Farm to Freezer
Cheryl Kollin, Project Lead, Bethesda Cares and Full Plate Ventures
Farm to Freezer was born out of a conversation at our TEDxManhattan 2011 viewing party. I was talking with Sue Kirk, ED of Bethesda Cares who’s mission is to move homeless into permanent housing. They provide meals to the homeless and receive a donation of fresh, local food from our community’s farm market. Last year they received more food than they could use before it went bad. I said, “well, we need to create a Farm to Freezer program!” Bethesda Cares serves 20,000 meals per year to the homeless population in the community through a dedicated and caring network of church and community organizations, businesses, and government agencies.
Bethesda Cares is the official ‘gleaner’ of the Bethesda Fresh Farm Market. Farmers, including Spiral Path Farm, donate fresh produce not sold at the Saturday, donating an average of 300 lbs. of local produce per week—including bushels of tomatoes, peppers, corn on the cob, and zucchini. When crops are at peak harvest, Bethesda Cares receives more fresh food than it can use before the food spoils.
In June 2012, Bethesda Cares and Full Plate Ventures launched Farm to Freezer with support from a rich community network of volunteers, Churches’ donated kitchen space, and business support. Bethesda Cares’ meals manager who cooks a hot lunch five days a week will use the frozen food in preparing healthier meals for its clients. Since our launch in June, we’ve partnered with 150 volunteers, 4 churches, our county’s pre-release program of residents, a culinary arts training program, and have received in-kind donations from local businesses. This season we have gleened 5,000 lbs. of fresh, organic vegetables. We turned them into 1500 lbs. of tomato sauce and blanched, roasted and vaccuumed sealed packets frozen and ready for incorporating into healthier meals for the homeless and hungry all year. This food will serve 2,500 people throughout the year.
Our goals are to scale up this project and turn it into a social enterprise. There is huge potential to gleen from other farmers, provide to other feeding programs, and through the sale of some of the organic tomato sauce and veggies, become self-supporting over time. We will test market the product in farmer’s markets and small grocery this fall and write a business plan over the winter.
Farm to Freezer Benefits the Whole Community
1). Provides healthier unadulterated food for Bethesda Cares’ client meals
2). Supports farmers through tax-deductible donations
3). Reduces the amount of waste from farm market surplus
4). Provides Church member as well as community-wide volunteer opportunities
5) Raises community awareness about homelessness, nutrition, and locally-grown food.