Eat’n Park Chefs Serve Up Smiles at Local Farm Stands
Volunteer chefs from Eat’n Park will be cooking up locally grown tomatoes, greens and other vegetables, as well as serving up fresh fruits at select Food Bank Farm Stand locations around Allegheny County during this year’s growing season. As part of its Life Smiles initiative, the local restaurant chain is supporting this year’s Farm Stand Project by subsidizing part of the cost of the produce.
“We truly appreciate having this help in keeping the Farm Stand Project sustainable,” says Vicki Lish, Farm Stand Specialist with Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, which coordinates the program. “Their grant makes a big impact on being able to connect more people with the stands and provide as much variety as possible to our customers. It also demonstrates how committed Eat’n Park is to assisting our low-income community.”
The Farm Stand Project, which began in 1993, makes fresh, local produce available to low-income neighborhoods with limited access to grocery stores and farmer ’s markets. It also gives recipients of public program benefits - such as FMNP and SNAP (formally, Food Stamps) - a place to spend those benefits on healthy food. Last year was a record year for the Farm Stands, distributing 220,312 lbs of healthy, delicious fruits and vegetables. Additionally 2011 was a record breaking year for SNAP sales: $5,714.
“Unlike farmer’s markets where the farmer comes to the market to sell, we go to the farmers and purchase produce and then deliver it to the farm stands,” Vicki explains. In doing so, the farm stands sustain local farming by creating long-term markets for local produce, and they support the local economy by keeping dollars in the region.
“The Food Bank complements the produce for sale with nutrition education to encourage healthy eating, including monthly cooking demonstrations and samples using local produce,” she said.
The Food Bank operates 13 stands in the City of Pittsburgh and the Mon Valley, and partners with nonprofit community agencies that oversee the stands with assistance from local volunteers. About 95 percent of the produce and fruits are grown in western Pennsylvania. The Food Bank works specifically with four local farms: Soergel Orchards in Wexford, Harvest Valley Farms in Gibsona, Wexford Farms in Wexford and Greenawalt Farms in West Newton.
Stands are open weekly from June to November. Anyone can shop at the farm stands and all stands accept cash, EBT and WIC/Senior FMNP. For more information, call Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank at (412) 460-3663, ext. 216.