People bought a lot of food on opening day for the Zebulon Farm Fresh Market, and not all for themselves.
A new partnership between the market and Durham-based Farmer Foodshare is creating the opportunity for donations of fresh produce to be made to the food pantry at Zebulon United Methodist Church. The opportunity was received with enthusiasm by market patrons on May 7, when the pantry reaped 56 pounds of produce.
“It was wildly more successful than I thought it would be,” farmer’s market manager Maurine Brown said. “(The pantry leaders) were tickled – just ecstatic about how well it went.”
Farmer Foodshare, a nonprofit liaison between people who grow and need food, approached the town about setting up a donation station like it has at about 25 farmers markets statewide. The stations give customers the option of purchasing and donating fresh produce from the market, or making a cash donation that will be used to purchase produce to benefit a local hunger-relief agency.
All Farmer Foodshare asks, Brown said, is for data – dollar amount and poundage of food donated – and that monetary donations be spread among participating vendors.
Brown identified the ZUMC pantry as the beneficiary of the partnership, knowing the church’s food ministry is particularly active. The pantry’s overseers don’t mind staffing the donation desk on Saturdays one bit.
“This ends up being a wonderful program for our pantry because we’re able to get people more healthy food,” said Sue Russo, who with her husband, Bob, manned the station Saturday. “One thing that’s been lacking in the pantry is fresh produce.”
The farmers, naturally, are the other intended beneficiary of the arrangement. Russo said having a presence at the market is also good publicity for the pantry and the church itself.
“It’s been a benefit all around,” she said.
Another new partnership doesn’t involve ZUMC directly but does address a concern for leaders of the church’s Backpack Buddies program.
That initiative provides students who receive free and reduced lunches at school with healthy weekend meals during the school year, but not during the summer as it follows the traditional school calendar.
“We were all struggling with (what to do) to extend this program into the summer,” Russo said.
Wake County Human Services solved that riddle, in part, when it proposed to Brown that the Farm Fresh Market serve as a summer nutrition program site. The market needed only to provide the space and track the number of meals it hands out.
Free meals, provided by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, are now offered at the market for children ages 18 and younger.
“It’s going to help fill in the gaps,” Russo said. “That was something we were really concerned about.”
The Zebulon Farm Fresh Market is open Saturdays through Oct. 8, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the front lawn of Zebulon Town Hall, 1003 N. Arendell Ave.