Non-profit helps farmers, offers free produce

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Because of the economic impact of COVID-19, food security has been an issue worrying families struggling to make ends meet during this crisis. But a local nonprofit group aims to help those in need while also supporting local farmers.

On Thursday, southern residents in need drove up to the Umatac mayor’s office to pick up free bags full of produce such as pechay, water spinach, radishes, and bananas.

The produce, which filled nearly 100 bags, was provided by 12 farmers throughout the island and was distributed by members and volunteers of Guahan Sustainable Culture, a nonprofit dedicated to improving access to local food.

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GSC Secretary Kristin Oberiano says that a lot of farmers experienced a significant loss of income due to the COVID-19 outbreak and that the organization wanted to find a way to help by establishing their Supporting Farmers, Sustaining Families initiative.

“At the beginning of the crisis, a lot of farmers were expecting to get orders from hotels and restaurants. But because of the decline in tourism and social distancing measures, a lot of the orders fell through. A lot of the vegetables were left to rot on the vine or the tree. So what we decided to do is buy those vegetables and produce and give them to people who are hurting because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Oberiano said.

With the help of community donations, the organization has raised more than $5,000 and has purchased 2,000 pounds of produce to pay farmers and support families in need.

“I think the farmers are grateful because they have a market to sell to and we’re happy to buy from them. And for the public, a lot of the people are grabbing these bags, but there are a lot of people donating to our effort,” Oberiano said.

If you would like to learn more, volunteer, or donate to Guahan Sustainable Culture, please visit gusustainable.org.

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