For the last several years, Growing Together has been teaching gardening and nutrition, planting trees, greening schoolyards, and connecting students with nature in the Oakland Unified Schools District (OUSD). During the last school year, we were also running produce stands at three OUSD schools – Manzanita SEED, Global Family and Markham Elementary. The purpose of these stands was to bring fresh food to our families and give our students hands-on lessons in financial literacy and entrepreneurship. With help from our school communities, Mandela Partners produce distributors, and our donors including the Numi Foundation and Clorox, these produce stands were a great success! We sold approximately 1,000 pounds of fresh produce every week! This assured us that many of our families were getting fresh, nutritious food on a regular basis.
After the pandemic hit in March of 2020, schools were closed, and many people began to lose their jobs. Like many other organizations, we quickly realized that our students, families, and even the farmers we had been working with, were going to need support throughout the pandemic. We decided to come together as a community to connect local farmers with families who needed fresh food. We started by working with our three original schools and Mandela Partners, with support from the Clorox Foundation, to deliver fresh produce to 200 families in Oakland.
In partnership with the Numi Foundation, we added an additional supplier, Pacific Rim Produce, and expanded the service to families in San Francisco and Richmond. We were also able to provide jobs by hiring parents from our schools to pack the food and deliver it to the homes of families. After ten weeks, with the help of the Numi Foundation, we were given a generous donation from the Salesforce Foundation, Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, and the TomKat Foundation, which has enabled us to partner further with OUSD and expand our program from 400 families a week to 3,200 families a week! We were also able to support our community by purchasing from several local organic and sustainable farms owned by women and people of color; and hiring more community and family members to pack and deliver the food.
We expanded our produce procurement as well, working with Full Harvest to order from Epic Farmshop, Asian Business Institute and Resource Center, and more. Since mid-April, we have delivered 263,452 pounds of fresh produce!