Last week, several members of the Western Wake Farmers’ Market team toured the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle
(IFFS) in Raleigh to learn more about its programs and see how the farmers’ market and our community can do more to help feed those in need.After spending just about an hour there, we had a very good sense of the amazing work the staff and about 1,000 volunteers are doing there, not to mention the tremendous need. The IFFS received –and distributed—6 million pounds of donated food last year, according to Katherine Andrew
, MPH, RD, LDN, who serves as Director of Nutrition for IFFS. (Katherine is photographed with young tour particpants.) The Food Shuttle is one of seven food banks in our state, and it serves seven counties. In Wake County alone, more than 67,000 are living in poverty and unable to feed themselves healthy food.
Focus on Fresh, Healthy Foods
IFFS is different from other foods banks in that it specializes in perishable food items, such as fruits and vegetables, breads, baked goods and eggs. Katherine estimates that about 80 percent of its donations are perishables because the organization’s focus is on recovering nutritious foods and getting it to those who need it. With the annual value of lost food (food waste) estimated at some $31 billion, food “recovery” is a priority for the Food Shuttle. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about 49 million people could be fed by those lost food resources.
The IFFS warehouse is fairly small compared to other food banks because many foods donated do not return to the warehouse. Rather, they are picked up and then distributed that same day to the agencies the Food Shuttle works with, such as shelters, food pantries, community centers and children’s after school programs. IFFS picks up and delivers foods 6 days a week, and has 11 refrigerated trucks to facilitate that work. Among those donating perishable foods are local grocery stores, restaurants and farmers’ markets like WWFM. Non-perishable foods are also donated through food drives, such as the one our market held in the fall.
Programs to Feed and Educate
IFFS runs a growing number of programs to meet the growing demand for food assistance. Among its many programs are:
1) Backpack Buddies: serving some 700 children, backpacks filled with 6 meals and 2 healthy snacks are sent home with kids on Friday so they will have food to eat over the weekend.
2) Culinary Job Training Program: an intensive 11-week program for the under- and unemployed to train them in basic cooking skills, as well as practicing for interviews and writing resumes.
3) Operation Frontline: in partnership with Share our Strength, 4- to 6-week cooking classes that emphasize preparing healthy meals.
4) Farm and Community Gardens: a garden on-site, a farm on Tryon Rd. and two community gardens are underway to provide local access to nutritious foods and education about the economic and health benefits of growing your own food.
Behind the Scenes
Western Wake Farmers’ Market organizers will work with Inter-Faith Food Shuttle staff over the winter to see how we can expand our market’s donations and increase our community’s involvement during the 2010 market season.
In the meantime, spend a few minutes exploring the Food Shuttle’s web site and its blogs, and become a fan on its Facebook page for updates and information about the many ways our community can help.