Spotlight on The Healthy Harvest Program: An Interview with Melissa Knowles

September is Hunger Action Month. But what does this truly mean? How do we not only temporarily solve problems of hunger but remedy them completely? How can we work to not FBST Sept Hunger Actionsimply cover the wound but heal it completely?

The Healthy Harvest Program, an initiative of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, is a powerful tool for ensuring that children and families have access to nutritious, local food and for improving long term health. It is one step towards mending the short term and long term consequences of chronic hunger. The Healthy Harvest Program is embedded in the region in such a way that many different sectors benefit from its services. By purchasing local products, it supports the farmers. By distributing nutritious food to low and moderate income individuals, it supports the well-being of communities. Its success suFBST Healthy Harvest Programggests that when confronting hunger, we must focus not on one single individual but on a neighborhood, not on one single sector but on many and most importantly not on one single panacea but many.

The following is a brief interview with Melissa Knowles, Food Sourcing Manager. For more information we encourage you to contact her at: melissa@feedingamerica.org

1. How did the Healthy Harvest Program Begin?
Healthy Harvest was born from the success of a local produce initiative through the New York State HPNAP program and a matching grant opportunity from the Hussman Foundation.

2. What is the purpose of the Healthy Harvest Program?
HH is a purchased fresh produce program of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, in partnership with local growers to provide nutritious food to those in need. As part of the food system for so many, FBST is proud to provide local products at the peak of freshness to folks who might not otherwise have access.

3. How does the Healthy Harvest Program work?
Early in the year we worked with the growers to determine a price and product selection that represented the best use of the donated funds. The Food Bank and the farms entered into a Letter of Understanding specifying the terms of the agreement. As harvest season approached a plan was developed to incorporate farm pickups and distribution to agencies.

4. Who participates in the Healthy Harvest Program?
This year we partnered with 5 farms, 4 of which are located in our 6 county service area. 2014 Healthy Harvest farms include Reisingers Apple Country, Brennan Farms, Stoney Ridge Orchard, Addison Family Farms and Benton Berries. The products are available to our network of more than 160 member agencies to provide to those in need.

5. What are some of the outcomes of the Healthy Harvest Program for both those receiving the food and those donating the food?
The innumerable health benefits of eating fresh, local produce is the mainstay of this program. Through August we have received over 115,000 pounds of produce that spans 25 varieties. Healthy Harvest also allows us the privilege of building relationships with local farms further indicating sustainability and local economy stimulation.