By Lisa Ousley, After the Harvest Executive Director
September 18 marked the day that the team at After the Harvest gave a “chilly reception” to 30 bins of hard squash and watermelons into our new cold storage in the Interstate Underground caves. ATH worked with Vernon County Produce in Rich Hill, MO., to get these locally grown watermelons and four types of hard squash: acorn, buttercup, butternut and spaghetti squash, all grown south of Kansas City. Altogether, the load weighed more than 18,000 pounds.
We are excited to announce that ATH has leased this cold space from KC Cold Storage as part of our efforts to expand our Gleaning Program to provide more locally grown and sourced fresh fruits and vegetables for hungry families, children and seniors in our area. This new space will allow us to aggregate fresh produce while also preserving the quality of the produce in a temperature-controlled environment and enable us to more strategically and equitably distribute it to agencies in our area.
At the onset of the pandemic our work shifted to collect even more rescued produce from numerous, larger regional sources beyond our farm partners and deliver it quickly to the most vulnerable populations in our community. We also began delivering produce to targeted agencies for the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
This combination of variables has accelerated our goals to expand in order to maximize the amount of produce we rescue, allowing us to mobilize a larger team to strategically distribute it to those in need.
The expansion includes renting a 600-square-foot cold storage space as well as a small amount of dry storage space for sorting produce and packaging and other supplies needed for field gleanings.
To increase our pick-up and delivery capacity we are raising funds to purchase a 17-foot refrigerated truck. Additionally, we are hiring a full-time logistics coordinator to oversee the expansion as well as two part-time gleaning coordinators who will oversee field gleanings in Greater Kansas City and at our expanding network of farm partners.