Last summer, Loudoun Hunger had a dream. We had expanded our produce program to accept more and more from our grocery store partners, our farmer’s markets, and our farm partners. We had such healthy abundance! We were able to supply fresh produce directly to the families we serve in the pantry, PLUS we were networking with partners in the Loudoun Food Providers Network and other partner direct service agencies to get produce in the hands of families in Loudoun who don’t or can’t come to the pantry.The program was great, but needed to be better. We had a dream of an expanded partner distribution program that could reach even more people in need. We needed WAY more temperature controlled produce storage space, and we needed bins and containers specifically designed to transport various types of produce, particularly delicate tomatoes.
So we told the Dominion Foundation about our dream, and they saw the vision too. They funded the Produce Hub project and we were able to purchase a used freight container and convert it to a temperature controlled produce storage locker. We got the transport containers we needed too. Now our operation runs far more smoothly, and we are able to preserve the fresh produce appropriately until our partner distribution agencies can pick it up for use by their clients.
The Produce Hub has made an enormous difference to our partner agencies this summer. One of our favorite programs continues to be the CSA style produce bags we put together for diabetic patients of the Loudoun Free Clinic. The Free Clinic is thrilled to have 60-75 bags of produce each week, which they “prescribe” to their diabetic patients along with recipes for produce rich, low-glycemic dishes. This food, which comes to us from our farm and farmer’s market partners and is staged in our produce hub freight container (in the back parking lot if you haven’t seen it), is becoming a vital part of the Free Clinic’s diabetes management protocol. The hub is in operation for the length of the growing season, from about April to October.