The gardening season may be over for the year, but Lakeview Pantry is sowing the seeds of what he hopes will be a successful partnership that will produce fresh, locally grown produce for those in need next year.
The North Side Pantry is teaming up with nonprofit Fresh Food Connect to launch a mobile app that will allow family and community gardeners to donate some of their fresh produce to Lakeview Pantry.
âWe’re always looking for more fresh produce and more connections,â said Bill Thomas, senior advisor and former COO of Lakeview Pantry. âThe need for fresh produce is there.
On average, the pantry registers 50,000 unique visits per year, according to Thomas, but last year it soared 400%, with 200,000 unique visits in 2020.
âThis year we’re more on the 100,000 unique visit side, so we haven’t returned to pre-pandemic levels,â he said. âThe need is still very high.
Fresh Food Connect was launched in 2016 as a pilot program between three Denver-based nonprofits to collect additional community-grown garden produce and distribute them to local people and families facing food insecurity.
The pilot program not only helped those in need, but it also helped gardeners reduce food waste, according to Kayla Birdsong, CEO of Fresh Food Connect. âIt’s only natural for a crop to work really wellâ¦ and all of a sudden you have an abundance of something that is beyond what your family can handle,â she said, adding that before. program, there was no easy way for people to donate. their production surpluses.
The company now works with 55 different organizations across the country. Last year, Fresh Food Connect released a mobile app to connect gardeners with organizations fighting food insecurity, according to Birdsong.
âOur mobile app is free for gardeners, and you don’t have to be an amazing gardener to use it,â Birdsong said, adding that organizations that use the app, like Lakeview Pantry, pay âa affordable rate “for the license. softwares.
The app connects the gardener with a local hunger relief organization and helps facilitate product donation, according to Birdsong. (Gardeners interested in donating their produce can register here.)
âOn the gardener’s side, it’s three clicks of a button,â she said. âThe beauty is that we (you) connect with an organization that is already ready to receive your donation. “
And Lakeview Pantry is ready, says Thomas.
âThere’s nothing we wouldn’t take from the backyard gardens. Whatever (produce) we get, we get it back to the people who need it so quickly, âhe said, adding that the organization seeks to make the donation processâ as easy and transparent as possible â.
Residents living in 24 zip codes will be able to donate their products to Lakeview Pantry, according to Birdsong. If someone outside of these zip codes downloads the app, they will be put on a waiting list until a local organization signs up through the app to accept donations. (Organizations interested in joining can email Fresh Food Connect.)
âEvery person can make a difference, and it’s really accessible,â Birdsong said. âWe are not just looking for master gardeners who produce a lot. We can all grow a little more, even in herbal boxes.
For more information on Lakeview Pantry and how to sign up for Fresh Food Connect, visit their website.
Contact Kristen Thometz: @kristenthometz | (773) 509-5452 | [emailÂ protected]