In Fairfax County, farmers markets are a gold mine for gleaning. Most of the farmers who sell at these markets are from more rural areas of the region and they bring a ton of product with them since they know they can sell it at a higher price in Northern Virginia. However, not all of the produce sells.
Since the farmers drive from such a long way to get to the farmers markets they just do not have the energy to take the unsold produce back with them. If there is no one to collect the produce at markets that are at the end of the week, some farmers have even recounted that they have thrown away a trash can full of produce since they knew they would not be able to sell it later, and did not wish to take it back to the farm.
Food for Others purchased tote bins for the purpose of farmers market gleaning. How it works is a volunteer goes around the market when it starts and ask the farmer if they would like to donate produce to Food for Others if they have any produce they do not want to take back with them. If the farmer says yes, then they place all of their unsold produce into these bins and the volunteer will at the end of the market go around and collect the bins.
At the beginning of the 2017 farmer’s market season, Food for Others began to offer the Virginia farmers the Virginia Food Crop Donation Tax Credit for the unsold produce. This allowed Food for Others to give the farmers up to $5,000 in tax credits for any unsold produce. As a result of offering this tax credit some of the farmers have even brought extra produce with them to market with the sole purpose of donating it.
Not all of the farmers at the farmers market are from Virginia. Since Food for Others is on the boarder of Maryland many farmers from Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania come to sell at these markets. Those farmers do not want to take their unsold produce back with them. Virginia farmers who are donating to Food for Others may receive the Virginia Food Crop Donation Tax Credit if they choose.
Currently Food for Others collects from 8 farmers markets throughout Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church. They have received over 30,000 pounds of produce from May- August from these markets as a result of the tax credit and simply asking the farmers.
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.