As gardens all over Goochland continue to bring forth a bounty of fresh, delicious, and healthy food, local home gardeners often end up more vegetables and fruit than they can use. What to do with all those cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, beans, peas, okra, and melons? There are always family members and neighbors to give to, and if time, canning or freezing. However, there is yet another alternative: donating surplus produce to the GoochlandCares Food Pantry or other local food pantries.

According to the hunger relief organization Feeding America, 2.4 million rural households face hunger throughout the country. Those who live in rural areas often face hunger at higher rates, partly because of unique challenges of living remotely.  One of these challenges is an increased likelihood of food deserts, with the nearest food resource potentially hours away.  The Federation of Virginia Food Banks considers Western Goochland County to be a “food desert” -- an area where populations live more than 10 miles from a supermarket or large grocery store if in a rural area.

A lack of public transportation, as well as job opportunities concentrated in low-wage industries with higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, also combine to make hunger in rural areas a unique challenge. Right here in Goochland County, over 2,000 senior citizens, disabled persons, adults, and children face hunger every day, often skipping meals. The only chance to get food is often through food stamps and/or church pantries and non-profit organizations like GoochlandCares.

One couple, Jim and Leslie, visit the Food Pantry almost every Thursday.  They usually are able to get enough protein and bread for themselves and their three grandchildren who live with them, but Jim gets especially excited over the fresh produce, much of which is donated from local gardens.  “The fresh produce reminds me of when I was able to raise a garden,” Jim says. “I want to make sure my grandbabies know how healthy and delicious fresh veggies are.  It is also nice to know they were grown right here in Goochland.”

The benefits of providing fresh vegetables and fruits to local food pantries are many. Many people want a well-balanced diet but oftentimes the less nutritious items are cheaper, have a longer shelf life, and can be stretched over multiple meals. For families who live in poverty, the three most requested items are dairy products, lean meats, and fresh fruits & vegetables. All are often unavailable at food pantries. One of the challenges facing the GoochlandCares Food Pantry every week is providing nearly 300 families with fresh and nutritious produce.

“Healthier diets can mean fewer trips to the doctor and contribute to overall well-being,” said Sally Graham, executive director of GoochlandCares. “Our vision is to provide access to the highest quality of services for our clients that is possible. That includes fresh produce and healthy food options in the Food Pantry.”

The GoochlandCares Food Pantry makes every effort to provide clients with the most nutritious food possible by working with local community partners and farms as well as Goochland neighbors. The Food Pantry at GoochlandCares accepts donations of fresh produce plus backyard eggs, non-perishable food items, and household products like toilet paper and children’s diapers. Receiving hours for food donations are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays; 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays.

Contact Terry Lynn Ebright at (804) 556-6260 or at tebright@goochlandcares.org for additional information about GoochlandCares Food Pantry and other local Goochland food pantries.

GoochlandCares is a private, 501(c)(3), non-profit corporation that provides access to health care and basic human services to Goochland residents in need. GoochlandCares envisions a community where everyone’s basic human needs are met. For more information visit www.GoochlandCares.org or contact Adair Roper, aroper@GoochlandCares.org.,

Anyone interested in donating is also urged to check Facebook at www.facebook.com/GoochlandCares every week for the list of most needed food items for the Food Pantry.

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