Food Bank Rescues Tons of Produce

Fresh produce is one of the most nutritious food sources -- but also one of the most difficult to provide for low-income families. As Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports -- the Houston Food Bank rescued close to 400,000 pounds of produce to give to hungry families.

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It's not often that people get really excited about a conference leaving town. But the departure of hundreds of vendors from the Produce Marketing Association's Expo is a windfall of fruits and vegetables for the Houston Food Bank. Thousands of pounds of fruit and vegetables are on display and in crates at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where vendors are breaking down their stalls.

"Anyone with product to donate to the food bank should put the product in the aisle marked with a food bank sticker. Food bank stickers are available at the GPS service center, the show management office or from a PMA floor manager."

Bags of Grapes Marked with the Food Donation StickersThose food bank stickers are popping up all over the place -- which means a large number of vendors decided to donate their display produce to the organization.ξ Houston Food Bank President Brian Greene says fresh fruits and vegetables are the biggest priority foods they seek.

"It accounts for about one third of our distribution. We're quite proud of that because not only is this product in abundance if you can put in the work necessary to handle it, but it also is the most nutritious stuff that we can get our hands on. So an opportunity like this is quite a challenge for a food bank to do mainly from a distribution standpoint, to be able to move 400,000 pounds within a couple of days. But we've worked out a good system and we think we're ready."

Usually all the produce that comes in goes out within four days on average. But a windfall of 400,000 pounds of produce calls for some extra work. These crates will get shared with 15 area agencies as well as food banks in Montgomery County and College Station. Altogether the food will be distributed to about 100,000 families who depend on help from food pantries.

"If you take USDA figures for produce grown in the United States actually almost half of it goes to waste. And most of that's table waste and we can't do anything about that. But in fact there is literally billions - billions with a 'b' - of pounds of produce that goes to waste each year. And we've gotten pretty good at tapping into local sources and we're literally pulling in produce from farms all over the country for the Houston Food Bank."

Logistically these donations may present a challenge, but at the end of the day hungry families are being fed. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.


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