Making fresh food a Reality

By Caroline Owens

This summer, Farmer Foodshare partnered with three community organizations through our Community Food Share (CFS) project. For ten weeks, community members at these organizations received deliveries of local produce shares, giving individuals a steady and affordable means of purchasing nutritious fresh, food. You can learn more about CFS in our previous blog post.

To celebrate the bittersweet end of this year’s program, we want to focus on one of our partner organizations -- Reality Ministries. Farmer Foodshare and Reality Ministries have been working together for several years through our Donation Station program at the Durham Farmers Market. Reality Ministries is a faith-led organization that provides opportunities for teens and adults with and without developmental disabilities.

The CFS program aims to help us build more intimate engagement with our community partners. Through their involvement in the program, we’ve been able to share more about our partner organizations with the wider community. The idea is simple -- to build and celebrate community. By making fresh food accessible and convenient, we are creating pathways between those who can’t typically afford fresh food and the small-scale farmers who are growing it.

Kaitlan helps package corn into the shares.

Kaitlan helps package corn into the shares.

We have the privilege of working with a number of small-scale North Carolina farmers through our Wholesale Market program. The CFS program allows us to further connect these farmers with our community partners, building a local food community. You can read more about the farmers who provided food for the CFS program here

Everyone involved with Reality Ministries understands community. Katy Philips, Farmer Foodshare’s Director of Community Partnerships, praises Reality for their ability to understand what it looks like to extend hospitality, making sure that no one is a stranger. 

From left to right: Decarlos’ favorite fruit is watermelon, and he also loves tomatoes! Katy enjoys brussel sprouts, peaches, and okra, and Kaitlan loves corn on the cob and bananas!

From left to right: Decarlos’ favorite fruit is watermelon, and he also loves tomatoes! Katy enjoys brussel sprouts, peaches, and okra, and Kaitlan loves corn on the cob and bananas!

The warmth and hospitality at Reality Ministries is infectious and felt upon entering the door. Two Reality Ministries participants -- Decarlos and Katilan -- have worked with Farmer Foodshare each week this summer as community liaisons, helping to coordinate the CFS program. Kaitlan has been at Reality for a little over a year now and says, “Reality is like my second family --, a big, tight-knit family.” When I asked Decarlos his favorite thing about Reality, the answer was simple -- “Everything!”

The passion that Kaitlan and Decarlos bring to work everyday is contagious. They both arrive with smiles, ready to get to work, and are always up for a new task. Kaitlan’s enthusiasm for her job comes across in her words. “I love the whole thing. I really enjoy it and don’t want it come to an end.” Kaitlan helps participants check in and keeps all of our finances in order. Working with Farmer Foodshare has also introduced her to some new recipes that she never thought she would like, including our Cucumber, Peach, and Corn Salad!

Kaitlan tries out our Cucumber, Peach, and Corn Salad! Recipe here. 

Kaitlan tries out our Cucumber, Peach, and Corn Salad! Recipe here. 

Decarlos acts as our community relations expert, always greeting our share participants with a huge smile -- and frequently a hug. Decarlos ensures that participants have been enjoying their produce and encourages them to try out our weekly seasonal recipes. Katilan and Decarlos also play a vital role in sorting all of the produce into twenty-six shares each week.

Decarlos tells Greg about all of the fresh veggies in his share this week.

Decarlos tells Greg about all of the fresh veggies in his share this week.

The participants in the program always provide us with excellent feedback on their shares and love being able to pick up from Reality. Many of these participants have been personally involved with Reality Ministries as volunteers or as parents of a Reality participant. It is truly touching to hear such positive feedback, not only about our CFS program, but about our incredible partners that work to make a difference in people’s lives each day. Our Community Food Share program brings together so many distinct communities, from farmers to organizations to eaters, around a single objective – increasing access to fresh food.