Just because a farmer donates produce once to a food pantry does not necessarily mean they will donate again. The farmer needs to feel that the fruits of their labor are appreciated. The most basic way Food for Others thanks their farmers is sending hand written letters to the farmer that explains the amount of produce they donated that month, how many people that produce went to, and finally a huge thank you for the produce. If the farmer decided they would like to receive the Virginia Food Crop Donation Tax Credit, the VISTA also includes the total amount of credits they will receive once they file their paperwork with the Virginia Department of Taxation in January.
Whenever the VISTA communicates with the farmer one on one she always invites the farmer to visit Food for Others and get a tour of the facilities; whether that is at their farm, in a letter, on the phone, or in an email. This allows the farmer to feel more connected to the organization that they are donating produce to. Many have never seen or heard of the food pantry and the tour gives the farmer a better understanding of the needs of the organization as well as how their produce is processed.
For the farmer that is more social media savvy, the VISTA started a Farmer Friday post, where they publically thank the farmer, provide details about the farm, and place a link to their website. This makes the farmer feel special that they are being publically thanked for donating their produce. It also allows the farmer free publicity to a new audience of people. Many farmers who are starting out have a difficult time advertising their farms to the public, and this will provide them the opportunity have hundreds of more people see their existence.
With farmers who go above and beyond for Food for Others the VISTA decided that they should be thanked in the Newsletter that is sent out once a month. The newsletter has more subscribers than social media, so the network of people who learn about the farm is broader. Like the social media post, the newsletter tells the subscribers where the farm is located, what they grow, and finally if they are open to the public. All of the farmers listed are sent a copy of the newsletter they are featured in.
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 fund raising.
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.