Last fall, Sarah Underwood, Second Harvest Food Bank’s Senior Director of Nutrition and Health, paid a visit to a local school, Live Oak Elementary in Santa Cruz, which is part of the Cradle to Career (C2C) initiative. C2C, which is a collaborative effort by parents and local education, health, and social service leaders, works to ensure that students and their families are targeted with integrated support systems throughout their scholastic career and beyond.
“C2C recognizes the well-established and interdependent relationship between good health (as a prerequisite and predictor of educational attainment) and education (as a primary social determinant of long-term health and well-being).”
– From Live Oak’s Cradle to Career website.
When two of the Live Oak parents learned that Sarah was from Second Harvest, they approached her and asked for information about the food bank’s Passion For Produce food program which they had heard about at another local school, DeLaveaga. They felt that such a program would be beneficial to the Live Oak community, a densely-populated area between Santa Cruz and Capitola. The women told Sarah that they knew of families in their area that were in need of food assistance, so Sarah encouraged them to visit DeLaveaga in person and see if the program was something that they thought that the community would support.
In addition to a farmers’ market-style set up where participants can select healthy fruits and vegetables they would like to bring home, Passion For Produce also offers nutrition education for participants who are interested. Trained “Nutrition Ambassadors”, usually members of the local community, share tips about healthy eating, recipes and food preparation, low-cost options, and discussions about ways to support a healthy lifestyle for everyone in the household. It’s also a place where community members can meet and support each other in a friendly environment.
The mothers who had originally inquired about Passion For Produce got a group of like-minded parents together and visited DeLaveaga’s food distribution in action. They liked what they saw and agreed that Live Oak would be the perfect place for a new Passion For Produce site. They contacted Sarah, and after much discussion and confirmation that these parents were onto something, Sarah and her team put the wheels in motion to get the new project up and running. Volunteers signed up to train as Nutrition Ambassadors, warehouse and agency staff came together to develop new truck routes and delivery schedules, the parents at Live Oak got the word out to the community, and on April 24, the much-anticipated Live Oak Passion For Produce site opened to a very warm and enthusiastic reception.
“The reason I’m so happy about this is that not only is it the first new Passion For Produce site we’ve opened up in a few years, but it was initiated by the awesome Live Oak parents. That means it’s very likely to be sustainable,” said Sarah. She added, ”The other success is that nearly 50 people showed up to get fruits and veggies, which means our new volunteers did a great job recruiting their friends and neighbors to come and participate. I’m looking forward to seeing the Live Oak site thrive for years to come.”
Click here for more information about Second Harvest’s Passion For Produce program.