What a community bounty it was

Many of our gardens are winding down, and finding ways to keep some for later and sharing some of the bounty with others keeps us busy. This last weekend, more than 28 local garden owners (private as well as commercial gardens) donated a tremendous variety of produce for our annual Produce Bounty.

Some of the produce already was cleaned and bundled in nice packages for families of four. The rest of the produce was washed, sorted and packaged for families of four by volunteers throughout the weekend. We had 24 very dedicated community members give more than 180 hours just to sort, clean and package the produce we received at the Fairgrounds Extension Office.

That, of course, doesn’t begin to appreciate the hours and hours of labor, skill and love to plant, care for and harvest the variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that we received.

You just haven’t lived until you have enjoyed washing, bundling and packaging beets, beet greens, apples, pears, carrots, Japanese and regular eggplant, varieties of squash, cucumbers, onions and the list goes on.

Then, in a flash, well, actually four hours, that ton of produce was taken with glee by 266 of your neighboring households (668 people). Each of the participating county resident households that came for the quarterly distribution of Commodity Foods walked away with an average of just less than 52 pounds of groceries. Participants received 11,670 pounds of groceries for the cupboards as well as more than 2,500 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce.

By Monday evening, I was seeing nothing but produce swirling through my mind. So much was collected during the three days. Then poof – gone.

And the samplings of foods prepared to give ideas of what people could do with the food given them – amazing. Thanks, Warren (Manna Soup Kitchen) and Erin (Cooking Matters) and your helpers. They created simple, nutritious items with next to nothing that tasted fantastic.

Thanks also to Beth LaShell and her student volunteers who planted a plat of produce specifically for this event.

No longer does one need to financially qualify to participate in the food bank. Proof of residency in the county is all that is needed now. If someone is in distress (temporary, short term or long term), there is food available.

The foods given to the participants was not the surplus food of days gone by. That high-fat cheese and white rice has been replaced with items such as fresh milk, eggs and chicken, pinto beans and canned fruits and vegetables.

The other big change is that people needing food can now go to the food bank monthly. Since there are numerous food banks throughout our community, I know no one should have empty cupboards or go hungry for decent foods.

Thank you to everyone who was so generous with time, support and produce. It was certainly appreciated by many of our neighbors.

ricekw@co.laplata.co.us or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.