This is guest blog was written by Tera Thomas, the Executive Director for Funding Development for the YMCA of Greater Omaha.
As the grey van approached the food pickup line I could see the sliding door open. Expecting the usual interior views of another normal drop-off, what I wasn’t ready for was the expression of pure joy on the nine-year-old boy’s face in the back seat as I loaded the fresh produce into their van. I’m pretty sure I saw his back molars as the smile stretched across his face.
Hundreds of boxes of apples, peaches, strawberries, oranges, lettuce, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onions, potatoes, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, zucchini, all weighing in around 23-27 pounds each, have been delivered Monday through Friday since June 15th through the YMCA of Greater Omaha’s Fresh Produce Project. These boxes are so much more than just fresh produce though; they are addressing another aspect of food insecurity in the greater Omaha area, which is access to fresh produce during the pandemic.
The YMCA of Greater Omaha collaborated with Omaha Public Schools and C&C Produce to infuse these fruits and vegetables in to the dairy, bread, and nonperishable meal packs already being provided by the schools and local food pantries. Food deserts, reduced incomes, and fear of the Coronavirus have made produce shopping another challenge for so many of our metro families.
We started this project knowing we would be able to provide these resources through June but recently received confirmation that the USDA has extended their funding. We are proud to share that in coordination with the Omaha Public Schools, we will be continuing this YMCA Fresh Produce Project for the month of July as well. We are forecasting that this partnership will bring in 280,000 pounds of food to families in our Omaha community that need it most this summer. Mobilizing our mission to strengthen the foundations of community via youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility is something that the YMCA has done over the last 150 years. When our communities are in crisis we show up to serve and the Fresh Produce Project is another example of that.
The real secret to the success of this outreach is the staff, board members, and community leaders who have signed up for hours of volunteer shifts to be at the 16 host sites to distribute this food. We are extremely grateful for Senator Tony Vargas’s support of this project and his assistance with promoting the box sites on his social media outlets. He is an active site volunteer, often loading cars and connecting with families.
More information on the Fresh Produce Project can be found here. We are offering the produce at 16 of Omaha Public Schools’ established 40 sites. For a full listing of the OPS food sites please visit their website.