Two Southern Maryland Farmers Help Towards More Than One Million Pounds of Produce Donated
So far this year, 51 Maryland farmers have donated more than one million pounds of fresh produce through the “Farm to Food Bank” Program – which equates to more than 769,000 meals, according to the Maryland Food Bank. Of the 51 farmers participating, 41 are on the Eastern Shore, four are in Washington County, three are in Baltimore County, two are in Southern Maryland, and one is in Anne Arundel County. Of the million pounds donated, just over 719,000 pounds came from the Eastern Shore.
“I want to thank all the farmers who have participated in the Farm to Food Bank Program and done so much to help the citizens of Maryland who need them most,” said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “These farmers heard the Food Bank's call for help and opened both their fields and their hearts to respond. We hope more farmers will decide to participate in the Farm to Food Bank program as they hear about it and see the good work it does for Maryland.”
The Farm to Food Bank program is in its second year. Last year, 27 farmers – all but one on the Eastern Shore – participated in the program and donated 515,000 pounds. Only five months into its fiscal year, the Farm Bank has received twice as much as it did all of last year.
All of the donated food stays in Maryland and is redistributed through the Food Banks' 600 partnering agencies and organizations that provide food directly to families and other agencies across the state.
The produce was donated through a process called gleaning, in which farmers open their fields after harvest and allow others to take what is left for charitable purposes. Some farmers gather their own crops for donation; however, more than 235,000 pounds that have been donated so far this year were harvested from the fields by offenders participating in the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services' Public Safety Works. That program provides offenders nearing their release date the opportunity to give back to the community while learning job skills through work projects. Inmates are only used to glean the fields if the farmer agrees. Nearly a half million pounds of produce have been harvested over the last two years by inmates, mostly from two pre-release facilities on the Eastern Shore.
“We're doing everything we can to allow inmates an opportunity at restorative justice – paying back society for their crimes in a most meaningful way. There's no more meaningful way to do that than to harvest food you know is going to help those in need,” said Gary D. Maynard, Secretary of Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
The Food Bank created the Farm to Food Bank program with a two-year grant of $250,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. About $75,000 of that is used to help some farmers offset their costs in growing extra food so that it can be donated.
John May, Senior Vice President of Operations for the Maryland Food Bank, said the farmers may, at best, break even by participating in the program, but most donate time and labor as well as produce, and none of them actually make money.
“The Farm to Food Bank program is a win-win for all involved,” said Amy Cawley, Food Solicitor for the Maryland Food Bank on the Eastern Shore. “It's a win for the farmers who have an outlet for the waste that is a nature of growing produce. It's a win for the Department of Public Safety as they get to contribute back to the community and make a positive difference in the lives of others. It's a win for the Maryland Food Bank in our ability to provide fresh nutritious produce that many cannot afford otherwise. It's a win for our 600 partnering agencies and ultimately a win for those many food insecure individuals across our state.”
Anyone interested in helping the Food Bank with gleaning and sorting food at its locations around the state should contact Jennifer Small at the Food Bank at 410-742-0050 or Amy Cawley at 443-735-0757.