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Local non-profits are working together to get fresh produce to those in need

Cancer patients in Duval County living in food desert neighborhoods are getting fresh produce thanks to a collaboration between local non-profits.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Getting access to fresh produce can be especially hard right now for immunocompromised cancer patients living in food desert neighborhoods. WeCareJax has partnered with The Center for Sustainable Agriculture Excellence and Conservation (CSAEC) to bring fresh produce to the doorsteps of those in need where access is limited. 

"So we are fitting a need for people who are actually cooking at home and these high-quality foods, helping local farmers, putting food where food is needed," Angela TenBroeck with CSAEC said.

"When we saw Angela TenBroeck and her group of Florida Blue Farmers and you were actually making it possible to deliver fresh produce in a very hyper-local way, we knew that that would be a terrific opportunity for our cancer care folks. So we got with Angela and organized to get the deliveries done," Angela Strain, Executive Director of WeCareJax said.  "Our staff left their computers in their living rooms or dining rooms or home offices and met the farm truck and then took the packages out to the houses."

The food is left on doorsteps to limit interaction.

"So many of them are not on direct bus lines and are not able to get out, and then with the added complications of recommendations to not expose yourself to other folks during this time, it can mean a lot of challenges in nutrition and maintaining the recommendations from cancer docs on how to take care of yourself during this time," Strain said.

WeCareJax is just one of several local non-profits helping distribute the fresh produce. It's helping not only the recipients but also the farmers.

"We're not asking for donations or giveaways," TenBroeck said. "We are actually continuing to try to employ people, so this is kind of a three-phase situation. Farmers actually remain being employed, so, therefore, they're able to hire their farmworkers. We're able to pack the products at the packhouse and the nonprofit is able to move through their community networks products to people who are in most need of these products."

In the first five weeks of the Florida Blue Farmers and You program, TenBroeck said it will have moved 20,000 pounds of produce to those in need. Due to the high demand, she said the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Excellence and Conservation needs additional monetary donations to continue moving the produce past next week. You can visit their website for more information.

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