Gary Maxworthy, a San Francisco Food Bank board member and architect of the Farm to Family program, recently was invited to the White House. Here is his report:
I received an invitation to The White House and four days later, June 30, I was there in the East Room, listening to President Barack Obama announce and describe the new White House Office of Social Innovation.
Here is how it happened. The program I developed, Farm to Family, and I had been cited as an example when Michele Obama was introduced as the keynote speaker at a Volunteer and Social Innovation convention in San Francisco earlier that week.
I was honored for Farm to Family, and also as an example of a person working in an “encore” career using their experience and – in my case – knowledge of the food industry.
It all began when I was a Vista volunteer, working at the San Francisco Food Bank. We started Farm to Family in 2000, distributing fresh fruits and vegetables to people in need throughout California. The program directly connects California food growers and packers to food banks, distributing fresh fruits and vegetables which aren’t considered marketable – due to shape, size, slight blemishes or overproduction – but are still delicious and healthy to eat. In the past, this surplus produce was ploughed under, fed to animals or dumped in landfills.
The produce is distributed through more than 40 food banks, through the California Association of Food Banks, at no cost to those families receiving it. In 2009 we will distribute over 78 million pounds of produce, with more than 50 different crops represented. We estimate over 500,000 people in need receive Farm to Family fresh fruits and vegetables every week.
In 2007, I received a Purpose Prize for my work with Farm to Family. This prize recognizes people over 60 who are enjoying socially innovative encore careers. Thanks to the Purpose Prize, my work came to the White House’s attention.
Now about my trip.
First I did not get fly on Air Force One, sleep in the Lincoln bedroom or have breakfast with Michele and the kids. I did have the opportunity to see up close the strength of the President’s character, his leadership and charisma.
My day at the White House began with brunch at an elegant home, meeting others being honored. Reaching the White House and after going through security, we were free to look around a series of sitting and dining rooms close to the “East Room” where the president was to speak. It was a thrill to gaze out onto the lawn and the Washington Monument beyond from the interior of the White House.
The president spoke for about 20 minutes, announcing the new White House Office of Social Innovation and congratulating the Social Innovators invited for the event.
The White House office on Social Innovation’s mission is to encourage innovative programs, like Farm to Family, and to replicate them in other states.
Here are some fellow Purpose Prize winners who were also honored that day at the White House for their innovative programs.
After the main event, I had the opportunity to spend time with Jeff Bleich, a San Francisco resident now working in the White House as Special Council to the President. Jeff was instrumental in spearheading the Food Bank’s very successful “Food from the Bar” program (where law firms volunteer, run food drives and raise donations) for several years.
For me it was an honor to participate in the White House event, and gives me continued energy to help grow Farm to Family to serve more families in need!
If you wish to learn more about Farm to Family, here is a video:
For those interested in learning more about Purpose Prize, you’ll find more information here.
Filed under: Families, Farm Fresh, Food Drives, Fruits and Vegetables, The Food Bank's Food System, Volunteer Tagged: | food bank, maxworthy, obama, president, purpose prize, social innovation, Volunteer, white house