ATH, supporters step up to help during pandemic

  • The world has definitely changed since mid-March. And so many lives have been turned upside down in this six-month timespan because of COVID-19. It’s estimated that pre-virus, one in eight in our region was food insecure. The projected impact of this pandemic is that one in six people will know food insecurity in 2020.

Because of the growing number of hungry people in the Greater Kansas City area, many reached out—and continue to do so—to help organizations feeding those in need. At After the Harvest, our growers and donors gave more, our volunteers did more and our food agency partners pivoted and pivoted again to feed the growing number of families who were—and still are—lining up for the first time.

Says our Gleaning Network Manager Zach Callaway, “The last few months have been incredibly trying. As life continues to change, the uncertainty of how dramatically and how permanently it will change has often felt overwhelming. But,” he said, “these months have also been incredibly inspiring, too. I’m so proud of the ways we have been able to step up alongside our community.”

In response to COVID-19 from April to July, After the Harvest rescued more than a million pounds of fruits and vegetables to feed those in need. The pounds of fruits and vegetables that our Gleaning Program rescued, re-distributed and delivered grew by 109% from last year at this time.

  • We continued to glean excess produce from fields and pick up leftovers at farmers markets and distributors.
  • We also raised funds to bring in semi-truckloads of rescued produce. These truckloads, each containing around 40,000 lbs. of produce, were then distributed by our partner Harvesters—The Community Food Network. We also distribute directly to about 100 agencies in Greater Kansas City.

After the Harvest continues to rescue and distribute more produce from all sources and more readily meet specific needs of Harvesters and our food agency partners.

Growers/distributors ATH switched gears to pickup and distribute growers’ and distributors’ excess produce because of closings, pandemic-related slowdowns, etc.

  • Received and distributed early-season donations of excess produce due to COVID-19 changes in the produce market. For example: C&C Produce—salvaged produce that would otherwise get dumped, Karbaumer Farm—gleaned arugula, spinach and other leafy greens intended for local restaurant business, JCCC Open Petal Farm—gleaned excess produce usually going to their dining and culinary programs, Missing Ingredient—received donations of lettuce early in the crisis due to changes in demand from local restaurants. River’s Edge Produce—this donation of nearly 500 lbs. of tomatoes went to agencies feeding hungry people.

  • Distributed additional produce from partners donating more in response to the crisis. For example: Green Acres Urban Farm & Research—making monthly donations of hydroponically grown microgreens (they had extra capacity to grow more and so they did just that) for use by our kitchen partners, Voigts Fresh Produce—daily pickups of several hundred pounds a day throughout July, Where the Redfearn Grows farm—weekly distributions of extra CSA shares throughout Independence and the surrounding area, Driscoll Berries—2,000 lbs. of blueberries and strawberries early in the pandemic, Agape Farm in Parkville—not selling at market this year so donating most of the farm’s produce this year.

USDA boxes/HarvestersATH contributed to securing and distribution of produce outside the norm of day-to-day operations to meet the needs of our hungry neighbors.

  • Through July, we’ve distributed 17,600 lbs. of USDA Farmers to Families Food Boxes containing fresh fruits and vegetables.  These were purchased by the government for distribution to those in need during this crisis. We began partnering with Operation Breakthrough in July for weekly box deliveries, after their donations were disrupted when the program entered phase two. We also partnered with organizations that weren’t receiving produce boxes, like the UMKC Food Pantry and Global One Urban Farming, to provide a high-value product for their clients and extend the program’s reach. We supplemented weekly box inventory for organizations like Seton Center, Catholic Charities and the KC Indian Center, as needed during the week when excess boxes become available. In addition, due to the abundance of produce boxes, some pantries had a steady supply of more stable items like potatoes, carrots and onions, but still had a need for more perishable items like greens. We have been able to step in and offer supplements to their pantries with our local produce.

  • For Harvesters, we secured semi-truckloads of produce that might otherwise have gone to waste, targeting specific varieties needed as influx of USDA boxes and other donations came in to them. Thousands of pounds of cucumbers, peppers, white potatoes, onions, pineapple,watermelon, apples, oranges, lettuce, green beans and sweet potatoes were distributed.

Agencies ATH pivoted to accommodate changes in distribution models of agencies feeding hungry people and adapted to meet the specific needs of those agencies so that they could best serve their growing lines of clients.

  • As food pantries, shelters and community kitchens revised hours, capacity and distribution, we’ve adjusted how we deliver, how we package and what we provide to meet their changing needs.
  • We worked with pantries to deliver produce as they switched to receiving only one or two hours a week because of a lack of volunteers. We worked with others, like Hope Faith Ministries, to develop a minimal contact delivery.
  • Some kitchens converted to a to-go meal model. As St. Mary’s Kitchen moved to sack lunches, we have partnered with them to provide items that can be utilized in that format, when possible. For example, we deliver corn in the morning from  scheduled gleanings that can be handed out along with the sack lunches and will provide fruit in the future.
  • Even though what is available to glean is somewhat unpredictable, we’ve also coordinated with other local kitchens, like One City Café, Thelma’s Kitchen and KC Kosher Meals on Wheels and Young Women on the Move, to offer produce on a consistent weekly basis. Timing is coordinated to help them best utilize the produce during their menu-planning for each week. One check-in with Chef Gary at Young Women on the move about an upcoming delivery of peppers and onions resulted in an enchilada casserole on the menu that week.
  • Made donations to new organizations and to hunger relief efforts that formed in response to the crisis: TAGS Free Lunch KC, KC ACTS, What if the Church City-Wide Resource Drives, Calvary Community Outreach Network grocery distributions. We’ve shifted to providing produce to some new outlying pantries including a recent delivery of peppers, green beans and corn to Stilwell Baptist Caring Ministry. From May 2019 to May 2020, they have seen a 68% increase in usage of the food pantry.

Thanks to all who have helped during this challenging time. You have our deepest gratitude.