CHA Pilots Produce Bag Program

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Beginning in February 2024, CHA piloted a program to provide produce bags as a supplement to its weekend meal boxes.  Many children do not have access to enough food for the weekend and look forward to the weekend meal boxes, and now produce earlier in the week. 

People want to eat nutritious food, and while some produce items are available as frozen and canned, fresh items are often more expensive and can be harder to find.  CHA wanted to add these produce items to the existing meal boxes to provide this additional nutrition.  The program is made possible from supplemental pandemic era government funding that will run through October of this year.

Currently, 21 of our partners (a mix of schools and daycare centers) all throughout Ohio are receiving the produce bags.  The children are receiving a 3lb bag with an ample variety to enjoy, customized by Columbus-based distributor DNO Produce, that’s easy enough for them to carry or put in their bookbag. The produce bags are given once a week to approximately 3,400 children, and will vary based on what is in season.

Fresh fruits are an essential component of meeting children’s nutritional and food security needs.  The produce bags build on the weekend meal program, along with CHA’s afterschool meal program that serves hot and cold meals.  As CHA strives to solve the issue of childhood hunger, there is a need to innovate and bring this program to additional schools, childcare centers, and summer programs.  CHA is hoping to experiment with cut and ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, which will make it easier for kids to consume these items. Feedback about the produce bags has very positive, with our partner sites impressed with the variety of items, and the children love the fruits they get to try.  CHA would like to expand providing produce to more partners and also continue the program past October, but will need additional funding to make that happen. CHA is looking to both public and private funders, along with individuals, to help join in the fight against childhood food insecurity.

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