Fresno County farmers donated a record 25.5 million pounds of food to the needy last year, up 75 percent from 2014, according to food bank officials.
The county’s farmers were among more than 100 agriculture companies throughout the state that donated a total of 150 million pounds of produce.
It was the largest amount ever received by the state, said Sue Sigler, executive director of the California Association of Food Banks. The association operates the Farm to Family program that connects farmers to food banks.
Sigler said farmers’ contributions are a critical source for providing healthful food to people in need. In California, at least one in six adults and one in four children lack adequate access to food.
As one of the state’s leading agricultural counties, it’s important to have Fresno County’s farmers involved, Sigler said.
“The support of farm operations in Fresno and surrounding areas is critical to improve the health of local communities all over the state,” she said. “We enthusiastically welcome contributions from other local farmers and can offer a modest reimbursement for harvesting costs to farm companies who are unable to make an outright donation of product.”
Participating farmers can receive a few cents per pound reimbursement to help cover the cost of harvesting. The state also provides a tax credit, and there is a federal tax deduction for donating.
Among the Fresno County farming companies contributing to Farm to Family were: Abe El Produce, Bee Sweet Citrus, Cabot Packing, DFI Marketing Inc., Fowler Packing, Harris Fresh Inc., HMC Farms, Horizon Farms, Kings River Packing Inc., Prestige Produce Inc., Sun Pacific, Triple K Orchards LLC, Venida Packing and Wonderful.
Sigler is encouraged by the continued response from farmers. Already this year, 25 million pounds have been contributed to Farm to Family, including apples, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, mandarins, onions, oranges, pears, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
And with the support of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Sigler expects to reach the organization’s annual goal of 200 million pounds over the next several years.
Residents with backyard harvests interested in making smaller donations should contact their local food bank directly. The Community Food Bank in Fresno can be reached at 559-237-3663.