Fresh produce, eggs, milk, and prepared food that used to get composted when it didn’t sell in the parking lot of Lakeline Mall is now getting to people who need help making ends meet. Keep Austin Fed began accepting donations July 19 from farmers and vendors every Saturday at the Cedar Park Farmers Market.
Carla Jenkins, the president of F2M Texas, the non-profit that operates the Mueller and Cedar Park markets, said working with KAF is a perfect fit. “The most important thing is that nothing go to waste,” she said. “If the farmers can have their food eaten by people in need, it’s much better. They work so hard and for anything to have to be thrown away is a shame.” The farmers and vendors share the same sentiment.
Cypress Engel of Engel Farms started doing her own food rescue informally last year by donating her excess produce to local food shelters, but now gives surplus food to Keep Austin Fed.
“Keep Austin Fed has allowed farmers [at the Cedar Park Farmers Market] to donate way more food. The convenience has made it so there’s no reason not to donate.” Engel said donating is a way to support KAF’s mission to provide food insecure people with wholesome and nutritious food. “There is a huge need [for] real food. To cover our costs, we need to charge a premium for our produce, which excludes many who can’t afford it. It makes me feel good to know we’re helping those in our community gain access to nutritious food.”
Organicare, run by Gerold and Fran Cole, was originally surprised that there was an organization that specialized in food rescue. “We were donating to Meals on Wheel in Taylor, TX,” Fran said. “We decided long ago that we would give back a certain percentage. We can impact more people’s lives in Austin.” Currently, Organicare donates their excess to KAF at the Mueller Farmers Market since it’s their last stop for the week, but Fran is happy to see KAF at Cedar Park. “There’s a lot of vendors that don’t have a Sunday market. People that really want to give – now they have a place to do it.”
Deron Moore of Blackland Prairie Family Farm is one of those vendors. “We just don’t do a lot of markets, so it’s better for us to be able to turn [our surplus] over to KAF,” he said. “It allows us not to waste. We don’t have to put stuff in the compost pile – it gets eaten, which is its intended purpose.”
KAF volunteer David Ferreira was on-site to gather and distribute the food. Although he has only been volunteering for a few weeks, he is passionate about the work that KAF does. “I’ve never done work that was so on-target,” he said. Ferreira got involved after his wife read about KAF online and told him about it. “You can really see your impact – you know exactly how your work is affecting those in need.” After gathering food from various vendors, Ferreira weighed it and divided it for two different recipients: Brighter Days Food Pantry in Leander and Hope Alliance in Round Rock.
When the market closes at 1 p.m., Jenkins helps pack away the tables and tents vendors used to sell their goods. She’s proud to see KAF volunteers driving off with the donated surplus food. “We are just so thankful to all of the volunteers for taking the food to those who need it,” Jenkins said. “This is a perfect opportunity.”