Did you know? 85% of Second Harvest Food Bank’s fresh produce comes from the California Association of Food Bank‘s Farm to Family program. Our employees recently had the pleasure to meet with its founder, Gary Maxworthy.

The program works with farmers, ranchers, packers and shippers to get farm products from the field to food banks throughout the state.

Farmers can donate product outright to the association or they can work with Farm to Family to get a modest reimbursement that helps cover harvest and pack out costs. Everyone wins with Farm to Family: food recipients get nutritious vegetables, fruit, grains, dairy, eggs and meat; food banks get a variety of healthful products delivered regularly; and farmers have a reliable destination for excess product.

“I’m so grateful to have finally meet Gary.  I’ve been working closely with the Farm to Family Program since 2016 and am thankful for their partnership in providing us close to 85% of the fresh fruits and vegetables we distribute,” said Alisha Keezer-Lewis, Second Harvest Food Bank Senior Manager of Food Sourcing.

Gary Maxworthy during his recent visit at Second Harvest Food Bank and Leslie Bacho, Second Harvest Food Bank CEO

You may wonder… How did Gary Maxworthy get Farm to Family started?

Gary Maxworthy spent 32 years in the food distribution business when he decided to walk away from the corporate world and joined the San Francisco Food Bank as a VISTA volunteer in 1993.

At the time, a lot of California’s food banks could only offer canned and package foods, since fresh produce was too expensive and got spoiled rapidly. Gary also realized that food distributors were sending millions of pounds of fresh produce to landfills each year because it’s “non-market standard”, which means perfectly edible, just not perfect looking.

This is when Gary came up with a solution: to persuade food banks to join together to approach produce growers for bulk donations of free or low-cost produce.

In 2000, he led the creation of “Farm to Family”, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s fresh produce initiative. Gary developed long-standing relationships with growers and packers throughout California, asking them to donate their excess produce so that hungry Californians could benefit from nutritious fruits and vegetables.

That year, half a million pounds of fruits, mostly nectarines, were distributed. Donors loved the idea that nutritious food was being distributed.

The program was such a success that it is now managed by the California Association of Food Banks. Last year, Farm to Family distributed 180 million pounds of fresh produce. Farm to Family’s food currently nourishes 600,000 families each and every week.

Our staff during the Q&A’s with Gary Maxworthy

Interested in learning more about Farm to Family? Watch this video!