New Program Puts People Back to Work Delivering Fresh Produce

Staff Report From Columbia CEO

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

It’s getting hard to get the things we need. Workers are being laid off as the demand for produce has dropped. Farmers’ crops are spoiling in the fields because some of their largest customers have shut down. The COVID-19 crisis tears at the fundamentals of how our society works.

What if there was a way to get the supply chain operating again, put low-wage workers back to work, and get boxes filled with high-quality, fresh produce to homes?

Now there is. It’s called Farmers2Neighbors. It’s a partnership of FoodShare South Carolina and Senn Brothers produce company. They’ve teamed up to help nourish the Midlands, restore jobs lost at the South Carolina State Farmers Market, and heal some of the breaks in our food distribution system.

The Community Produce Box is more than "just a box of food." It’s a way of knitting our society back together when coronavirus is driving us apart.

Here’s how it works:

Residents purchase produce boxes. Senn Brothers purchases produce from local farmers as well as from regional producers. The market is able to rehire employees laid off because of the coronavirus. Those workers will box up the fresh produce and deliver it to the neighborhoods that have placed orders for boxes.

The program is reaching out to neighborhood associations in the greater Columbia area to sign up for and help distribute the food boxes. Residents can purchase boxes online. But any group of neighbors, or a church or other organization in the area, can appoint a captain who can coordinate and see that the boxes are picked up from the distribution point in their neighborhood, and then delivered to individual homes.

This is produce that would otherwise go to waste for lack of a market. It is all high-quality. No seconds.

Suitable precautions will be taken to ensure safety. Workers at the Farmers Market will use gloves and employ EPA-registered sanitizer products in their cleaning and sanitizing practices. Volunteers will practice social distancing in picking up and delivering boxes. Boxes will be placed in volunteers’ trunks at distribution points, and there will be no hand-to-hand contact.

Each box will cost $21. That’s a dollar more than FoodShare’s usual programs because the ordering will be done online by credit or debit card. SNAP participants can buy a box for only $10, and neighborhood captains will be instructed in how to handle those orders.