, but the first graders from Waldorf School of Bend are proof that small strides to help improve access to fresh food can come in small packages.