California food banks used to distribute primarily canned and boxed food, but thanks to an innovative idea from a Bay Area man, they are also able to give away mostly fresh fruits and vegetables.
The program started by Gary Maxworthy -- who was a 2009 Bay Area regional Jefferson Award winner and went on to win a national Jefferson Award the following year -- allows families to receive free fruits and vegetables monthly from dozens of food banks all over California.
"It's wonderful. That's the key for me, to see it grow," he said during a drive-through food distribution at the Daly City Partnership.
KPIX first met Gary in 2009. He had started working at the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank after spending more than three decades in the food distribution business.
"What happened was, my first wife passed away. So I go, 'Now, what am I going to do?'" Maxworthy said.
He introduced a novel idea: instead of feeding to animals or throwing out produce that wasn't marketable because of shape, size or overproduction, Maxworthy reached out to growers, packers, and distributors to donate the fruits and vegetables to food banks.
He started the program, Farm to Family, in 1998. Since then, it has tripled in size.
Second Harvest of Silicon Valley CEO Leslie Bacho says Farm to Family generated more than 250 million pounds of fresh produce last year for seven million Californians in need. The vegetables and fruits account for more than half of the food that Second Harvest gives away in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.
"It is the most important source of food for all California food banks today. And honestly, it started a trend around the nation," Bacho said.
That trend has promoted eating and preparing healthy meals. Now that Maxworthy is retired, Bacho is continuing his legacy. She leads the Farm to Family committee at the California Association of Food Banks. He remains her longtime friend, mentor, and inspiration.
"Gary's a great example of how people can truly make al difference," Bacho said with a smile.
Through Farm to Family, Maxworthy found a new passion - fighting food insecurity. He also found a new love. He married again 23 years ago. The couple held their ceremony at the food bank.
"It's because we were so connected to the organization and we knew people," he said.
As he observes people picking up fresh food at the Daly City Partnership -- a Second Harvest distribution site -- he can't help but feel good, knowing he helped make it possible.
"Coming to a site like this and watching the food going out, it's very gratifying," Maxworthy said.
Fresh food for the soul for the man who pioneered getting fresh food to the tables of those in need.
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