Across the street from Augusta’s James Brown Arena sits an unassuming brick building, nestled in the corner of Fenwick and 7th.
Its perimeter fence may make it seem uninviting, but each day the building hosts over 300 area residents in need and provides them with food sourced from both donations and partner farms. Visitors to the Golden Harvest’s Master’s Table soup kitchen can always expect to be fed and the organization’s latest initiative aims to ensure that they’re getting nourished as well.
Golden Harvest detailed its new program-wide Healthy Plate initiative at a volunteer event Saturday. The program seeks to create a 25-percent increase in the number of fresh fruits and vegetables at the food bank by partnering with area growers as well as growing their own crops at The Master’s Table. Volunteer days, led by Kim Hines of Augusta Locally Grown, bring people from Golden Harvest’s partner organizations and the community to tend The Master’s Table’s 40 raised plant beds.
“This is a very exciting day for us,” Executive Director Travis McNeal said Saturday. “Our team at the Golden Harvest Food Bank has been anticipating and working on this for over eight months. We will facilitate getting these fresh fruits and vegetables right into the hands of the people.”
A study done by Golden Harvest showed that 85 percent of their clients didn’t have access to healthy, nutritious foods. The organization plans to increase the availability of what they call “Foods to Encourage” to families in need through the Healthy Plate initiative. By adding nutrition to their meals, McNeal believes that families can avoid health problems associated with a poor diet.
“The problems that can be seen by not having healthy nutrition is that families can have health issues like diabetes and heart problems,” McNeal said. “The problems can lead to increased healthcare costs, costs that are already [affecting] struggling families. We want to help break the cycle of poverty.”
Through partners Elanco and Augusta Locally Grown, the Healthy Plate initiative is already well underway. Volunteer days in the garden began in early May, and the smell of fresh produce has already become a staple of the soup kitchen.
“We have already produced fresh vegetables in here,” McNeal said. “It’s cool to see them go from farm to kitchen, and soon to table.”