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Health- Using local produce in agency programming
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Using local produce in agency programs

Produce may take more time to find and prepare, but it can make a huge difference in the health of people who attend your programs and visit your facilities. North Carolinians eat far too few fruits and vegetables. Over 60% of NC children under 18 do not get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and the median daily vegetable intake of NC adults is 1.6 servings. By adding fruit and vegetable options to your facilities, you provide another chance for kids and adults to meet their nutritional needs.

Why local?

Many of our daily food staples can travel thousands of miles before they reach our plates. Long transport distances and times can results in more expensive produce at the store, as well as a fruit or vegetable with fewer nutrients. Purchasing local food generally means that you are receiving a fresher product. In addition to better produce, the consumer cost is often cheaper, and buying from local farmers helps support your community's economy. North Carolina has a very long growing season, so it is possible to eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables throughout most of the year. To see what is in season, check out this chart on the NC Department of Agriculture's website.

What is local?

There is no single definition of local produce. When purchasing local products, many organizations set a distance limit (such as 50, 100, or 250 miles). The NC Department of Agriculture, along with some grocery stores, consider the entire state of North Carolina to be local. And large national (or multinational) grocers define local as several states (or a region). When you decide what local is for your agency, take into account your area's produce availability, as well your location. While an agency in the center of the state may choose to define all North Carolina produce as local, agencies in a county bordering another state may decide to define local as a distance, since nearby produce may come from Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, or Georgia.

Place to purchase produce

While most of us purchase food from a grocery store, there are many other options for buying produce, and many of them can save you money:

  • The NC Department of Agriculture has a website called NC Fresh Link, which lists NC farms and distributors. You can search by location, as well as by fruit or vegetable, if you are looking for a specific item.
  • Across NC, there are regional organizations that help connect growers to distributors. They are:
  • Farmers markets are also a great place to buy fresh, local food. To find a farmers markets in your area, visitNC Farm Fresh.

Working with donated food

There are also opportunities to have produce donated to your agency. While you generally can not use donated produce for concessions and other for-profit activities, it is a great food source for your programs. Contact your local food bank or pantry's food sourcing manager. They can probably connect you with farmers in your area.

If you would like to connect directly with farmers, groups like Ample Harvest, America’s Grow-a-Row, and Society of St. Andrew help match growers and needy organizations with donated produce. Depending on the farmer, you may be asked to pick or glean the crop in order to receive the donation. This could be a great opportunity for a field trip for your program participants to learn where their food comes from.

Next Steps

After you have connected with growers in your area, let us know how it went. The try one of these other ways to increase healthy eating in your agency:


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