Community Harvest SRQ Reduces Food Waste and Feeds the Hungry

The Giving Coast

Pictured: These peppers have been rescued from the Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch. Photo courtesy of Community Harvest SRQ.

It's no secret that a local farmers market is the best place to find the freshest and most delicious selection of fruits and vegetables. You might wonder, though, what happens to the fresh produce left unsold at these markets.

Community Harvest SRQ, a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing food waste and addressing food insecurity comes to the rescue! By picking up unsold produce from farmers markets that would otherwise go to waste and donating it directly to local food pantries and other organizations serving food to the food insecure in our community, the group is committed to developing community-driven solutions for our local food system. Through their signature food-rescue initiatives, education events and annual Eat Local Week, they lead efforts to build a more sustainable future.

The pilot program started November 2022 when Executive Director Joyce Norris saw leftover produce being tossed into bins and loaded onto a truck, as if it were worthless. “This was all farm fresh produce and I couldn’t believe that it was being discarded when people are struggling to put food on the table,” she said. An idea sparked for Norris and her farmers market produce recovery program was born. The program addresses food waste and climate change (food is not left to rot and release methane gas), feeds people, helps the farmer because they do not have to bring the excess back to their farm, and provides meaningful connection between the farmer and our local community.

Every Sunday, Norris and her team pick up leftover produce at the Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch. “We are extremely grateful to our farm partners Mondragon Farms, Honeyside Farms, and Peach Pit, who are vendors at the market,” Norris said. “Without their generosity and strong desire to be a part of our community, this program would not exist. It is wonderful to see how committed these farmers are to growing fresh food and putting healthy food on plates. Our Lakewood Ranch veggies are provided to local food pantries and organizations feeding those in need.” Some of the organization’s recipient partners include The Salvation Army, Church of the Palms food pantry, Second Chance last Opportunity, and more.

To date, Community Harvest SRQ has rescued over 14,000 pounds of farmers market veggies. That is equal to 43,000 servings of fresh healthy produce going to people in need.

Pictured: These peppers have been rescued from the Farmers Market at Lakewood Ranch. Photo courtesy of Community Harvest SRQ.

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