Food Bank preserves garden bounty

It’s summertime and that means fresh fruits and vegetables are making their way from the fields and the garden to the table.

They are also making their way to the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies, 120 North River Road in Palisade, to be turned into a product with a longer shelf-life.

“Fresh fruit comes in waves, and we can’t always get it distributed and consumed in a timely manner,” said Starlene Collins, manager of the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies. 

Their answer to that problem came in the form of a $100,000 donation from Bellco Credit Union to purchase three dehydrator units and implement a program to give hungry Coloradans access to dehydrated fruits and vegetables.

So far, they have successfully dehydrated apples, bananas, peppers and potatoes. They began a trial with cherries on Wednesday, and will experiment with peaches and other produce as they become available.

Collins said another goal is to produce vegetable soup mixes. She said they have often heard complaints about how heavy the soup cans are and that dehydrated mixes are one way to address that. They also plan to experiment with reconstituting potatoes. The program will likely not include dehydrated meats because of health and sanitation issues, Collins said.

The food bank also wants to produce healthy fruit snacks and fruit leathers for kids who receive food from the Kids Aid backpack program. 

One of the other goals of the program is to give local growers, both commercial and backyard cultivators, a place to send excess produce that might otherwise go bad.

“I’m glad they have it. My concern is that not enough farmers around here know about it to donate,” Skip Doty said.

Doty, owner of Early Morning Orchard in Palisade, has worked with the food bank in the past. He said his orchard donated around 40 boxes of produce last year to various organizations including Food Bank of the Rockies.

Doty plans to donate fruits, mainly peaches as most of his apricot trees were damaged, along with vegetables from his two-acre garden.

“I’m sure we will donate more as the summer progresses,” Doty said. “I’m very happy to work with (the food bank).”

The food bank will likely have fewer donations due to the damage the cold spring weather did to much of the fruit crops, but Collins hopes that they’ll still receive enough donations to reach their goals.

Produce that might not be as appealing in a farmers market or produce stand, but a healthy product nonetheless, can still be made into dehydrated goods.

So, Collins encourages all growers to donate any produce they can.

“Even in a year like this where the crops are significantly reduced, there will still be products that will lend itself perfectly to dehydration,” said Charlie Talbott of Talbott Farms.

The Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies is one of the few Feeding America food banks operating a dehydration program. “We’re hoping that in a couple years we’ll be a major producer,” Collins said.

If you would like to give, food donations are accepted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the River Road address in Palisade, or by contacting the Western Slope Food Bank of the Rockies at 464-1138.


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