After winter storms swept across Texas, leaving crops frozen and homes powerless, The Common Market partnered with the international nonprofit World Central Kitchen to distribute thousands of boxes of locally grown produce to communities in need.
The Common Market is a nonprofit regional food distributor that connects communities with sustainable family farms. Margaret Smith, the director of the organization’s Texas branch, tells Food Tank the storms knocked out power for staff members and the Texas warehouse, and farmers reported crops freezing in the field.
That’s when The Common Market’s National Partnerships Director Rachel Terry reached out to World Central Kitchen to discuss partnering, Smith says.
“We knew the moment our power was restored at our Houston warehouse, we needed to snap into action and help our neighbors,” Smith tells Food Tank.
After the storms hit the state, World Central Kitchen began providing warm meals to Texans, often partnering with local restaurants.
“Both of our organizations prioritize underserved communities,” Smith says of World Central Kitchen. “Our existing infrastructure, access to sustainable farms, and ability to make deliveries throughout the community made us perfect partners to get food out into communities often overlooked and underserved throughout the region.”
The distribution partnership is operating via The Common Markets’ Farm-Fresh Box program, which the nonprofit launched last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with its farmer networks, The Common Market procures, packs, and delivers boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables to help communities and institutions meet their food access needs.
World Central Kitchen is funding the procurement of 10,100 of those boxes, which will be distributed over nine weekdays. The Common Market will help distribute the boxes throughout the Greater Houston and Austin metro areas at 21 different community sites.
Smith says the boxes will be filled with a variety of fruits and vegetables from about a dozen Texas farms that were able to emergency harvest produce just before the freeze.
Along with helping hungry communities, the partnership also supports Texas farms, many of which saw crop losses and infrastructure damage from the storms. Smith tells Food Tank that one of the nonprofit’s partners, Fresh Life Organic, which is based in Rosharon, has reported a loss of 60 to 70 percent of its crops in the field.
“Nearly all of our farms in our network suffered damages caused by freezing temperatures and harsh conditions,” Smith says. “We were able to purchase whatever we could from our farms in order to clear fields, and make it possible for regrowth efforts.”
“This is not donated food,” Smith emphasizes. “We pay our farmers a fair price for their food so they can grow and scale the local food system alongside us.”
Smith tells Food Tank that The Common Market’s ability to support local farmers and keep Texans fed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the winter storm crisis is in part thanks to “the power of the local community.”
“Thankfully, regional food systems are resilient. Our community partners are resilient,” Smith says. “It’s about feeding people and providing nutrition, and it’s also about quality, having our produce boxes communicate ‘you matter’ to families.”
Photo courtesy of The Common Market