A greenhouse in Phelps County will increase the amount of fresh vegetables distributed to clients there.

A greenhouse in Phelps County will increase the amount of fresh vegetables distributed to clients there.

A greenhouse in rural Phelps County in The Food Bank’s southern region will now help provide fresh produce to clients in need at agencies in the area.

Earlier this year, The Food Bank staff and Ramona Rinehart from the Saint James Caring Center harvested more than 250 pounds of cabbage, beets, radishes and kale. In the future, tomatoes, peppers and zucchini will be added to the offerings. The greenhouse is the latest creative partnership The Food Bank has entered in an effort to get foods that encourage good health into the hands of those in need.

That mission aligns with Feeding America’s newly announced commitment to increase access to healthy food options. Some of the nation’s most prevalent health issues, illnesses such as obesity, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes, are directly related to unhealthy diets. That is especially problematic for the one in six adults who face food insecurity. The problem is multi-faceted. Those living on fixed incomes have to make tough budget decisions, and energy-rich starches, sugars and fats are the most inexpensive way to fill empty stomachs.

For years, food banks operated on a non-perishable grocery donation system, which led to the distribution of highly processed foods. While canned foods, rice, beans, cereal and peanut butter remain staples, The Food Bank is striving to increase the percentage of produce, protein and dairy products provided. Partnerships with growers and organizations will help, says Lindsay Young Lopez, executive director of The Food Bank. In the next few years, the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture and partner affiliates will open an Agricultural Park in Columbia that will produce 50,000 pounds of fresh produce for The Food Bank yearly.

The Phelps County greenhouse is expected to produce thousands of pounds for pantries in that area. And other farmers and growers throughout The Food Bank’s 32-county service area are also contributing by making fresh donations to local pantries.

“The bottom line is that we all deserve to have access to foods that keep us healthy,” Lopez says. “We so appreciate these new partnerships that will help us increase our clients’ access to foods to encourage.”