This summer, in partnership with the Catholic Charities Appeal, NDS Community Food Program had a wonderful opportunity to provide fresh produce to children and families throughout the diocese.  Alongside 11 of our federally-funded Summer Meal Program sites, children receiving reimbursable meals were offered a bag of fresh fruits and vegetables to take home to their families.

It was our goal to offer produce stands in areas that may not have regular access to quality produce, and to operate at sites without elaborate programming other than meal service in order to reach children and families that would truly benefit from the additional food.  Sites ranged from neighborhood sidewalks in Northeast and South Philadelphia to Catholic Social Service locations, to the outpatient care center and Buerger Center at CHOP. Families and community members were able to choose fresh peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, ears of corn, spinach, kale, and honeydew.  Additionally, a corresponding recipe was available to taste test, which was made primarily with ingredients recipients could take from the stand.  We were surprised to learn that many individuals (adults and children) had never seen or tried honeydew melon.  This was a great teaching opportunity, and a chance to expose the recipients to something new and nutritious! Depending on the community, items rated differently in terms of popularity, but the strawberries were by far the biggest hit!

We are grateful for the opportunity to expand our reach in the community food program, to provide fresh, healthy foods to many children, families, and community members throughout the five counties during the summer months.  With each bag offering a few days worth of produce for a family of four, roughly 585 bags were distributed, giving individuals of all ages a chance to try new foods, while increasing their knowledge around healthy eating.  A huge thanks to the Catholic Charities Appeal donors for their contributions to this wonderful initiative!