GROVER BEACH, Calif. - A popular SLO Food Bank program is helping to provide kids access to freshly grown fruits and vegetable, as well as teaching them about healthy food options.
Since 2014, SLO Food Bank has operated its Children's Farmers Markets at dozens of participating schools around San Luis Obispo County.
Currently, SLO Food Bank holds about 10 Children's Farmers Market each month, providing 10-to-15 pounds of food to about 500 to 600 students.
"The Children's Farmer's Markets mimics our actual farmer's markets," said SLO Food Bank Development Director Branna Still. "The markets are hosted by our nutrition education team, and it allows us a fun way to engage with the youth, teach them stuff about nutrition and good food choices for the future, in addition to offering them fresh produce."
This week, the Children's Farmers Market was held at Grover Beach Elementary School in partnership with Lucia Mar Unified School District and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast.
"We team up with Lucia Mar, their Bright Futures program, and we provide all the programing after school at six school sites," said Jasmine Carranza-Dexter, Boys & Girls Club Director of Resource Development. "The farmers market actually is one of the pillars of our program teaching our kids to make healthy choices and budgeting and also how to provide for their families."
The farmers market allows kids to independently select produce options using a predetermined amount of "Food Bank Bucks." They also receive activity sheets, as well as recipes for the food items offered at the market.
"(Tuesday) they had peppers, and they had avocados, and they had apples, and they had broccoli," said Wendy Bruse, Lucia Mar Unified School District Before/After School Programs Coordinator. "They can go home and cook with these items at home, learn additional skills at home, and they can contribute to their own household."
The produce the kids take home comes from a variety of sources, including local fields and orchards, plus others from around the state.
"Our fresh produce essentially comes from our gleaning operations that can come from backyards or large to small scale farms, in addition to sourcing our food throughout the state of California," said Still. "So the majority of our produce is freshly grown in California, and it's a great way to supplement meals and snacks for our youth."
SLO Food Bank is currently offering the program to many county school districts, including Lucia Mar, Paso Robles Joint Union School District, Atascadero Unified School District, Coast Unified School District, and San Miguel Joint Union School District.
"The Children's Farmer's Market is just one small facet of the work that we do at the SLO Food Bank," said Still. "We're so thankful for the community support and ensuring that everyone has room at the table and everyone has access to nutritious and healthy food."
Another important part of SLO Food Bank is to help provide holiday meals for Thanksgiving through its partnership with the News Channel 12 Turkey Drive.
The annual News Channel Turkey Drive benefits SLO Food Bank clients in San Luis Obispo County and those with Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Barbara County.
On Tuesday, Nov. 14, News Channel will hold four donation sites where the public can donate a turkey, non-perishable food, or financial contributions.
Donations collected in San Luis Obispo County, at California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach and Vons in San Luis Obispo will directly assist SLO Food Bank Clients.
Those collected in Santa Barbara County will directly benefit Good Samaritan clients, as well as other local non-profit organizations.
Santa Barbara County locations for the Turkey Drive will be the News Channel 12 Santa Maria station, as well as Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in Lompoc.
On-site donations will be accepted from 6 a.m. to 7 pm.
Financial donations can be made anytime by visiting the Turkey Drive website. Donors can choose to contribute to either Good Samaritan or SLO Food Bank.
As the Turkey Drive approaches, donations are needed now more than ever, especially as several economic factors have required many in the community to reach out for SLO Food Bank services.
"It really is heartbreaking," said Molly Kern, SLO Food Bank Chief Operating Officer. "We're seeing so far in 2023 a 14% increase in need compared to this this time last year, and that's really it's just extraordinary considering what was going on in 2020, 2021 and 22, but the end of some of our pandemic era benefits, increase in costs just across the board has really put so many families in a tight spot, where they're considering making really tough, really tough decisions about how they're going to feed their family, what they're going to pay for, so we're incredibly honored to continue to be a resource to so many throughout SLO County."
For more information about the News Channel 12 Turkey Drive, or to donate, click here.
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