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Gary Maxworthy 2007 Purpose Prize Winner
After more than three decades in the food distribution business, Gary found retirement less than fulfilling, so he signed up for a year of service as a VISTA volunteer for the San Francisco Food Bank. He quickly found that his knowledge, skills and years of experience could be put to great use to solve a major problem facing not just this organization, but food banks across the country.
Gary was quite familiar with two realities: first, food banks typically distribute canned and packaged goods, shunning most fresh produce because of its cost and rapid rate of spoilage - and denying poor people access to many foods critical to maintaining good health and normal weight; and second, food distributors typically send millions of pounds of fresh produce to landfills every year, because it's "non-market-standard," in other words, not perfect.
In 2000, tired of the overwhelming waste and need, Gary rolled up his sleeves and created a new system to directly connect fruit and vegetable growers to food banks and distribute non-market-standard fresh produce to the poor. In its first year of operation, the program distributed 484,000 pounds of fruit. In 2006, after expanding into a statewide effort called Farm to Family, Gary’s program was able to distribute 22 million pounds of fresh apples, avocados, cantaloupe, onions, potatoes, squash, corn on the cob, watermelon, and other produce to nearly 40 California food banks.