Feeding America projects more than 50 million Americans will have faced hunger in 2020 – up from 35 million before the coronavirus pandemic. That is 1 in 6 people experiencing food insecurity this year, and food banks are struggling to keep up with demand.
While dry goods can be extremely important at food banks, fresh produce like greens and vegetables are frequently lacking in the mix because they can be quick to spoil between long transport/donation times in getting to the pantry, often need refrigeration, and can be expensive.
Growing crops onsite
Below are 5 examples of nonprofits that are using hydroponic vertical container farms from Boston-based Freight Farms to grow fresh leafy greens and vegetables onsite to support the nutritional needs of their communities and supplement other pantry staples with just-harvested crops. Despite the cooling winter weather, these organizations are able to continue growing year-round. Crops are also produced with 0-5 gallons of water per day, and are herbicide and pesticide-free.
Growing food to nurture bodies has also provided these organizations with the additional ability to unify communities and empower individuals through integrated therapeutic programming, hands-on skill building, and nutritional education.
Lotus House: Miami, FL
Lotus House is a holistic women’s shelter that uses its Freight Farm to grow fresh, healthy greens for its community kitchen, which serves an average of 500 women and children every day. As of July 2020, Lotus estimates about $40,000 worth of fresh vegetables and greens have been produced in the farm.
The farm has also been an innovative after-school program for children, many of whom are accompanied by their mothers. This gives the staff the chance to teach nutrition while residents connect with the process of growing their own food. Prior to COVID, Lotus had also begun the development of a new job training program to teach teen and adult residents basic farming skills for paid jobs with local container farming community partners, like Hammock Greens, another Freight Farmer in Miami. It plans to turn its attention back to this when it is safe to do so.
San Antonio Clubhouse: San Antonio, TX
The Clubhouse supports adults with mental health conditions, giving more than 2,000 members a place where they can learn and grow through meaningful work. The Clubhouse also offers job training and helps members build a resume, search for employment, and advocate to potential employers.
The Clubhouses’ Freight Farm not only provides healthy greens for the facility year-round, but it is one of the ways members can volunteer to gain job experience. Any produce not used by San Antonio Clubhouse is donated to local nonprofits.
Boys & Girls Club of the Capital Region: Troy, NY
Last year, the greens from BGCCA’s Freight Farm became part of ~1,100 meals served per day at its locations. In safe times, the farm gives young people hands-on experience planting, growing, harvesting and selling fresh crops as part of the club's after-school programs.
Metro Caring: Denver, CO
Metro Caring meets people’s immediate need for nutritious food while building a movement to address the root causes of hunger. It is well-known for its free fresh food market.
Regarding the launch of its Freight Farm in collaboration with St. Joseph Hospital, Metro Caring’s chief gardener Jess Harper said, “Being able to grow fresh produce all year round, providing healthy local access to fresh greens and teaching people how to farm hydroponically, I think we’ve got a win all the way around.” The organization believes hunger is about more than lack of food, designing programs to include job training and to connect people to other support services and utility assistance.
Cass Community Social Services: Detroit, MI
Cass uses its Freight Farm to bring fresh food access and nutritional education to Detroit residents. The container farm enables them to grow crops year-round to supplement the community kitchen.
Additionally, the produce from the farm is sold locally to neighborhood restaurants to create a revenue stream that supports other initiatives.
“The greatest feature for us is the ability to have fresh, free, organic food all year long. Our food choices are as critical as our exercise habits in terms of health.”— Reverend Faith Fowler, Executive Director of Cass Community Social Services