Willing Hands, an Upper Valley non-profit dedicated to supplying fresh and wholesome food to those in need, collected more than 500,000 pounds of fresh produce and nutritious food in 2016, surpassing all previous records. This half million pounds of food, mostly surplus fruit and vegetables from local distributors and farms, represents a 22 percent increase over food donations in 2015. Willing Hands distributed this wholesome, high quality produce and perishable food, free of charge, to more than 60 Upper Valley groups, including food-shelves, community meals, rehabilitation programs, and to families and seniors in subsidized housing. One recipient, who picks up Willing Hands produce at the VA Hospital in White River Junction said: “I have been coming to the Veterans Free Market...for just over one year. How I love this market….We don’t have much of a monthly income and couldn’t afford fresh fruit most of the time...My doctor says my health for the past year is much better.”
The Co-op Food Stores donated nearly 100 tons of food, and wholesale distributor Upper Valley Produce contributed over 32 tons. Local bakeries, including King Arthur Flour and La Panciatta donated fresh breads, and Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs donated more than 15 tons of eggs. Farms here in the Upper Valley, including Cedar Circle Farm, Crossroad Farm, Edgewater Farm, Hill Farm, Long Wind Farm, Killdeer Farm, Maplewood Orchard, Riverview Farm, Whitman Brook Orchard donated over 160,000 pounds of produce, much of it gleaned directly from the fields by a host of dedicated Willing Hands volunteers. Gleaning is the time-honored tradition of sharing the extra food left in a field after the harvest. Volunteers also planted, grew and harvested an additional 16,000 pounds of food in Willing Hands' own organic garden.
Willing Hands employs a small and dedicated group of staff and truck drivers, equivalent to less than three full time employee positions. This banner year was made possible by their efforts and by the help of more than 100 individual volunteers who, combined, worked more than 2,000 hours. Willing Hands Executive Director, Gabe Zoerheide is grateful for these 2016 results and looks forward to another banner year in 2017: "The generosity of our donors and volunteers keeps our truck on the road every day of the year, gathering and delivering healthy and nourishing food to folks in need. We thank everyone who made 2016 a success and we are excited to continue the trend in 2017."
Since its inception in 2004, Willing Hands has distributed over 4 million pounds of healthy food. The United Nations has recently set ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture as the second of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. While the Upper Valley may not seem like a "food insecure" area, in fact many people in our local communities do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Willing Hands addresses that need by collecting and delivering fresh produce, and other perishable foods to social service organizations so those in need can find healthy food for themselves and their families year round. The fruits and vegetables, locally baked bread, fresh eggs and other wholesome food supplement the boxed and canned foods typically available. Willing Hands also offers popular and fun cooking workshops demonstrating how to incorporate this fresh produce into daily meals for healthy eating.
Willing Hands is a non-profit organization, and it thanks the many individuals, businesses, and charitable foundations whose generosity makes its work possible. You can learn more about Willing Hands by visiting its web page, WillingHands.org, or like Willing Hands on Facebook. If you are interested in volunteering, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.