New law would let farmers donate surplus produce to food banks instead of letting it rot in the fields
By Anne Hart
A new law would give farmers a 10 percent tax credit for the cost of fresh produce donated to food banks. Who will be voting for the new bill, A.B. 152 which would allow state farmers to donate their surplus fresh produce to aid food banks and similar organizations rather than let the vegetables and fruits rot in the fields because they can’t afford the price of gas to truck the food to various markets?
The new law or bill already has been approved by the Assembly in Sacramento. A.B. 152’s author is Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes from San Fernando Valley. This week Fuentes will visit the Senate Appropriations Committee. Will the bill pass into law? If so, A.B. 152 will help the local farmers harvest their vegetables and fruits. Without this type of help, the food would rot in the fields.
The goal is to get the local surplus produce trucked to food banks. The law would give financial assistance to the farmers. Otherwise, the local farmers would not be able to afford to move the surplus produce to the food banks and similar places where the food is given away to local people in need.
At least we know that so far the bill has passed through the assembly with no votes against it. All were in favor of the A.B. 152. The next step is to get the bill approved and signed into a law. How it would work is to provide a 10 percent tax credit to farmers for the cost of fresh produce donated to food banks. Then the food banks would give the food free to Sacramento’s hungry population who could not otherwise afford the fruits and vegetables. Think of the alternative. Without the incentive, the food rots in the field anyway.
For further information, check out the website of the California Association of Food Banks. If you live in Sacramento, you’ll soon find out that the entire state of California still does not have an emergency food-assistance program as do 38 other states. See more statistics on this topic in the August 11, 2011 Sacramento News and Review article by Hugh Biggar, “Take it to the (food) bank – News – Local Stories.” So what you do have are little organizations that feed the needy such as the food banks in Sacramento. You also have a few churches that give food donations from their pantry to the hungry, and what’s increasing is the concept of churches growing produce on their land and giving it away free, but that’s just catching on and only if the church owns enough land to grow seasonally.
And with the high unemployment rate in Sacramento, the existing food banks are trying to meet the heavy demand of so many people asking for free food, for example, hungry families where the parents are looking for work, the working poor who can’t afford enough food, or suddenly homeless, the foreclosed unemployed, and others who are part of the new poor of Sacramento. If you’re researching statistics on Sacramento’s new poor, some resources include the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, (Food and Nutrition), and the California Association of Food Banks.
Also check out the statistics of how many people in Sacramento receive free food help from food banks. It’s at least 50,000 according to the August 11, 2011 Sacramento News and Review article by Hugh Biggar, “Take it to the (food) bank – News – Local Stories.” This article also contains interviews and statistics on Sacramento and Yolo counties regarding how many families get food assistance from the food banks such as fresh produce and processed foods.
One of the biggest problems poor families have when they go to food banks is that the donations tend to be ready-to-eat processed foods in nonperishable cans and packages. And this type of food wouldn’t be as healthy as food that has not been processed by cooking, such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Instead of getting free handouts of white flour, white sugar, white rice, white bread, and cans of vegetables cooked with a lot of added salt or fruit swimming in sugary syrups, it would be a lot healthier to have fresh vegetables and fruits.
The only worry is that with so many poor families who couldn’t afford fresh produce and don’t have the yard to grow their own, or the season is wrong, may not be familiar with fresh fruit and produce. How many times did people pass up broccoli, for example because they didn’t know what to do with it? You’d be surprised to see how many fresh vegetables, when available, such as broccoli or similar vegetables are dumped in parking lots near food banks because the people just aren’t familiar with preparing fresh produce, since it’s usually expensive.
What they are familiar with are the less healthy handouts of chips, canned foods, and packaged cereals. So there has to be some bridge or transitional way to let the hungry know that fresh produce will be coming and show people how to prepare the foods–for example, a salad of chopped kale and carrots with diced raw yellow squash in a lemon juice dressing. Otherwise, what would a lot of the poor do with a bunch of kale, spinach, and broccoli? They’d be familiar with chips, popcorn, soda, eggs, cheese, and dehydrated potatoes or burgers. So somebody needs to show people not used to fresh produce various affordable ways to make it tasty.
