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AHA improves the health and well-being of Wake County residents by facilitating and supporting community initiatives.

Partners in the Spotlight: The Produce Box and Alexander Family YMCA

Summer’s Bounty for Raleigh Camp High Hopes Familiescollage--Produce Box

Summer’s bounty of fresh, North Carolina produce will reach a bit further into Southeast Raleigh this summer. In fact, more than 350 children at Camp High Hopes in Raleigh will take home a bag of North Carolina grown fruits and vegetables from The Produce Box every other week.

The hot topic of how to get fresh, local fruits and veggies into the parts of our community that lack good grocery stores or other access to healthy food got Courtney Tellefsen, founder of The Produce Box, and others on her team about thinking about how they could help them have access to healthy, seasonal produce. She worked with Susan Pettengill, director of Healthy Living for the YMCA of the Triangle, to bring the idea to life.

For four of the eight weeks of camp, the Produce Box will assemble a specially chosen assortment of local, seasonal, low-prep fruits and vegetables. Campers will be able to take the food home to their families in a special bag provided by the Produce Box, along with a newsletter with recipes and healthy tips.

Each summer, more than 350 children attend the Alexander Family YMCA’s Camp High Hopes free of charge thanks to the YMCA’s Annual We Build People Campaign. The Alexander Family YMCA is a branch of the YMCA of the Triangle. The food distribution with YMCA’s Camp High Hopes will begin on June 25, just in time for fresh NC peaches and field-grown tomatoes.

“We have a lot of the distribution process figured out, with trucks and our local farmers who bring their fruits and veggies to our HUB, so it’s an easy switch to send this healthy produce to these children and their families this summer,” Tellefsen said.  “Our mission is not just to ‘eat good’ but to also ‘do good’ and we hope this is just the start of us reaching out to the same families the Y touches to help better the lives of others in need.” Thanks to the generosity of donations from members of The Produce Box, $28,000 worth of fresh, local produce will be distributed to the children and their families.

The Produce Box has been providing a convenient source of locally grown produce, local meats and NC-produced specialty items to families, companies and community organizations since 2007 through its delivery system.  Produce Box members regularly donate to support community efforts like this one.

“We’re grateful for this healthy gift to children at YMCA Camp High Hopes,” Pettengill said. “Through YMCA camps, we will also be able to share the bounty with other families in the Shenley Park Community and other outreach programs like our 21st Learning Center.” Research shows that more than 30 million children in low-income communities receive free or reduced-cost meals during the school year, but only 2.3 million continue to have access to free meals during summer.

Continuing the Produce Deliveries

Tellefsen is working to figure out how to continue the program for Camp High Hopes families after camp ends, possibly even on the same delivery day, but in some way to make it sustainable. “That might mean the produce isn’t free but discounted, and families can participate in the buying process,” she said. “We do not know yet how to make this work and are open to ideas and partners in the community thinking through this with us so that we can continue to support those children and families in a sustainable way.” Contact her at with questions or to discuss partnerships.

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