Getting Fresh Produce to Those in Need
After visiting friends in Dayton who were involved in a free produce market, Jose and Lisa Mendoza of Marion realized that residents here could benefit from a similar program. Now approaching its second anniversary, the market has served hundreds of local families with free fresh produce. Unlike some other assistance programs, the Marion Free Produce Market has no requirements to meet. Residents can simply show up in the parking lot of the Marion Christian Center on the third Saturday of each month at noon to receive a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Each month, Jose begins his day at dawn to drive to Grove City to pick up a truck to be loaded at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank there. The Food Bank provides all the produce at no cost to the Marion group. Then he drives to Marion where volunteers sort the produce into bags to provide a variety for each family.
It takes 15-20 volunteers to sort and distribute the food and Lisa says the team includes teachers, accountants, students, and a former principal. Those volunteers range in age from 3 to 80. Each month, the market serves 120 to 160 families, averaging 130 each month. Pre-holiday times see an increase in those coming to the market and the volunteers try to sort the food so everyone receives and ample amount.
Lisa says that the program is important for our community for several reasons. Providing a source for fresh produce year-round fills a need for quality nutrition. Second, volunteers in the program build relationships with the community and learn how to care about their neighbors while being helpful. Finally, the Jose and Lisa say that the market is a way for them and the volunteers to show those in need that someone cares and cares unconditionally.
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