Two farms will begin providing produce at a reasonable rate to the Alameda County Community Food Bank, allowing it to provide much-needed fresh fruit and vegetables to a growing number of residents in need of assistance, county officials said.
One of the first agreements of its kind between a county food bank and California producers, the innovative pilot program helps food banks while keeping the agricultural supply chain together, which is critical to the future of food supply, according to county officials.
They said the demand for food at local food banks increases every day as the county is now in its seventh week under a shelter-in-place order issued by public health director Dr. Erica Pan.
"When the COVID-19 emergency took hold, we experienced a 1,000 percent increase in calls to our emergency food helpline and more than half of those were from households that had never reached out for help before," food bank executive director Suzan Bateson said in a statement.
Bateson said, "The communities impacted hardest by this emergency are those we're already serving and partnerships with California farms have long been an integral part of our work. These partnerships have taken on added importance during this crisis -- both to serve an unprecedented surge in the number of households needing our help and by supporting our local farmers who are a vital part of the food system on which we all rely."
She said the food bank's distribution is up more than 25 percent year-over-year and is providing enough food to serve more than 50,000 people a day.
Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi said, "Long before the current crisis hit, the county had strong and unique programs aimed at ending food insecurity. We are proud of and grateful for the partnerships with California farms that will increase our ability to supply fresh produce to a growing vulnerable population."
Deliveries will begin next Tuesday with nearly 4,000 pounds of strawberries from Andrew & Williamson/Good Farms, Rancho Guadalupe and more than 7,000 crowns of broccoli from Dynasty Farms.
Those are foods that have not been regularly available at the food banks, county officials said.
The county hopes that the pilot expands into the large state network of food banks, which is the California Association of Food Banks, and increases its product offerings.