Farm Manager/Educator Sun Butler showing off the tomato crop at the farm.
The shift to empower community members and put them back in control of their own food was a long time in the making, says Jason Boone, Communications Director for IFFS. “We realized that if we’re about hunger relief, then the missing ingredient is producing our own food. After several years of research into other food rescue organizations that were operating around the country we began to understand that we had to be willing to say, ‘whatever will help relieve hunger, we have to be willing to try it.’” There were two initial challenges: Funding and finding a farmer. The funding came from the John Rex Foundation, through a grant called Hands on Health, a holistic program whose goal is to create sustainable overall wellbeing to low-income community residents, focusing on youth in the areas of health, nutrition and physical wellbeing. The farmer came in the form of Sun Butler, an organic tobacco farmer and former research chemist in the crop science department at NC State. Boone describes Butler as the perfect fit: “His years of experience combined with his passion allowed our Farm and Community Garden Program to hit the ground running.” It’s a team effort; Sun sets the tone and puts things in place, while Nikki Charles, the Hands on Health Program Coordinator, handles the relational side of the program. Her job is to increase community engagement at a grass roots level. Their efforts along with others have generated amazing results: Since the program began in January 2009, two community gardens and a farm have been planted. The farm alone yielded over 6,800 pounds of produce over the course of the growing season – pretty impressive considering that just one pound of fresh fruits and vegetables can supplement four meals.
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