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A Day with Farm to Freezer

The following post is written by Ecowomen Cheryl Kollin of Full Plate Ventures and Katie Thatcher, Intern. 

Every Saturday Farm to Freezer’s volunteers meet at the Spiral Path Farm stand at the Bethesda’s Fresh Farm Market and with help from the residents of Montgomery County’s Pre-Release Center, collect, weigh, record, and distribute generously-donated produce. The unsold produce is collected, weighed, and redistributed to three locations: salad greens and other vegetables used fresh goes to Bethesda Cares’ cook, other produce is loaded into our cars for prep, and any remaining food we don’t have capacity to prepare goes to MANNA Food Center for needy families.

Within the hour we arrive at our prep kitchen in one of three donated church kitchens where we meet and greet ten volunteers and hit the ground running! After a quick orientation, we wash up, don aprons, name buttons, and gloves and start chopping. With the incredible culinary efforts of our volunteers, the entire stovetop is soon filled with pots of simmering tomato sauce and apple sauce, pots of brightly blanched sweet peppers and zucchini, while eggplant roasts in the oven. The mixed aromas waft throughout the church and attract curious visitors wanting to know what’s cookin’.

Farm to Freezer Fills a Need

Bethesda Cares serves 20,000 meals per year to the homeless population in the community through a dedicated and caring network of church and community organizations, businesses, Foundations, and government agencies. Bethesda Cares is the official ‘gleaner’ of the Bethesda Fresh Farm Market. Farmers, including Spiral Path Farm, donate fresh produce not sold at the Saturday market, donating an average of 300 lbs. of local produce per week—including bushels of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and zucchini. When crops are at peak harvest, Bethesda Cares receives more fresh food than it can use before the food spoils.

To address this problem of spoiled food, Bethesda Cares and Full Plate Ventures launched Farm to Freezer this summer with support from a diverse network of volunteers, Churches’ donated kitchen space, and businesses. Bethesda Cares’ meals manager who cooks a hot lunch for 40-70 each day uses the frozen food in preparing healthier meals for its clients.

Back to the Kitchen

After everything is chopped and sauce is cooling we take a well-deserved break, munching on Cheryl’s homemade hummus, sliced veggies, and donated Honest Tea and Atwater bakery bread while discussing food issues –hunger and homelessness, local farms, food banks, wasted food, and community service.

We all head back to the kitchen to package our product with a vacuum sealer and in Ziploc bags. After all is sealed, weighed, recorded, and cleaned up, we thank our wonderful volunteers, and transport our food to Bethesda Cares’ freezer for the cook’s future use in casseroles, stews, and soups. The food peelings are composted, equipment stored, and aprons washed for the following week. Prep days involve hours spent meeting new friends, sharing a love of cooking and bonding over a common goal: to serve through the preparation of healthy meals for hungry members of our community.

Our First Season

Farm to Freezer is proud of its accomplishments this first season! In its first five months, Farm to Freezer has:

  1. Engaged more than 150 volunteers from diverse backgrounds and experiences

  2. Redistributed over 5,000 pounds of organic vegetables generously donated from Spiral Path Farm

  3. Prepared more than 1,500 pounds of food for the freezer to serve 2,500 homeless people through Bethesda Cares’ meals program throughout the year.

Farm to Freezer Benefits the Whole Community

1). Provides healthier unadulterated food for Bethesda Cares’ client meals that can be used through the winter when fresh local vegetables are unavailable. 2). Supports farmers through tax-deductible donations 3). Reduces the amount of waste from Farmer’s Markets’ surplus 4). Provides community-wide volunteer opportunities 5) Raises local awareness about homelessness, nutrition, and locally-grown food

Join us for Food Day—October 24th to celebrate our first season’s accomplishments. Free, with complimentary appetizers by My Thyme Catering.  Sign up on Bethesda Cares Meet Up: click on Oct. 24th event.

For more information, visit: Follow us on Facebook www.facebook/farm2freezer for stories about who’s engaged and how we’re helping our community.


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