Sacramento Church Grows Organic Produce to Give Free to the Poor
Pass the word to your local house of worship to grow produce in the yard and give it away free to the poor. Are you in need of free vegetables and fruit? If the weather permits, about a thousand pounds of organic fresh vegetables will go directly out into the community by the end of this produce-growing season. In Sacramento, the LifePointe Church of the Nazarene on Q Street and Rio Linda Boulevard is growing organic vegetables and fruit in its yard to give free food to the poor by donating the produce to people in need.
The church is planning to donate the food to the needy through the local food closet and also by handing it out on the streets. Check out the July 15, 2011 Sacramento Bee article by Whitney Mountain, “In Rio Linda, a community garden blossoms to feed the needy.” Eating more organic produce given to you at no cost is one more way to curb obesity in Sacramento.
The exercise in planting the food may be good for you. And eating more vegetables and fruits instead of starchy fillers also may help to curb obesity. But you don’t have to plant the food or weed the garden to eat. The produce will be given away.
Planting organic produce in more church back yards would be doing good deeds and acts of kindness for Sacramento’s hungry. In June, 2011, the church teamed up with self-taught organic gardening buff James Bridges to plant a community garden that the church has been working toward for several years.
Sacramento’s Five Community Gardens
This is one way to distribute healthier foods to people and to fight obesity in children. Have volunteers do the planting and harvesting in the neighborhood’s local churches and other houses of worship. If you look at community gardens in Sacramento not affiliated with houses of worship, you’ll see about five community gardens so far with a total of 11 gardens to be planted by the year’s end. For further information, check out the website of the Sacramento Parks and Recreation Community Garden. See, City of Sacramento Community Gardens.
Planting your own produce is very popular in Sacramento and growing, particularly among people who want fresh organic produce, can’t afford the supermarket prices, find some farmer’s markets aren’t organic, and need to eat healthier foods and to fight childhood obesity. Even school gardens are growing in popularity. In Sacramento county, in addition to what’s in the city, there are a total so far of 60 community gardens.
When some people don’t have cars, they may not be able to reach all 60 community gardens in the county. That’s why a community garden with shared produce is a good deed and growing in popularity for neighborhoods. It’s great to be able to get to a community garden by walking or public transportation.
A church or school’s first step in developing a community garden is to buy a plot of land. That takes fundraising. Sometimes churches can buy a plot of land next to the church. That’s what happened with LifePointe Church five years ago. Most churches will buy land to put in a play area for kids or to create a green lawn. But planting organic food is more useful and comes under the heading of doing a random act of kindness or good deed in the long run.
Most plots of land are just a bunch of weeds. It takes a lot of volunteers to come over and get rid of the weeds. But if the people are going to share the food when harvested, it’s a labor of practicality. For example, when you start a garden on a piece of land you first have to create rows where you’ll plant the produce in areas that are clear of weeds.
Anyone in the community, not just church members is welcome to join in and do the planting. The reward is that the fruits and vegetables that are produced in the garden will be bagged and made available to anyone who needs a supplement to their groceries.
An example would be those who need help to feed their families and who come to the food closet at the Rio Linda Community Methodist Church. The food also will be available to the homeless in the area. There’s even a bike trail that runs to the end of a road that’s right near LifePointe. You’re looking at a type of rural road here, not on a Sacramento transit bus or light rail stop. People drive down a rural road in Rio Linda. So for those who don’t ride bikes and don’t drive, but are hungry, how will these people get to the church’s garden?
That’s why more gardens need to be set up in Sacramento that grow food for the needy and that are on or easy walking distance from bus stops or light rail stops. For example, people who can’t ride bikes need to find places where they can get food when it is necessary to call upon the community gardens. Some food banks are on flat sidewalks near bus stops, such as the midtown food banks.
More community gardens are needed in areas such as midtown and downtown Sacramento and Arden Arcade where you have many seniors living on tiny social security incomes that must cover food, shelter, and clothing, and also families in need of finding affordable organic produce for the sake of health.
More schools in Sacramento need to grow community gardens that involve children and parents doing weeding, planting, and harvesting, which also helps families to exercise together and may aid in curbing childhood obesity. So will this bill, A.B. 152 pass as law? Or does Sacramento keep depending for food donations from houses of worship and similar surplus produce donors?
AnneHart is based in Sacramento, California, United States of America, and is Anchor for Allvoices
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