Whidbey Island has a large community of homeowners engaged in growing their own produce, as well as numerous fruit trees located around the South end. The food bank sees a steady flow of in-kind donations from the community during the growing season, and the fruit tree gleaning program was created to prevent excess fruit from going to waste. Ongoing communication with donors and the community at large is done through posts on the Good Cheer Garden Facebook page and Instagram account, as well as regular posts to the Fresh Food On The Table blog. Social media provides an easy way to share news, upcoming events, and recognize donors.
Good Cheer has also created and nurtured relationships with local farmers who donate excess produce, either through the weekly glean at the Bayview Farmer’s market or through scheduled gleaning events at a farm. The local Rotary Club is an integral part of the gleaning program, as they do a weekly glean at the Organic Farm School on Whidbey Island, as well as smaller independent fruit tree gleaning through their network of tree owners.
Relationships like these are crucial in creating and sustaining programs that provide the fresh produce Good Cheer’s clients would not have access to otherwise. Donors receive a personalized thank you card and a donation receipt for their taxes. A formal thank you is given to the Rotary Club gleaners showing the total amount harvested and donated by their gleaning volunteers. In 2017 Good Cheer received 854 pounds of gleaned produce from the Rotary Club through their partnership with the Organic Farm School.
Hosting tables at community events (farmers markets, the County Fair, and Good Cheer events) is one way that the Good Cheer fruit tree gleaning program (locally known as the Gleeful Gleaners) participates in community outreach. These events are also a great way to connect with donors, talk about the program, and express appreciation. Fruit tree donors are given personalized thank you cards, and an appreciation gathering is put together by the program coordinator in the fall to honor volunteers and partners of the gleaning program. From May to October of 2017 2,643 pounds of fruit was gathered by the Good Cheer Fruit Tree Gleaning Program.
In January 2018 a new partnership was created by the first year VISTA with the WSU Extension and the Master Gardeners to offer pruning classes to donors and volunteers of the tree gleaning program. Additionally, a new partnership with the local high school’s Agriculture program will allow for the creation of apple maggot traps that will decrease pest damage to fruit in the 2018 season. Both partnerships will continue to grow in the future.
Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores is one of South Whidbey’s oldest non-profits and has been feeding those in need since 1962. The food bank uses an innovative points system based on household size, which empowers clients to choose their own food items in a grocery store setting. Good Cheer’s thrift stores are a favorite local shopping destination, providing shoppers with affordable clothing, housewares, and entertainment. As well as offering a way for the community to reuse and recycle goods that might otherwise end up in the landfill, the thrift stores provide a significant portion of the funding needed to operate the food bank.
In 2009 Good Cheer expanded its commitment to providing fresh produce through a program called Fresh Food on the Table. The program includes an on-site garden, gleaning program, grocery rescue efforts, and the many individual home gardeners who donate their excess produce to the Food Bank. In 2017 this program brought a combined total of 56,276 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to food bank shoppers.