As Freestore Foodbank works to solve the critical issue of hunger for the 273,060 food insecure residents of our region, increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables is essential.

“I wish I could have fruit and vegetables at every meal,” said a visitor to our Liberty Street Market at the Customer Connection Center. “My daughter is only 12 but has high cholesterol. My food stamps barely cover the basics and there is nothing left for fresh food.”

Over 45% of low income residents in the 20 counties we serve live more than one mile from the nearest supermarket, making it challenging for people to access healthy foods. Freestore Foodbank is working with our community partner agencies, including Power Pack and School Pantry sites, to increase the amount of produce available.

“Most of our clients don’t have transportation and its $10.50 round trip to take the bus to the closest grocery,” said Kim with MercyWorks/LightShine in Clermont County. “The food we provide sustains them. We have a lot of elderly residents and children who need access to healthy food.”

We are thrilled to have received grants from the Elsa M. Heisel Sule Foundation and Nutrien to support our pop-up produce mobile program this year.

Pop-up produce mobiles bring at least four varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables to communities across the tristate. These distributions are provided at no cost to our partner agencies and offer up to 20 pounds of produce to each family.

“Strong community partnerships and community investment is a high priority for our company and specifically our facilities,” said Trina Aburto, Senior Advisor, Community Outreach and Investment at Nutrien (formerly Agrium and PotashCorp). “We make a concerted effort to support impactful, sustainable and efficient organizations that address the issues important to communities and the world. Our contributions over the years to Freestore Foodbank have been an example of a great partnership and an excellent organization that we are proud to support.”

Nutrien is the world’s largest provider of crop inputs and services. Feeding the Future, one of their initiatives, helps growers increase production sustainably and provides online educational programs, including games, to spread awareness of challenges and solutions to the global food system.

“Our employees have committed their time and efforts to support the organizations important to them and to their communities,” said Aburto. “Nutrien is proud to stand behind them.”

The Elsa M. Heisel Sule Foundation grant specifically supports Freestore Foodbank’s efforts to bring produce to School Pantry sites. Using pop-up produce mobiles, we can deliver fresh fruits and vegetables directly to school sites in order to reach children and their families.

“The staff and Advisory Board of the Elsa M. Heisel Sule Foundation were delighted that fresh, healthy food options with nutritional benefits would be easily accessible to families and offered in their own community,” said Bridget Kremer, Executive Director and Grant Manager.

School Pantry pop-up produce mobiles also distribute up to 20 pounds of produce per family. This is especially important for School Pantry sites without refrigeration. Some School Pantry sites are planning to offer these pop-ups monthly; others will request them in conjunction with a specific event, like parent-teacher conferences or arts night.

“One thing I’ve noticed is that when your budget is low, you don’t buy produce,” said Cathy, one of our School Pantry site managers. “Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of storage, so we are now getting pop-up produce mobiles every month, and we distribute everything! Our parents love the produce! They always ask when it’s coming again.”

The Elsa M. Heisel Sule Foundation takes a hands-on approach to philanthropy, meeting with non-profit organizations to learn about their missions, the challenges they face and the impact of their success. They also keep up with current philanthropic trends by connecting with other tristate funders and professional organizations.

“The Elsa M. Heisel Sule Foundation is a proponent of engaged philanthropy,” said Kremar. “We welcome opportunities to volunteer and visit organizations to support their good works.”

If you would like to support Freestore Foodbank’s efforts to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved communities, please contact Maureen Gregory, or 513-482-7542.