Capital Area Food Bank


Food Bank Lifts Produce Fee

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D.C. is battling an obesity epidemic, but buying fresh produce, particularly if it’s organic, is out of reach for many low-income individuals. Now, the region’s largest food bank provider will lift a fee on produce thanks to a hefty donation.

Northern Virginia billionaire William E. Conway Jr. announced Tuesday a $1 million donation to the Capital Area Food Bank. The nonprofit agency has been charging members 10 cents a pound for fresh produce for about a month, The Washington Post reports:

“I had fresh produce last night with dinner. I had blueberries this morning with my cereal. It’s a luxury for some people,” Conway said in a phone interview. “I wanted to try to help.”

The food bank, the region’s primary source for more than 700 food pantries and other nonprofit organizations, saw the cost of acquiring fresh produce increase 31 percent this year, officials said. At the same time, 66 percent of its clients said they hoped to expand their fresh-produce offerings.

“We were faced with so many daunting circumstances. It’s like a heavy rock being lifted off,” said food bank President Lynn Brantley. “The low-income community is so lacking in healthful, good, fresh, affordable produce.”

There have been some creative efforts to address the rising cost and inaccessibility of produce, including mobile markets. Some think that building supermarkets and grocery stores in food deserts will help bring the cost of produce down, but others argue that corner stores can also serve a vital function.

How to Stretch Grocery Dollars Without a Stove

People on a tight budget have been hit hard this year. Food prices have risen for the first time in two years, and 40 percent of D.C. households with children have reported not having enough money to buy food.

There are ways to stretch a dollar or food assistance even further, and it mostly involves buying smart, in bulk when possible, and investing a lot time in cooking, according to Jodi Balis, Capital Area Food Bank‘s nutrition education director. She spoke on the Kojo Nnamdi Show about strategies to cook low-cost meals and her $16 grocery bag:

But making such meals requires having access to other resources, such as utensils and a stove.

“When we train our partner agencies at the food bank, this has been brought up as well: if somebody is homeless, and they don’t have access to cooking equipment, what can you make?” Balis said on the show. “That really is a challenge.”

Balis said the answer, at least somewhat, may be in no-cook meals. That includes making burritos with vegetables and cheese, and hearty salads with ingredients like romaine lettuce, carrots and sunflower seeds.

The food bank does have a thin no-cook cookbook, she added. But the size of the book shows that perhaps there aren’t many options available to those without a kitchen.