Franciscan Charities has been involved with the G.I.F.T. Program since 2012. Bob Conway—owner of Brownie Points bakery in Summit and Board Member of Summit Downtown, Inc., the organization that operates the Farmer’s Market—recently told us about the history of the program.

What is the G.I.F.T. Program?
The G.I.F.T. Program stands for Give it Fresh Today. The program aims to collect donated produce for distribution to organizations in need of fresh food.

 
How the G.I.F.T. Program came to Summit:
Bob can’t recall who brought the idea of G.I.F.T. to his attention, but he was told it started in Hawaii, so he watched the TEDx Talk on the subject with great interest (click HERE to watch the TEDx talk), and loved the idea of bringing it to Summit. Bob’s bakery, Brownie Points, had already been donating leftover goodies to grateful recipients since they started baking 10 years ago. With that generous spirit, Bob could easily see how the G.I.F.T. Program would be an ideal way for local farmers to donate their leftover produce on the spot, without involving additional transportation costs to the farmers. And he was right.

Through Bob’s introduction, the Summit Downtown, Inc. Board eagerly approved the G.I.F.T. Program in 2012. Soon after, a graphic artist friend of Bob’s designed the logo and donated it, Brownie Points had a banner made and donated it along with a tent, and the G.I.F.T. table was officially launched at the Farmer’s Market that same year.

 

Impact of Community Involvement:
The amount of donations has steadily increased each year. In 2015, a total of 6,800 pounds were collected—of which our soup kitchen, St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen, received 5,800 pounds. While the bulk of the donations is from farmers and other vendors at the market, many individual patrons also purchase surplus produce and donate it, and others bring produce from their home gardens.

One local church has a garden which is tended by the children of the parish. Each season the children bring some of their garden’s bounty and donate it—often it is only a few cherry tomatoes, but it’s wonderful to see the children proud of what they have grown themselves and how they’re so generous to share with others. It’s a great lesson! The local farmers are happy to donate produce that won’t be fresh for their next market—and it’s a simple, meaningful way to help increase fresh food availability for those in need. Everyone involved in the program consistently gives positive feedback.

Staffing of the Table:
The G.I.F.T. table is staffed by Franciscan Charities’ volunteers on alternate weeks. The other weeks it is staffed by The Junior League of Summit, who collects for Loaves and Fishes of St. Teresa Church. Whatever Loaves and Fishes can’t use is donated for our use at St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen. Volunteers bring the produce to the location that is receiving that week’s donations.

Benefits at the Soup Kitchen:
Our chefs at St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen love the challenge of using whatever donations we receive. It’s always a surprise for them to see what is in the kitchen on Monday mornings. The fresh fruits and vegetables are used for salads, side dishes, stir fries, and more. Our clients are grateful to enjoy additional fresh, seasonal produce—and we are happy to supply a wider variety of delicious and nutritious ingredients.

Our Heartfelt Thanks:
We are grateful to Marin from Summit Downtown, Inc. for allowing us to be at the G.I.F.T. table, to Harold Lefkowitz, the manager of the Farmer’s Market who staffs our table when we are not available, helps us to coordinate pick-ups, etc. and is generally such a treat to work with, also to K.C. Artemenko and the Junior League of Summit for staffing the G.I.F.T. table and collecting produce, and especially to Bob Conway from Brownie Points for starting the G.I.F.T. Program, and for inviting Franciscan Charities to be a part of it.

More info about the Summit Farmer’s Market:
The Summit Farmer’s Market has been open for 21 years and bustles with shoppers throughout the season. The G.I.F.T Program began in 2012 and is growing in popularity each year.
Market Season: from May (this year, April) to November.
Selling hours: 8AM-1PM
 Market Location: DeForest Avenue & Maple Street (Park & Shop Lot #2)
For more info, visit the Summit Farmer’s Market website HERE.