For the fifth year in a row, the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland West Park Corps is waging war on food deserts in the West Park neighborhood by partnering with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank for its first Free Produce Giveaway of the summer.
The West Park branch of the Salvation Army will give away 24,000 pounds of fresh produce on Friday, June 15, at its offices (12645 Lorain Ave.) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. “In the neighborhoods we serve, a lot of people don’t have access to fresh produce,” says Salvation Army Corps Officer captain J.R. Fritsch. “They can’t or don’t walk to the Giant Eagle or the Marc’s. They shop at the little stores [or] the mom-and-pop stores that don’t always have produce, and it’s not always fresh.”
And while Fritsch says watermelon is always the most popular item in the distributions, the group also tried to introduce new fruits and vegetables—like kohlrabi—to neighborhood residents, along with new recipes to try.
“It opens up their eyes to other fruits and vegetables they don’t otherwise have access to,” explains Fritsch. “The variety we get from the Food Bank is amazing.”
The Salvation Army first launched Free Produce Giveaway during the summer of 2013. That first year, the Salvation Army asked the Food Bank for 12,000 pounds of produce and sold out quickly. Ever since, they have received 24,000 pounds—serving 400 to 600 families in one day.
Fritsch says the West Park Salvation Army is the largest food pantry on Cleveland’s west side. To receive free produce on Friday, area residents must provide photo identification, proof of residency, and proof of members in the household, such as a medical ID card.
In addition to Thursday’s distribution, the Salvation Army will also host Free Produce Giveaways on Friday, July 20, and Friday, August 17, at the same location.