April 23, 2019 – Ag Against Hunger—the Salinas nonprofit that for more than a quarter-century has distributed millions of pounds of surplus fresh produce to West Coast food programs—has been adopted as a core program of the Grower-Shipper Association Foundation.
AAH’s program manager Alicia Cask will join the Grower-Shipper Association staff, where she will work alongside the foundation’s executive director, Lisa Dobbins. Cask will continue to coordinate field gleaning and fresh produce outreach opportunities.
While the Ag Against Hunger program within GSAF will continue to handle gleaning and advocacy, the distribution of the produce will now be done by the Food Bank for Monterey County, which recently opened a brand-new $10 million facility on West Rossi Street in Salinas.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” says Dobbins. Since the Food Bank now has 20,000 square feet of refrigerated space, it makes the distribution system more efficient—getting the produce to those who need it most. “We’re really excited to work with the Food Bank on this,” she says.
“This new model will avoid unnecessary duplication in the food distribution system,” says Lorri Koster, former chairman and CEO of Mann Packing Co., and one of the early leaders of Ag Against Hunger and GSAF. “The ag community has always been committed to feeding the hungry. Now, between the food bank distribution system and Ag Against Hunger’s expanded gleans, hungry people in our communities will get even more fresh produce on their tables.”
One in three people in Monterey County is food-insecure, says Melissa Kendrick, executive director of the Food Bank for Monterey County, and she believes this new collaboration will continue the local fight against hunger.
“When such a large swath of the community is hungry, it has a detrimental effect on the economy, schools, workplaces, healthcare systems, and neighborhoods,” Kendrick says. “If we want our county to flourish, we must first nourish our friends and neighbors in need. By supplying produce with the help of our generous ag partners, we are making a meaningful impact on the lives of our most vulnerable residents.”
Dobbin’s hope is that more of this surplus produce will be made available to local schools, which is a ongoing concern of GSAF’s in its More Produce in Schools project. She’s also envisioning even more produce being gleaned with the assistance of community groups.
“We’re really upping that aspect,” she says. “There are so many volunteers that want to do this. And our grower partners are excited about this as well.”
Gleaning opportunities will be announced this summer.
AAH began in the early 1990s when Tim Driscoll of Driscoll’s realized that hunger was a pervasive problem on the Central Coast. He also knew that some 20 percent of produce, although edible, was thrown away for various reasons and helped develop a program under Second Harvest Food Bank that then became its own entity as Ag Against Hunger.
Growers and shippers would contact AAH when they had surplus produce; AAH would arrange for gleaning and distribution, with about 11 million pounds a year going to help low-income people along the West Coast.
For GSAF, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting and educating the social and economic value agriculture brings to the community, the adoption of Ag Against Hunger complements GSAF’s other educational programs, which include More Produce in Schools and executive training program AgKnowledge and the Greater Vision series, in partnership with California State University, Monterey Bay.
Ag Against Hunger, in conjunction with GSAF, will continue to host its popular Ag Women of the Year luncheon as well as the ag industry mascot race at the California Rodeo. Several Ag Against Hunger Board members will continue to serve on the Ag Against Hunger committee within the foundation.
Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas
tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about sustainable living,
home design and health for numerous publications and websites.