Rural Human Services will continue to provide free fresh produce to anyone who wants it thanks to a change of heart from the California Department of Social Services regarding its Donate Don't Dump program.

RHS will likely resume its tailgate program the second Wednesday in June, said Food & Family Director Ron Phillips.

"The state has found money," Phillips said. "We can't do anything for May; it's too late. It will be the second Wednesday of the month starting in June and we'll be at the fairgrounds."

Thanks to additional dollars in the new farm bill at the federal level, the Department of Social Services, which administers the state's Emergency Food Assistance Program, rescinded an earlier decision to cancel the Donate Don't Dump program, said John Healy, CEO of California Emergency Foodlink.

The program allowed Foodlink to distribute fresh perishable foods donated by large agricultural producers and other industry players from Bakersfield to the Oregon border. According to Healy, the money the state is making available to his organization will allow them to add a few additional distributions.

"It won't be a huge expansion but it should be fully funded so at a minimum it'll be the same as what they've had over the last several years, but hopefully we can do more," Healy said. "In Butte County, there's an agency that covers five counties and they do one distribution a summer in different city locations, we're trying to talk to them and ask 'can you do a minimum of one a month in each one and see if anybody wants a second one or a different location.' We'll look to see how we can accommodate it."

Healy credited the Department of Social Services' decision to allow the Donate Don't Dump program to continue on pressure from organizations that operate food banks and pantries in the northern part of the state.

Healy said California Emergency Foodlink receives about $500,000 annually in state funding and has about $700,000 available.

The decision to terminate the Donate Don't Dump program came as a result of a September 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture program aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damage "due to unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations," according to the USDA.

Through this program, the USDA bought additional food from farmers needing the support and added it to The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which supplements the diets of low-income Americans, Healy told the Triplicate in an April 9 article.

Nearly double the amount of food has come into California through The Emergency Food Assistance Program as a result, making it difficult for Foodlink to administer the Donate Don't Dump program, Healy told the Triplicate.

The excess food stressed Foodlink's ability to ship it to California's rural and remote areas due to the distance and a limited amount of freezer capacity, according to Healy.

On Friday, Healy said all of Foodlink's trailers are refrigerated and the food the organization receives is immediately shipped out.

"Right now, for example, there's milk deliveries that the USDA is providing," he said. "Because we're doing additional milk runs we can put produce on those milk runs so we can deliver both milk and produce at the same time."

RHS offered free zucchini, cabbage, strawberries and other fresh fruits and vegetables to anyone who wanted it on a first-come first-served basis for about 15 years, according to Phillips. The nonprofit serves an average of about 225 families a month through its tailgate program, Phillips told the Triplicate.

RHS also holds monthly food bank distributions in Klamath, Smith River and at various locations in Crescent City including its office at 286 M Street.

For more information about RHS's tailgate program and the food bank, call (707) 464-7441.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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