The H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation, in partnership with News Channel 3, awarded a $25,000 grant to Hidden Harvest, a local 501(c)3 organization that rescues fresh produce from area fields that would otherwise go to waste and gives it to valley residents in need.
Usual distribution of the gleaned produce includes bi-monthly markets setup at Section 8 senior housing complexes throughout the Coachella Valley and distribution at senior centers in low-income neighborhoods. These outreach programs typically serve about 1,500 low-income seniors each month. The remainder of the harvested fruits and vegetables are distributed to more than 55,000 people, monthly, via FIND Food Bank, the local Feeding America affiliate.
However, under current circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, senior centers are closed and housing complexes are not allowing congregate activity. Nearly all of the organization’s volunteers are seniors, who are being asked to shelter in place. But, there is still tons of rescued produce available, and people still (and especially) need food, so Hidden Harvest’s small staff of three found alternatives.
“We moved about 30,000 pounds of produce in the past two weeks,” said Christy Porter, Founder and Executive Director of Hidden Harvest. “And, we’re getting it to people who need it without any physical contact with clients. It has taken some creativity, but we’re still fulfilling our mission to reduce hunger and improve health by rescuing fresh, local produce.”
Hidden Harvest gave the majority of the produce, including rainbow chard, purple kale, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, and about 10 other varieties, to FIND Food Bank and another Riverside County area food bank. These organizations work with other local nonprofits to offer food to people in need. On Tuesday, Hidden Harvest was providing food directly to people, distributing two pallets of produce through a drive-up method organized by FISH Food Bank in Coachella.
“Research indicates that a healthy diet, which includes fresh fruits and vegetables, is important to maintaining good health and a strong immune system, something that is especially important to our valley seniors,” said Catharine Reed, Vice President of Charitable Programs for the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation.
Annually, nearly 1.2 million pounds of produce is harvested through this innovative program. Growers donate the rescued produce, which would otherwise go uneaten. Donated funds pay for laborers to harvest the food, transportation, storage, and logistic costs associated with distribution.
“The News Channel 3 Advisory Board selected all twelve 2020 Coachella Valley Spotlight recipients at the end of last year, and we are happy that we can continue to help these organizations through very trying times, as they continue to positively impact our communities,” said Jerry Upham, General Manager of Gulf California Broadcast Company, which owns and operates KESQ News Channel 3 and KPSP CBS Local 2.
Through the Coachella Valley Spotlight partnership with the H.N. and Frances C. Berger Foundation and News Channel 3, Hidden Harvest was featured on News Channel 3 programming including “Eye on the Desert” (which airs on CBS Local 2 weeknights at 6:30 p.m.), in public service announcements and on kesq.com. For more information about Hidden Harvest go to www.hiddenharvest.org.