Update 8/1/19

Feeding America Partners with the Southeast Regional Cooperative to Bring Hand Held Fruit Options to Member Food Banks

Chris Flint, Executive Director, Southeast Regional Cooperative

With the summer break coming to a close for millions of youngsters across the country, it is important to remember that for many students the return to school is a return to one of their most stable sources of nutrition.  The meals enjoyed during the school year are often not replaced at home during the summer for the 13 million children under that age of 18 (that’s 1 in 6 children) that are food insecure.  Food Banks across the nation kick into overdrive throughout the summer trying to bridge this gap by providing nutritious food in partnership with agencies that provide summer feeding programs for these youth during the break. And this summer the Southeast Regional Cooperative tried something new to help.

During this summer school break, with the help of a generous grant from Feeding America, the Southeast Regional Cooperative was able to pilot and successfully test it’s Summer Hand Held Produce Program.  With funding from Feeding America’s generous donors we were able to provide a quarter of a million pounds of fresh hand held produce such as oranges, pears, apricots, and nectarines to our member food banks for their partner agencies serving these students.  During the period of time in question, it is only possible to source adequate quantities of certain hand held fruits from Texas, California and a few other states in the Western U.S.  Freight costs normally make it impossible for these items to be purchased by food banks in the Southeast.  The grant funding made available by Feeding America made it possible to offset this higher cost so that our member food banks were able to enjoy this beautiful product (see pictures) at a cost equivalent to that of more locally available produce.  Considering the increased carbon footprint involved in this transaction, for every load that came from outside the Southeast, an additional seven loads were sourced from Georgia, Florida, or the Carolinas.

Thank you Feeding America for all you do!  Here’s to a great new school year!

Beautiful hand held fruit on its way to Feeding America Food Banks across the Southeast!

Update! 6/6/2019

The SERC Summer Feeding Hand Fruit Program is Under Way!

This week we saw our first load of hand fruit (oranges in this case) for our summer feeding grant program. This is the result of a generous grant from Feeding America that is being used to offset the higher freight necessary to bring product out of some of the more distant growing areas for popular hand fruit such as oranges, apples, and mandarins. The purpose of the program is to allow us to bring in hand fruit that is perfect for summer feeding programs without increasing fruit or product costs for our active members. Our plan is to continue this for at least seven weeks as our grant funding allows for members with existing planned loads. Next week we will have a mixed load of nectarines, peaches, and plumbs out of California.

Thanks Feeding America for your help in making this happen!

Great Sunkist product out of California!

Market Update!

The month of May has ended with several weeks of unseasonably warm temperatures. This has resulted in some adverse markets. Squash, cabbage, bell peppers have all been considerably higher with less product available. Temperatures are easing and there is some rain in the forecast. The good news is that we should see a good bit of watermelon in the coming weeks.

Here’s a few pics of what has been available lately:

Update 5/24/2018

Enjoy Your Memorial Day Weekend! 

New Surroundings and a New Partner

Over the last few weeks, the Southeast Regional Cooperative has completed the transition of it’s mixing center to Fresh Point Atlanta’s new state of the art facility in Fairburn Georgia.  This change will give us added flexibility and help us keep costs down in the long run.  And of course there is the added benefit of having a great team of professionals helping us to meet the needs of the cooperative and the people we all serve.  A very special thank you to Lee Woodham, Ben Thrailkill, Malcolm Robinson, Robert Fields, Courtney Ritter, Pam Kendrick, Dallas Leake, Jose Quiroz and so many more at FreshPoint Atlanta who have helped to make the transition so smooth.

Malcolm Robinson from FreshPoint with some beautiful Vidalia Onions.

Vidalia Onions!

The Southeast Regional Cooperative is blessed with a very good supply of Vidalia Onions during certain times of the year and we are in the thick of them right now.  Ever wonder what makes a Vidalia Onion so special?  Check out this article on the history of vidalia onions.

Vidalia onions in the mixing center.

Tomatoes from the Boarder!

The gut wrenching picture that you see below is produce being dumped in Nogales Arizona, the largest inland “port” for produce in the world.  Unfortunately it is shockingly common for produce to end up this way for a host of reasons ranging from scarring to market (price) wars between competing growing regions.  Thanks to the efforts of our Feeding America Food Banks in Arizona we are able to help rescue some of this product.  The second picture shows one of two loads of rescued tomatoes we have received recently from Nogales.

Mounds of fresh produce dumped in Nogales.

A recent load of rescued tomatoes!

Picture Perfect:

Lately we’ve seen beautiful carrots, onions, cabbage, sweet potatoes, squash, zucchini, and much more.  However, this eggplant takes the prize for the prettiest produce to grace our mixing center in quite a while.

Update 3/14/18

What’s in the Mix This Week?

