Start by attending events, coalitions, networks, and organizations that focus on food access. Farmer’s markets are an excellent place to begin having these conversations with farmers, the Master Gardeners volunteers, and many interested communities members growing their own food. The AmeriCorps member should work towards a relationship with visiting the farms of the vendors. Creating a personal relationship enhances our commitment to work with the farm in their time of need and also places us on the top of the list when they have excess food to donate.
Getting involved with community groups working toward providing fresh food brings more name recognition to our program and allows us to speak directly when explaining who we are and what it is that we do.
COMMUNICATION & ENGAGEMENT
Donor communication is similar to volunteer communication in that identifying your audience goes a long way. Donors appreciate a clear understanding that you’re working together for the same cause. Most donors would like to help in getting the extra food to those in need, at the same time, it’s important to remember that Farmers also sell their food to make a living. In the second year, Kitsap Harvest set up a system with residential gleans that we can leave some for the donor, the gleaner can take some home, and the rest goes to the food bank. It’s important to communicate and engage both the farmers and homeowners in the process. This is especially true as we’re getting more glean sites that we were able to glean. At the beginning of our program, Kitsap Harvest struggled with having enough volunteers to meet the demand of the incoming glean sites. The AmeriCorps member took the time to let homeowners know that this system is new and that we’re excited that they were interested in our program and would do our best to get to them, but if not, they were on our list for next year after we had built up more resources. Many homeowners were thankful that a program like ours existed and was more than cooperative.
APPRECIATION OF GROWERS, FARMERS & GARDENERS
Appreciation goes a long way. All Farmers who donated at the Farmers Market were part of a detailed documentation system that kept track of their donated pounds and what food bank it went to. At the end of the season, the coordinating food banks wrote a tax-deductible receipt personalized for the farmers from the food bank. This does take time, at the same time, helps in making sure that we’re all supporting the effort of the farmers.
At the end of the harvest season, we had a dinner and invited the community that came together to make this possible. The people who donated, the volunteers, and the receiving organizations have an opportunity to meet and express their thankfulness in being a team together, celebrate the connections, and weigh the impact as a community that came together.