Produce with a Purpose

Local grown vegetables used for Produce with a Purpose baskets.

OTTUMWA — The Produce with a Purpose program has had a successful year according to Food Box Coordinator Hilary Lanman. Now, she hopes to continue the program’s growth going into 2020.

In the 2019 fall season, Lanman said there were increased box sales in Wapello County. “The typical average was 40 boxes sold [each fall] but the average number of boxes we sold was 95. The total number of customers we served was 150 customers.”

“This is something I am really happy about,” Lanman said, “we’re promoting healthy eating. We want the community to eat something that’s healthy and delicious.”

Lanman said the program’s success comes from the partnerships they have in the community from John Deere to Vista Woods Care Center. Lanman said residents also love the low food costs which costs $15 per box.

Each box contains six to 10 different types of produce and can feed two to four people. Each box also contains storage tips and recipes. All operating costs are covered by a local food promotion project grant.

“This means that all of the money you spend on a box is being used to buy the box and the food that is in it,” the Produce with a Purpose website said, “Plus, we buy the produce at wholesale prices and are able to directly pass those savings on to you. Not to mention that you are getting produce that is more fresh, flavorful, and nutrient-dense than you could find in the grocery store, while supporting local businesses. Win-win!”

Working with producers is necessary, Lanman said. It is part of the three-fold-mission which is to: increase the number of fruit and vegetable producers in a six county region, increase the number of consumers who purchase local foods in Wapello County and provide high quality, relevant educational opportunities to producers and consumers.

Tenco is more than happy to be a local producer and be a part of the Produce with a Purpose mission.

“One way Tenco does this is through its greenhouse program, which provides work skills for its clients,” Tenco wrote on the Produce with a Purpose website, “Located in Fairfield and Ottumwa, hydroponic greenhouses and provide fresh, local produce to Southeast Iowa year round. Through its greenhouse in Wapello County, Tenco is able to train 88 individuals, providing them with valuable work and life skills to help them gain independence. Produce is sold at area grocery stores and markets, and extra produce is donated to the local food bank. This helps support food insecure families in Wapello and surrounding counties.”

Lanman agreed and said she was thankful for the support from many local producers.

“We get more local foods in Southeast Iowa,” Lanman said, “it’s always good to know where your food is coming from. That’s important. The producers are growing the produce themselves. The money goes straight to the local food box program. I have seen a value. There’s a lot of poverty in Wapello County and we want to give them something they may not be able to get themselves.”

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

Chiara Romero can be reached at cromero@ottumwacourier.com.

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