MARYLAND - Organizations across Maryland are working hard to make sure families do not go hungry this holiday season. In many cases, this involves canned food drives.
While the drives are a great way to prevent hunger, it may not give families the nutritional value some of them desperately need.
"When you're looking at people who receive this food generally they're overweight and struggling with high cholesterol and heart disease," says Amy Cawley, food solicitor for the Maryland Food Bank.
To ensure that hungry families get that proper nutrition, the Maryland Food Bank is working with 51 farms across the Eastern Shore to get fresh, local produce that many cannot afford through their "Farm to Food Bank" program.
"When you go to the grocery store produce is one of the most expensive items to buy," says Cawley. "They're struggling, they're working three or four jobs or they've been laid off and they're not able to buy that quality food. It's cheaper to get a 99 cents cheeseburger."
"Some of them don't have access to fresh fruit all the time," says Dennis Reid, owner and CEO of Reid Farms Incorporated of Rosedale, Maryland.
In 2013 alone, participating farms have given more than 800,000 of produce. In the past three years, Reid has donated about 380,000 watermelons, which otherwise would go to waste.
"They just have blemishes on top and the American public has been spoiled with perfect produce," says Cawley. "Just because it's got a spot on the outside doesn't mean there's anything wrong on the inside."
"We only ship the best, and the ones that have scratches on them or blemishes are just as good as ones that do not have that blemish on it," says Reid. "We wouldn't send anything that wasn't good enough to eat ourselves."
The holiday season brings a very high demand for the food banks, and on top of that, cold temperatures, which means a low output from farmers. While the food bank does receive funding from the government to buy nutritional food, but it is not always enough.
"We always need money because we are a non-profit, especially to supplement what's not out in the fields now," says Cawley. "That's how we keep it going year round."
Cawley says she is also looking for volunteers to help with collecting the produce next summer.
For more information on how you can help, visit the Maryland Food Bank website.
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