Editor’s Note: This story was published in September of 2015. The statistics may have changed in the time since, but the idea of the community bringing its produce to the Food Closet remains the same.
by Joey Crandall, firstname.lastname@example.org • 6 min read
GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — For you gardeners out there, perhaps you’ve run into this scenario before:
You work all spring cultivating the soil, preparing seedlings and timing your planting just right to miss the last of the overnight freezes. You diligently water the ground throughout the hot summer, fending off pests, pulling out invading weeds and filtering out weaker plants.
And with the onset of August, you begin to see the fruits of your labors.
Lots and lots of them.
“It’s OK,” you think. “We can eat 70 tomatoes. There are at least 35 ways to cook a zucchini, surely.”
But you know you’re lying to yourself.
No matter how many ways you find to dice bell peppers into every breakfast, lunch and dinner – no matter how many squash you slice up or how many carrots you saute – it all just keeps growing.
Consider this: Prior to two years ago, the Carson Valley Community Food Closet was without a regular source of produce for its regular distributions.
And then consider that Douglas County’s food insecurity rate runs at 14.1 percent of the population.
In other words, that’s one out of every seven people in the county that don’t know where their next meal will come from.
“Douglas is just a litle bit behind the rest of the state but as a community, we are experiencing hunger the same as anyone else,” said Carson Valley Community Food Closet managing director Sarah Sanchez. “People think of this as a very affluent community, but there is still a great need here.”
September is Hunger Action Awareness Month, when FeedingAmerica.org and its member food banks encourage everyone in America to take action to fight hunger in their community.
[su_gmap width=”400″ address=”1255 Waterloo Lane, Suite B , Gardnerville, NV”]One very simple way to contribute is to bring some of that over-abundance from your backyard garden to the Carson Valley Community Food Closet, located at 1255 Waterloo Lane, Suite B in Gardnerville on dropoff days (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
“You just drive around to the back of the building and there will be someone there who can help you,” said Food Closet Administrative Assistant Kate Savage. “We’ll weigh it, we can provide a receipt for tax deductions and then we take the produce from there.”
Sanchez said as far as what types of produce they’ll accept, the sky is pretty much the limit.
“We’ll take any produce and also fresh chicken eggs,” she said. “If it is slightly bruised, we’ll take it. There are a lot of fruits and vegetables that can be used, despite their appearance. The one thing we ask is that you don’t bring in produce that has been damaged by critters. Light washing is appreciated, but not necessary.
“We have the ability to communicate with the client and we can say, ‘This just came in out of someone’s garden today.’ That way they know what to expect in terms of shelf life.”
The food closet took in 118 pounds of produce in July, and 179 in May from local amateur growers. Last September, typically the biggest harvest month around the Valley, they took in 2,000 pounds from community donations.
All of it, Sanchez said, goes quickly.
In her two years at the food closet, Sanchez said she has focused on ramping up the produce availability.
“Walmart is our biggest produce provider, both the Topsy store and the one down in Gardnerville. They bring in anywhere from 800 to 1,500 pounds three times a week.”
She added local farms have been getting involved as well.
“Bella Vista Farms in Johnson Lane just told us they would be planting corn for the food closet next year, as well as committing the garden part of their farm to the food closet,” Sanchez said.
Raley’s has also been involved in produce donations, as well as an increasing number of local growers, including Stodick Farms. Local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops work in the Heritage Park Community Gardens in Gardnerville, bring the fruits of their labors to the food closet.
“Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are covered with somewhat decent produce, but we are so happy to welcome more,” Sanchez said. “Basically, we have barely enough to get us through one full day of distribution on any given day.
“A lot of our clients are senior citizens who need to have a healthier diet than some of the baked and boxed goods allow,” Savage said. “We have a lot of clients who are diabetic, or who have special dietary needs.
“Tomatoes, watermelons, those all go like crazy. We’re doing a better job of spreading the word about the dietary needs we have to address.”
Sanchez said the food closet is the local recipient of the Gardnerville Raley’s Food for Families fund.
“They just did their July fundraiser and that will allow us to buy brand new, fresh produce,” she said. “We haven’t been able to do that before.”
Sanchez said one of her favorite parts of the job is the basic function of the food closet.
“It represents the best of a community,” she said. “It’s community going out and doing for its own, taking care of your neighbor. That is a continually humbling thing to watch happen.”
This year, the food closet has been manning booths at the local farmers markets to continue to get the word out, and even that has helped drum up interest in donating from the growers there.
“There are so many backyard gardens out there in the Valley,” she said. “I think a lot goes to waste just because people don’t know what to do with an over-producing garden. We offer an option where you can bring it in, and it will get redirected back out into the community the same day. It’ll probably even get eaten the same day.
“We’d love at some point to set up some sort of gleaning program where volunteers go out and get the produce from volunteering homes around the Valley, but for now the donors bring it in to us.”
Savage said the food closet welcomes any food drive efforts out in the Valley.
“Anyone that is interested can organize one,” she said. “Just let us know and we’ll help get the word out. It can be for specific items too. For example, right now we are out of canned soup for the rest of the year. If someone wanted to organize a Soup Drive, that would be an enormous help.”
For more information visit http://www.carsonvalleycommunityfoodcloset.org.