This week we shipped some great looking squash and peppers from Florida as well as sweet potatoes from North Carolina and carrots from Georgia!

Working on Freight Cost

We are getting close to releasing our SERC freight RFQ.  The wonderful team you see below of Georgia State seniors in the PACE supply chain and logistics capstone program has been hard at work crafting the request for quote, analyzing our needed lanes, and researching the best carriers to solicit.  They have succeeded in delivering the documents and we will be doing a final edit before we send the requests out to the pool of prospective carriers.  Hats off to all of these young business people and their excellent professor Walter Wallace for their hard work and dedication!

Make Sure to Apply for Your Share!!!

The FY18 Produce Capacity Grant will support the sourcing, distribution and capacity building efforts of produce programs in the network with a focus on:

  • Increasing participation in member-led regional produce cooperatives (where they exist), or with other organizations who source in bulk (ie., California Association of Food Banks, etc.)
  • Increasing fresh, non-retail produce (pounds) with emphasis on maximizing distributable produce pounds at the highest quality available.
  • Grant funding will provide support in addressing challenges and barriers (sourcing, handling, distribution) as they relate to the growth of Produce programs within the network.Grant Period and Funding Amount
    The Morgan Stanley Foundation is providing a total of $500,000 in grant funding to support this grant opportunity.  There are three (3) levels of funding available: $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000.  The grant period will
    run from June 1, 2018 – May 31, 2019.  Funds will be disbursed after award decisions have been made and are contingent upon receipt of donor pledge payment. Grantees can expect to receive funding in May 2018.

Check out this link on Hunger.net

https://feedingamerica.sharepoint.com/development/grants/Pages/Active-Grant.aspx

 

 

Update 1/31/18

This Week From the Cooperative!

Greetings from the Southeast Regional Cooperative.  It’s been a while since our last update, so here’s a few pictures of this week’s offerings.  This weeks shipments include red potatoes in a handy 5/10# pack, sweet potatoes, green cabbage, and some beautiful napa cabbage.

It’s great seeing this product move in and out of our mixing center with the knowledge that our food banks will be distributing it to agencies and food insecure families across the Southeast!

Fighting Hunger Across America With Produce!

A recent article from NPR News provides an insightful look at a federally funded program that is encouraging the use of fresh produce by SNAP participants.  The program is unique in that it not only promotes the use of produce, but also studies the long term impacts of such use.  The study detailed here is taking place in Southern California, but others are taking place across the country.  According to the article, “The goal of the four-year program, like that of its counterparts in other states, is to improve diets and overall health by making fresh produce more affordable.”

Here’s a link to the article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/01/16/577662116/food-stamp-program-makes-fresh-produce-more-affordable

This is great news for all of us working to increase the amount of fresh produce distributed through our network.

Update 12/12/17

 SERC Update 12/12/17

Seasons Greetings to all of our partners in the Southeast Regional Cooperative!

There’s some really great product coming through the mixing center lately and this week is no exception.  We have a load of beautiful potatoes in a convenient 4x10lb pack, large cabbage, sweet potatoes, green beans butternut squash and English cucumbers.   All of this is headed out to food banks and their agencies this week!

What’s Happening Around the Cooperative:

Congratulation to our newly appointed Produce Committee!  This group was identified by the board members from their respective states as talented leaders who’s specific areas of expertise will help to further the cooperative’s goals.

    • Carter Crain, Food Resources Manager, Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC.
    • Cindy Stapleton, Director, Farm to Food Banks, Feeding the Carolinas.
    • Dustin Lard, Regional Produce Sourcer, Georgia Food Bank Association/SERC.
    • Ben Burgess, Product Sourcing Manager, Atlanta Community Food Bank.
    • Angela Nicholette, Food Sourcing & Inventory Manager, Chattanooga Area Food Bank.
    • Tom Cromie, Senior Operations Director, Second Harvest Food Bank of North East Tennessee.
    • Sherri Atwell, Director of Produce Recovery, Feeding Florida.
    • Kirsten Langan, Director of Food Strategy and Sourcing, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
    • Cindy Bloom, Produce Strategy Manager, Feeding the Gulf Coast.

Again, congratulations to this group and thanks to all of you for your willingness to help!

Update 11/20/17

At the Mixing Center:

This past week we shipped a mix of cucumbers, squash, and sweet potatoes.  Here’s some pictures for you of what went out:

Around the Region:

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Kirsten Langan at Second Harvest food Bank of Central “Florida.  The best part of the trip was seeing product that had been at our mixing center just a day before, waiting for pickup by their agencies.  Here’s a few images from around their facility.

Cucumbers and squash ready for pickup by agencies.

Technology is in use everywhere to enhance outcomes and “guest experience.”

Orlando’s beautiful agency shopping area.

22,000 meals per week for various programs that feed hungry children are packed in this room!!!

