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.