Food pantries are generally not associated with high-quality food. A traditional food pantry receives the excess, unwanted, or nearly-expired food that is unsellable through main-stream channels. However, local food assistance provider Manzanita Outreach is bringing locally produced, farm-fresh produce, meat and dairy products to its Food Sharing events.
“Food assistance is a much bigger part of our community than most people realize. Manzanita Outreach alone has served nearly 20% of the residents of the Verde Valley since the start of 2021,” says Manzanita Outreach Executive Director Ben Burke, “If we want to increase the overall health of our community, one of the most effective ways to do that is to increase the nutritional content of the food provided through food assistance programs. That’s what we’re doing.”
Thousands of pounds of fresh, locally-grown produce has been distributed through Manzanita Outreach’s Community Food Sharing program in the Verde Valley in the organization’s ongoing pilot with Prescott Farmers Market and Pinnacle Prevention. This produce includes staples such as lettuces, spinach, carrots, beets, herbs, onions, microgreens, a variety of other greens and root vegetables, and more.
The focus of the pilot program has been on seniors, with hundreds of Verde Valley seniors receiving locally-grown produce as a result the collaboration. Moving forward, the organizations are expanding to serve a greater population of of the community.
“This helps both farmers and our neighbors,” says says Rebecca Serratos, Vendor Development Coordinator at Prescott Farmers Market, “Farmers are paid market prices for their products, and families get the dense nutrition they need to thrive in challenging times.”
As new programs are developed at the federal and state levels allocating money for these programs, Manzanita Outreach, bringing it’s logistics and distribution infrastructure, and Prescott Farmer’s Market, bringing farming relationships and coordination experience, are poised to bring these resources into the local community.
Farmers are enthusiastic about helping their neighbors. Melissa Monahan, owner of SuperNatural Sprouts was a participant in the latest farm pick up on June 8th, “I am honored to be part of this great food-sharing opportunity. Not only was it a boost for my business, but especially warmed my heart knowing these boxes were going to seniors.”
Any person growing food in the Verde Valley interested in selling their produce into the food-assistance supply chain may reach out to Ben Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.