Watch for it!

Food banks will be receiving our newly adopted SERC charter and membership agreements to be authorized in the email shortly.  Also, you will receive a request for commitments for first quarter of 2018 soon.

Have a great week and I hope your team wins!  (Unless they’re playing mine!)

Happy Thanksgiving one and all!

 

Weekly Update 11/10/17

What’s Happening Around the Region:

Here’s a picture of some beautiful produce including squash, zucchini, and peppers from the cooperative being prepared for agency pickup by the Atlanta Community Food Bank.  It’s great to see fresh produce becoming such a significant part of the nutritious food being distributed by all of you across the region and beyond.

From the Mixing Center:

Here’s some of what we were able to share with you this week.   Next week we will have sweet potatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, and peppers.

 

Weekly Inspiration (Now why didn’t we think of that!)

Here’s a great blog article from 2 years ago on the USDA’s website about Chris Pawelski, an onion farmer in Goshen, New York.  Pay special attention to the last two paragraphs in the article.  To that, I say, “Great idea Mr. Pawelski!”

https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/04/3/farmers-help-fight-food-waste-donating-wholesome-food

How to get started!

Check out the new page!  Are you interested in sourcing produce through your Southeast Regional Cooperative?  We’re here to help you.  Click here to find out how.

Weekly Update 10/31/17

Happy Holloween Southeast Regional Cooperative Team!!!

What’s new at the mixing center:

Well, we don’t have pumpkins shipping this week, but we do have some tasty cousins of the pumpkin in the form of some nice winter squash.  We have acorn squash, butternut squash, and spaghetti squash and they all look really nice.  We also have some great looking cucumbers, cabbage and potatoes going out this week.  Here are a few pictures:

 

Did you know?

The produce provided by the Southeast Regional Cooperative generally ships from the farm to your food bank in as little as 48 hours.  This is a shorter span (by a long shot) than most produce distributors can claim.  This is made possible by the combined efforts of your sourcers, our state association regional sourcers, and the efficiency of our mixing center, where produce is received mixed and reshipped on the same day.

Tips for the kitchen:

One issue that you may face with winter squash is that often folks don’t know how to prepare it.  So you might try printing copies of a recipe to send it out to your agencies with your mobile pantry.  Here’s one that will work with many different types of winter squash.   It’s pretty simple and nice and hardy for winter meals:

Roasted Winter Squash
(A simple and hardy winter dish)

Ingredients:

  • Unsalted butter 1 tablespoon (at least)
  • Onion 1 cup
  • Acorn squash 2 cups
  • Spaghetti squash 2 cups
  • Butternut squash 3 cup
  • Chicken Stock 2/3 cups
  • salt and pepper

Chop the squash into cubes.  For harder skinned winter squash it is easier to peel if you roast the squash in the oven for a little while first and then chill it and peel it.  Cut your onions into thin wedges.  Next, place the squash in a baking pan and lay the thin onion wedges on top.  Pour in the chicken stock and sprinkle the chives on top.  For healthier fare add one tablespoon of melted butter drizzled on top.  If you’re like me a little more is good too!

Roast the mixture uncovered at 350 for 30 minutes.  Then cover with foil and let it roast for another half hour or until the squash feels soft to the touch.

Enjoy!

 

Weekly Update 10/20/2017

 

Greetings SERC Members!
What a great week for the cooperative.  This week we elected of our Board of Directors!  There are seven directors representing each of our seven states, and three at-large directors.
Cathy Pope – Alabama
Robin Safley – Florida
Kyle Waide – Georgia (Chairman)
Charles Beady – Mississippi
Peter Werbicki – North Carolina
Erin Fisher – South Carolina
Brad Bornac – Tennessee
Danah Craft – at large (Secretary and Treasurer)
Cindy Stapleton – at large
Angela Nicholette – at large
Many thanks to these folks for their new role in supporting our organization and our common mission!
What’s new at the mixing center:
We also shipped great looking cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and suntan peppers.  By the way, suntan peppers are peppers that have an uneven color, typically ranging from green to red.  They are harvested just as the color is changing.  While they are historically thought of as a #2 product, they are very flavorful and have started to gain favor with chefs because of their unique appearance.
News From Around the Network:
Take a look at this great article in the Chicago Tribune from late last year about why we are all so focused on fresh produce as a leading solution to hunger in America.  It includes information on research that is ongoing (by Feeding America and associated Doctors, clinics, and food banks) regarding the impacts on health from produce distributed by food banks.
Upcoming:
Now is a great time to start planning for your loads in the new year.  The holidays will go by in a blur, so if you have interest in taking loads in the upcoming months, let me know soon.  Also, I am planning visits to food banks over the coming months, so if you or your staff want to know more about the SERC, let me know and I will schedule a visit and gas up my car!
Thanks for all you do!
Chris