Fourteen Caroline County farmers donated 218,706 pounds — nearly 110 tons — of fresh produce this summer to the Maryland Food Bank’s “Farm to Food Bank” program.
Amy Cawley, a Maryland Food Bank food solicitor, said in her three summers with the program, Eastern Shore farmers alone have given 1.9 million poungs of produce, with more expected this fall after greens, broccoli and perhaps cauliflower have been harvested.
The Farm to Food Bank program operates statewide by partnering with farms to provide hungry Marylanders with fresh, local produce. Through a combination of field gleanings, donations and contract growing, the farms help the Maryland Food Bank supply produce to partner networks, and, ultimately, to families in need.
Farms and gleaners participate by donating excess crops to the Maryland Food Bank; allowing minimum-custody offenders to conduct final sweep gleanings of fields, in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Corrections; or contracting to grow most-needed fruits and vegetables on a portion of land set aside specifically for the food bank.
Farms may deliver produce to the food bank, or arrange for weekly, bi-weekly or monthly pick-ups. Larger farms can also opt to allow the food bank to leave refrigerated trailers to house collections for a bulk pick-up.
In Caroline County, one Denton farm donated 87 bins of watermelons, Cawley said. Since each bin weighs an average of 800 lbs., Cawley estimated the total donation at 70,000 lbs. of watermelons.
Cawley said pre-release inmates from Poplar Hill Pre-Release Unit near Salisbury gleaned the fields of the leftover watermelons. Five to six inmates were sent per day over a four-day period, Cawley said, while the farmer supplied a tractor and two wagons.
“The watermelons were beautiful,” Cawley said. “They were just sitting out in the field going to waste, had we not been granted permission to get them.”