74,000 Fresh Servings of Fruit and Veggies Provided to National CORE Residents
According to Feed America, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, face food insecurity in the United States. Food insecurity and hunger touch the lives of many National CORE residents. To provide for our families and seniors, Hope through Housing has partnered with ProduceGood, a San Diego nonprofit that tackles food waste and food insecurity by gathering fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be wasted and distributing them to community members who are either struggling with food insecurity or lack access to fresh produce.
Since 2018, ProduceGood has provided National CORE residents in the cities of Escondido, San Marcos, and Oceanside with more than 74,000 servings of fruit and vegetables – all fresh produce that would have otherwise gone to waste. The partnership has been especially important since the start of the pandemic, as Hope through Housing has seen a significant increase in need – beginning in March of 2020, many of National CORE’s senior residents were forced to self-isolate, preventing trips to the grocery store, and residents of all ages experienced food insecurity due to challenges brought on by the pandemic.
What began as a one-time food delivery years ago by ProduceGood to offload extra fruit and vegetables at a National CORE community in San Marcos has become a monthly food distribution program throughout National CORE’s communities in San Diego County.
“It takes time for things to organically work themselves out so that you can have this functional relationship that really works in the long term – to have that sustainable relationship,” said ProduceGood co-founder and co-executive director Alexandra White. “I feel like we’re there now with Hope through Housing and it’s wonderful. With 15 Hope through Housing properties [in the San Diego area] and growing, so many people can benefit from the fresh produce.”
White and her co-founders started ProduceGood in 2014 to address excess fruit going to waste in backyards. That year, they rescued 6,000 pounds of fruit. Last year, the number was 246,110 pounds of mixed produce from backyards, farms, farmers markets and grocers. One factor in ProduceGood’s increased impact, White said, has been partnerships with community organizations beyond food banks. During the pandemic, when food banks became overwhelmed, it became more efficient and more impactful to collaborate with nonprofits like Hope through Housing.
By partnering with Hope through Housing and other nonprofits, White said her organization has been able to scale their work and keep fresh food in the local areas where it is grown, avoiding unnecessary transportation emissions.
“We’re working within cities so that we can recover the excess and keep it in the same community in what we call a crop circle, where we’ve got volunteers, growers, and food receivers in the same community. Because Hope through housing is in so many communities, they’re integral to our model by helping to complete that circle.”
White said it’s vital to have people on the ground like Hope through Housing service coordinator Stacey Kempton, who is experienced in quickly distributing large amounts of fresh produce to families and seniors who can benefit, and ProduceGood Upcycler Lead Dominique Dashwood, who facilitates the supply of fresh produce. Kempton, Stephanie de la Torre, Hope through Housing Director for the San Diego Region, and other members of the Hope through Housing and National CORE team have worked closely with ProduceGood employees to orchestrate about 100 food “drops” to date.
“The sky is pretty much the limit here, where people are willing to come together and put ingenuity in place to innovate and do more,” said White. “And I think having the trusting relationships is really what allows for that to happen.”