Like any other in-kind or monetary donors, the farmers giving the food bank fresh produce need to feel that the (literal) fruits of their labor are appreciated. Just because a farmer donates once to a food pantry does not necessarily mean they will donate again. The following effective and inexpensive tokens of appreciation make donors feel valued and keep them coming back year after year.
The most basic way Food for Others thanks their farmers is by sending handwritten thank-you letters to the farmer that details the amount of produce they have donated. If the farmer has opted into receiving the Virginia Food Crop Donation Tax Credit, the VISTA also includes the total amount of credits they will receive when they file their paperwork with the Virginia Department of Taxation in January.
Whenever the VISTA communicates with the farmer they make a point to invite them to visit Food for Others and receive a personal tour of the facilities. It’s important to offer this so that the farmer feels more connected to the organization. Extending this invitation also builds trust and creates a stronger relationship between the farm and the food bank. Since so many farmers are located 45 minutes or more from Food for Others, a large portion of them have never seen or heard of the food pantry. A tour gives the farmer a better understanding of the needs of the organization, as well as how their produce is processed and distributed.
For the farmer that is more social media-savvy, the VISTA worked with the social media manager of Food for Others to periodically thank donors via Facebook posts. The posts will tag the farm in question, provide details about their business, and include a link to their website. This is a way to publically thank and honor the farmer while providing free publicity for their business.
Farmers who donated regularly to the food bank in 2017 were provided with magnets that read, “We proudly donate excess produce to Food for Others. We support their mission to end hunger and reduce food waste.” These magnets served dual purposes: first, they served as a thank you note for donors. Secondly, they were designed to potentially bring in more customers; farmer’s market vendors stuck the magnets onto their trucks and/or cash registers and market attendees could choose to shop at the stands that had magnets on them.
Food for Others officially began feeding the hungry from its Merrifield site in 1995. Today food supply, storage and distribution activities are made possible by a network of active volunteers, supporting churches and organizations, grocery stores, farms, gardens, farmers markets, and retail food contributor in addition to the receiving community centers, soup kitchens, and food pantries who together are dedicated to feeding the hungry of Northern Virginia. Nine staff members are employed full time to handle operations at our warehouse. All officers and directors are volunteers who work without compensation. Volunteers staff the office and are responsible for program administration and fundraising.
Food for Others provides free food to those in need throughout Northern Virginia. We distribute food in 4 ways, through our emergency warehouse distributions, through our 17 neighborhood sites across Northern Virginia that occur on weeknights, through our 14 community partners, and through our weekend food program for children at 29 Fairfax County Schools. Across all programs we serve an average of 1,800 families per week. Currently, we are focusing on providing healthier foods to our clients because we know that poor nutrition can have lasting detrimental effects on our community.