Good food is good health, and of the desired items on any given shopping list, fresh produce arguably sits at the top—the food our clients need most to stay healthy.
With the intersection of nutrition, hunger, and health shaping GBFB’s strategy—the acquisition of fresh produce has taken on a leading role. Today, over 60 percent of the food distributed by GBFB is fresh produce, protein, or dairy products. Of the total pounds of food distributed in FY22, fresh produce accounted for 31.7 million of them.
That focus is supported in part by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture’s ‘MassGrown Initiative’, which connects the state’s farmers to buyers such as GBFB. With the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program (MEFAP) underwriting some of the costs, we also relied on the support of our donors to purchase more than 30 percent of the produce last year. The result is more fresh fruits and vegetables distributed by our network of 600 partners across Eastern Massachusetts, from as many as 23 Massachusetts farms. And it’s growing. Russ MacPhail, GBFB produce acquisition manager says they added 10 new farms last year, and plan to add another 10 this year.
Honey Pot Farm of Hatfield—150 acres nestled up against the western side of the Connecticut River—is one example. Managed by Greg Zgrodnik, a fifth-generation farmer on his mother’s side, Honey Pot has been supplying GBFB for five years with 30 different kinds of vegetables, starting with asparagus (spring) and finishing with parsnips (winter). And peppers—lots of peppers—to address the growing demand for preferred healthy food. These days, Greg estimates, he sells fully 35 percent of the farm’s annual production—of everything—to GBFB.
He stops for a minute when he says that, reflecting on its weight. “They move a lot of fresh produce,” he says of GBFB. “I’m shocked how much they move.” And best of all, he adds, efficiently and in a timely manner, because “Produce never sleeps.”
“They’re a key piece of this farm,” he says of GBFB. “I wouldn’t want to imagine life without them. I can’t say enough about them. They’re that good.”