Project Produce Seeks Assistance to Continue at Dearborn Farmers Market
Volunteers are needed to help run 'Project Produce' and collect fresh food for those in need.
Farmers market devotees in Wyandotte and Dearborn may be used to seeing some distinctive pink produce carts filled with donations of fresh food.
The carts belong to Project Produce, and the food in them goes to help feed families in need. In Wyandotte, the produce goes to the local Salvation Army soup kitchen and to the Waynewright Community Meals Program. In Dearborn, the produce goes to women and children starting out fresh through the domestic violence program at First Step of Michigan.
The Wyandotte Project Produce began last year as a branch of the program that began in Dearborn–brainchild of Sandra Boulton and Sherry Duquet, owners of Solstice Designs.
“It was an extension of what we were doing,” Boulton said. “The initial concept was to make jewelry to give to the children in the domestic violence center to give to their mothers on Mother’s Day. It was a way to empower children to be able to give their moms a gift.”
Duquet wanted to be able to “help nourish their souls.”
For six years, the jewelry designers at Solstice Designs have given necklaces to the children at First Step—more than 400 all totaled. And last year, they decided to continue “nourishing” them through fresh food to go to their families starting anew in transitional housing after they’ve sought refuge at the First Step shelter.
“They’ve left everything behind," Boulton said. "Project Produce was a continued outreach."
Produce from the Dearborn Farmers and Artisan Market was donated by vendors and by shoppers, who saw the pink cart and added their ears of corn, cucumbers, tomatoes and other fresh, locally grown food.
“It was very well received,” Boulton said. “People were even donating from their own gardens. It took off like wildfire last year.”
Natalie Rankine, director of Wyandotte's Downtown Development Authority, saw the pink cart at the Dearborn market last August and thought it would be perfect for the farmers market in her hometown.
“I knew how giving the people of Wyandotte were, and I just knew that it would work,” she said. “I had no doubt in my mind.”
She was right. The pink cart at the Wyandotte market, held from 12-6 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 6 at the corner of Elm and First, filled up each week last year and again this year, helping people in the community who need fresh food and helping the vendors at the market increase their sales, too, Rankine said.
She said she doesn’t know exactly how much food has been donated, but it’s “hundreds and hundreds of pounds."
Last year at the Dearborn market, held from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Fridays through Oct. 29 behind the Bryant Branch Library, nearly 1,600 pounds of fresh, locally grown produce was donated.
This year, however, the pink cart has been missing from the Dearborn Farmers Market.
“Sherry and I can’t man it for the entire Friday this year,” Boulton said. “And we haven’t been able to organize volunteers this year. We’d like to set that up.”
The donated food also needs to be delivered to First Step, and that has been problematic, too, although Boulton thinks she could arrange for someone from the agency to pick up the food if they get enough, assuming volunteers step up to man the cart on Fridays.
“This is one way in which we can help families while they are rebuilding their lives, while encouraging healthy eating together and enjoying local produce,” Boulton said. “There are a whole lot of people who need it.”