The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday April 11th

Farmers' markets join together for hunger relief

Farmers’ markets across the Triangle area will team up for the first time this weekend to raise food to aid the hungry.

Farmers’ markets in Carrboro, Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary are participating in the Triangle Foodshare Challenge from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday.

The competition, which also supports the area’s farmers, aims to provide a total of 4,000 pounds of food that will be donated to several hunger relief shelters.

“We were the first to hold the Foodshare,” said Sarah Blacklin, manager of the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. “But we wanted it to spread to other markets.”

At last year’s challenge, the market set a goal for 1,000 pounds of food to donate to hunger relief and exceeded that goal by about 700 pounds.

The Farmer Foodshare program was established in May 2009 when customer Margaret Gifford, founder and co-director of the organization, said she noticed farmers were using unsold produce at the market for compost.

She and Blacklin then began to work on finding a better home for the food.

“It was about supporting a cause, and it just grew from there,” Blacklin said. “It was an organic process.”

Since then, the program has expanded to include four additional markets.

“Other markets heard about what Carrboro was doing and thought it was a great idea,” Gifford said.

But she said there are certain guidelines the markets must agree to in order to participate in the program.

“This is a farmers’ market and farmer initiative, not a food bank,” Gifford said.

At each market, there is a “donation station” where customers can either donate their extra food purchases or give money directly to the farmers who will in turn buy food from the market.

Shoppers who can’t make it to the market can still donate money online through the Farmers’ Foodshare website.

Their partner organization, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, will provide food pick-up and delivery at all markets and help to distribute the food to agencies that serve those in need.

The shuttle has been delivering food for the past 21 years and was involved last year with the Carrboro market challenge.

“Growing the effort and increasing awareness is the goal,” Blacklin said.

Blacklin and Gifford are looking forward to continuing the Foodshare Challenge Event tradition in the future.

“But the challenge is mostly not between the markets,” Gifford said. “We’re challenging ourselves and the community to pull together for fresh local food awareness.”

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