Living Sustainably: Two programs help share the blessing of fresh produce

By Lisa Uganski, Ottawa Food

Using the specially labeled buckets, patrons at participating area U-pick farms can provide fresh produce for people who normally wouldn’t have access to it.

Summer is almost here, which means it’s time to enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables grown here in West Michigan. There is nothing quite like the taste of a just-picked blueberry or tomato. However, many members of this community don’t have access to the juicy strawberries, sweet corn and the abundance of other fresh local produce that so many look forward to each year.  Fortunately, you can help provide these healthy items to those in need by participating in one of the following programs, and you’ll be supporting local growers at the same time. It’s a win-win!

Purchasing a bucket of U-pick produce for the Ottawa Food program will benefit people who don’t normally have access to fresh produce.

Pick for Pantries: Ottawa Food will partner with some local growers again this summer to implement Pick for Pantries. This program allows U-Pick patrons at participating local produce farms to donate a portion of their pick to local food pantries (and other food resource agencies) on select dates during the growing season.

You can head out to Visser Farm’s U-Pick Strawberry Patch (7200 112th Ave., Holland) on June 11, 13, 18, 20, 22, 25 and 27 (weather permitting) to pick your own fresh strawberries and help support local food pantries in the process.

Just grab a green bucket with the Ottawa Food logo and fill it up with as much as you would like to donate. Buckets will be set aside and picked up by one of several participating food resource agencies, and the berries will be distributed to community members in need.

In July, Pick for Pantries will take place at Bowerman Blueberries, Crossroads Blueberries and Rasch Orchards (cherries).

In the fall, Pick for Pantries will take place at Rasch Orchards and Grange Fruit Farm, where apples can be picked and donated. Specific dates for these opportunities will be posted later in the summer and fall at, based on weather and farm availability.  Please visit Ottawa Food’s Facebook page throughout the growing season for more information.  Help spread the word by sharing this information with family and friends as well.

Fresh produce bought at the Holland Farmers Market can be provided to people in need through Ottawa Foods Produce Donation Program.

Produce Donation Program: You can also get involved by participating in Ottawa Food’s Produce Donation Program at the Holland Farmers Market.
Every Wednesday from June 19 to Sept. 18, a donation table will be staffed at the market from 9 a.m. to 1:30 pm. Stop by and pick up a donation bag at the Ottawa Food table. When you’re finished shopping, bring your produce donation back, and it will be distributed to those in need within 48 hours.
We are blessed to live in an area that harvests such a wide variety of fresh, healthy food. Please consider helping to make our community a stronger, healthier one by sharing this local food with others!

 Lisa Uganski, RD, MPH, is the coordinator of Ottawa Food, a collaboration of local agencies and individuals working to ensure that all Ottawa County residents have access to healthy, local, and affordable food choices. If you would like to get involved with Ottawa Food, please visit for more information.

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Community & Neighborhood: The places we live and the individuals we interact with support the development of our personalities and perspectives on life. Encouraging vital and effective communities is essential.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.