LEE COUNTY – Last year Live Healthy Lee County (LHLC) started the Senior Produce Box Project. The goal of the project was to provide fresh produce donations at senior living and meal sites. The other goal was to have at least two participating sites. The project ended with seven sites, and over 4,400 pieces of donated produce. In 2019, LHLC hopes to see the success grow.
“All of the sites from last year have signed on again to participate, and we have a couple more we are working on getting signed on,” said Emily Biddenstadt, Lee County Health Department Community Health Program Manager and LHLC coalition facilitator. “Our biggest challenge is receiving donations. We work with several producers, but the average gardener can donate as well.”
The yellow and green produce donation boxes will be located at Donnellson Housing, Heritage Center (Keokuk), Hillview Village (Fort Madison), Mississippi Terrace (Keokuk), Newberry Center (Fort Madison), Park View Apartments (West Point), and River Terrace (Keokuk). Denmark Star Park will also have a community table. Anyone interested in donating fresh produce to the project can leave the donations in the produce boxes that are located in the community rooms.
“Since we are still receiving grant funds for the project we are needing to track as much donated produce as possible,” Biddenstadt said.
At each site is a binder with a tracking form. No personal information is needed, just the type of produce being donated along with the amount. If someone is unable to drop-off their donation they can call the Lee County Health Department.
Lee County Health Department received funding from the Iowa Department of Public Health and SNAP-Ed to plan and coordinate the sourcing and distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables. The project is not to take away from producers who accept Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program, but to get fresh produce in the hands of those who are unable to attend a market.
“We do receive donations from some farmer’s market vendors, however we do not receive them every week. We highly encourage seniors to take advantage of the Senior Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program. That way, if they are able, they can attend a market to pick their own produce, while helping a local producer,” she said.
Last year also saw the start-up of the LHLC Garden at the Lee County Conservation site. That project has also grown this year with the addition of a garden bed. The ISU Extension & Outreach plans on continuing their summer Youth Garden Camp where they teach kids about gardening, when produce is ready to be picked, and how delicious fresh produce can taste.
The biggest challenge of these projects is the need of volunteers. If anyone is interested in donating their time to helping deliver produce, assisting at the LHLC Garden or at the garden camp they can contact Biddenstadt at (319)372-5225.