Pre-packed food boxes for contact-less pickup or delivery have been in great demand with housebound farmers’ market shoppers, but it’s been a new concept that each market has had to invent from scratch. Staci DeShasier, executive director for Contra Costa Farmers’ Markets Inc., was trying to make this happen at the Walnut Creek Sunday Farmers’ Market, and finally found her way via Walnut Creek Arts and Rec. The collaboration utilizes a program called Neighbor Express, which a group of tech volunteers in San Francisco have been developing to help local government programs deliver essential items to vulnerable community members.
Kathryn Reisinger, program manager for the City of Walnut Creek, says that since the start of Covid-19, the program has allowed them to deliver over 500 items to housebound seniors. “These include everything from the farmers’ market boxes and customized grocery shopping to activity packets for seniors who don’t have internet,” she says. “All volunteers are background screened and vetted by city staff before being allowed to help. We have had over 150 volunteers from the community. It’s been amazing and everybody is so helpful.”
Anyone in Walnut Creek who is at extra risk from Covid-19 can request a Good to Go delivery of groceries and/or other items. “A person places an order and a volunteer delivers it to them,” says DeShasier, “but a lot of work goes on behind the scenes to ensure things run smoothly.”
The customer places an order (Monday through Thursday) via walnutcreekfarmersmarket.org and they also schedule their delivery at the Neighbor Express link. On Thursday, the city receives the order and pairs it up with a volunteer, who fills the order in time for the 10 –11am curbside pickup at the Walnut Creek Sunday Farmers’ Market.
“We do roughly 30 boxes a week and customers have the option to add a dozen eggs,” says DeShasier. The boxes offer a mix of vegetables and fruit, but they are not customizable. It’s enough produce to feed as many as five people weekly. Customers get a flyer with a list of what’s in their box and who grew it.
“This has been a wonderful partnership benefiting those at risk and the farmers,” says DeShasier.