In 2019 FoodChain is partnering with Feeding KY and Ky Farms to Food Banks to SQUASH out hunger through a brand new initiative. Ky Farms to Food Banks is utilizing their funding to purchase locally grown butternut squash from Kentucky farms, in this case Jacob Sharpe of Sharpe Family Farms in Georgetown, KY. The squash is seconds, but that doesn’t mean it’s no good! Despite the cosmetic blemishes that may make it undesirable for large groceries, it is still top notch for processing. Which is great for us because we have a bunch of folks who came through our food sector job training program that are looking for work opportunities!
FoodChain has been able to hire 5 graduates of our Food Sector Job Training Program to do all the work of processing squash, including weighing, peeling, dicing, steaming, freezing, bagging, labeling, and packing! There are so many transferable skills inherent in this type of work and continues to allow folks to engage with their local food system and find meaningful and living wage employment right in their neighborhood.
After the butternut has been steamed, blast frozen, and packaged, it is ready to head off to food pantries, where it goes home with families who are currently food insecure throughout the state of Kentucky, but many right here in Fayette County. FoodChain has been partnering with the food pantries to offer samples of tasty, easy, and accessible ways for pantry recipients to use the frozen diced butternut. We have volunteer opportunities around these sampling days as well, so if you are interested in volunteering with any of the pantries here in Fayette County, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The goals of this project are to turn 8,500 lbs of butternut squash seconds into 3,531 sixteen ounce packages, complete with an informational label, and recommended uses for cooking with the squash.
For the first time ever, FoodChain has partnered with Feeding Kentucky to use butternut squash to solve multiple food system issues at once:
- Tackle Food Waste: Feeding KY is purchasing seconds butternut squash that is otherwise unsaleable.
- Increase Small Farm Viability: By purchasing these seconds from small farms, they are able to increase their income and plan for more crop production because they know they can sell even the “ugly” produce.
- Increasing Nutrition Access for Food Insecure Population: we say access, because access isn’t just the ability to find and take home nutritionally dense foods like butternut squash. Folks also have to know how to cook with it and have the tools to do so! That is why providing processed squash is more ACCESSible than providing a whole, raw squash, seeds, skins and all.
This issue is even more important because of concerns around health in food insecure populations: According to the National Institute of Health, U.S. adults living in food-insecure households consume fewer weekly servings of fruits, vegetables, and dairy and lower levels of micronutrients, including the B complex vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc, and calcium (5,9,10). These dietary patterns are linked to the development of chronic disease, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.
For all these reasons, FoodChain is so excited to be a link in one of many innovative solutions around solving food insecurity, while supporting our neighbors, and local farms. Food systems are complex, and therefore require complex and thoughtful answers to bring us closer to a more sustainable and just future.