July 29, 2014

A Year of Veggie Boxes

by Sophie Duncan

Sophie Duncan '16's blog post is inspired by the completion of her first year working with Farm Fresh Rhode Island (FFRI) as a part of their Veggie Box team, which also is celebrating it’s first year of year-round programming. Sophie began her work with FFRI through an iProv Summer Internship last year and will be a participant in next year's TRI-Lab on Healthy Food Access.

Veggie Box is a worksite delivery program, where once a week, or once every other week, boxes bearing local, fresh fruits and vegetables appear at worksites and community centers across Rhode Island. The program combines healthy and local food access for consumers with economic justice for farmers by providing a stable and continuous supply of produce to consumers and supply of customers for farmers. 

Each week I prepare a newsletter, available on the blog, which provide instructions for storing, preparing, and preserving each item in addition to an individual profile for each item sent out in a veggie box. After having spent a year with the Veggie Box program, I have included some photos from both this summer and last summer to show how everything comes full-circle, particularly in the context of seasonal, local, and fresh produce.

In Your Box This Week

The hard work of Rhode Island farmers

The hard work of the Veggie Box Team

So much good, fresh, local food


Hello Veggie Lovers,

In this week’s blog-post newsletter I just want to take a moment to reflect on my year with Veggie Box at Farm Fresh Rhode Island.  I have learned so much about farmers, food systems, and fresh vegetables and I owe it all to Farm Fresh Rhode Island and the Veggie Box participants.  Without your interest in reading about local foods or your excitement at having a week’s worth of fresh and awesome produce delivered to your work site, I would not have had this extraordinary opportunity to immerse myself in this wonderful world of produce.

Last summer, through Brown’s iProv program (then Impact Providence), I began working for Farm Fresh Rhode Island as the Veggie Box intern.  I quickly learned that is almost impossible to say the phrase “veggie box” without smiling—try it, I promise.  While the veggie box program is in place to address serious economic challenges facing farmers and an overwhelming local food-access barrier facing consumers, it is also a joyful celebration of fresh food in its finest form, personally delivered to you! 

My first year with Veggie Box was Veggie Box’s first year operating for all four-seasons.  In many ways, I have grown up with Veggie Box and this summer through the Tri-Lab fellowship I have the opportunity to continue that growth.  A year ago, I did not know what mizuna greens or yugoslavian finger squash was, and neither did Veggie Box and its participants.  Now not only can we tell you what they are and how to cook them, but also what farms they came from, what season they belong to, and what farmers grew them.  Through Veggie Box, farmers and consumers have come closer together through the sharing of knowledge and produce.

Over the past year, I have focused on creating an online hub for all things Veggie Box.  On the Veggie Box blog you will find an archive of every newsletter written and almost 100 individual profiles for each Veggie Box item with storage, preparing and preserving ideas.  My goal has been to make Veggie Box more of an adventure than a burden.  

While kohlrabi and fennel might sound tantalizing and exciting—in reality new vegetables can be scary.  I will confess, last summer I hid from my komatsuna by hiding it in the deepest, darkest corner of my refrigerator even though it was my job to make people open to trying new vegetables.  After reading the first 10 pages of google,  I still had no idea what the leafy monster was or how to make it palatable.  The Veggie Box profiles are there to alleviate that problem by synthesizing a google search about any vegetable into a concise, half-page description with inspiring photos and recipes.  

In addition to the online component, there is also a very tangible and tactile component: packing hundreds of Veggie Boxes each week.  For the past year on mid-week mornings I have biked down to Hope Artiste Village to participate in the 5 a.m. festivities of the Veggie Box pack line.  On the pack line, we are box-making extraordinaires, and perpetual motion machines, as we fill each box, one after another, until afterwards we can claim to have touched 6,000 ears of corn that day.

Just as in the kitchen, where creative concoctions require planning, labor, and the right ingredients, Veggie Box operates in a similar fashion. The planning occurs with farmers months in advance as they begin to plant Veggie Box items. Then on Veggie Box delivery days, the pack line assembles to complete the labor and arrange the fresh ingredients as the trucks depart with boxes on board, completing the Veggie Box recipe.  By evening, the Veggie Box participants have began making Veggie Box recipes of a different sort, using spatulas, spoons, and seasonings rather than pallets, pack lines, and planting.


A Year of Veggie Box in Photos: July 2013 - July 2014


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