Community Provides Produce for Families in Need

The Backyard Produce Project, created by the Poway/ Rancho Bernardo/Rancho Peñasquitos Community Action Council (CAC), epitomizes Palomar Health’s commitment to the community’s needs.

At a meeting of the Poway/Rancho Bernardo/Rancho Peñasquitos CAC when the economy turned toward recession in 2008, an area school counselor shared a serious issue she had been seeing in her students.

“She told us that with the change in the economy, family resources had shifted to basic needs: food, clothing and shelter,” said Nancy Roy, Community Outreach Liaison at Palomar Health. “And as a result many students and their families were not getting enough food, especially fruits and vegetables.”

Recognizing that many area residents grew produce, CAC members proposed and then created a drop-off site where people could donate their excess homegrown fruits and vegetables. The site became a launching pad for the Backyard Produce Project. Locals brought their excess crops to collection sites where CAC volunteers gathered and delivered the produce to Friends & Family Community Connection which distributes the food to more than 400 families in need each month.

“Once we put out the word, asking people to donate their excess fruits and vegetables, I started getting calls from people saying, ‘I have citrus. You can have it if you will come pick it,’” said project chairwoman Jane Radatz. “So we created tree picking teams to go harvest that produce.”

The Backyard Produce Project expanded again when the Sunshine Care Assisted Living Facility donated land for organic gardens. Palomar Health provided the seed money to get the gardens started and members of the CAC mobilized to create three organic garden sites to grow vegetables for donation.

In the five years since the program started, the Backyard Produce Project has collected more than 100,000 pounds of produce. Through a partnership with Friends and Family Community Connection, the Backyard Produce Project provides fresh produce to families in need.

“The families we work with are truly grateful for food, period,” says Becky Palenske of the Friends & Family Community Connection. “But it is amazing to watch their eyes light up when they see fresh-picked fruits and vegetables.”

“This project is exactly the type of work Palomar Health aspires to do through the CACs,” said Roy. “We identified a need, found a solution and now the community has taken it and run with it.”