Update- August 24, 2015: To date, the Got Veggies? group has donated more than 5,500 pounds of produce to Catholic Social Services. According to the group's Facebook page, even though they have well surpassed their original goal, the students want to continue their mission of bringing local produce to CSS throughout the school year. To contribute to the group, you can e-mail them here.
First Report- July 2015: The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that teens and adults eat around two cups of fruits and two cups of vegetables every day. For families in financial need, this is not always possible. Five members of the Class of 2016 chose to spend part of their summer helping those families get fresh fruits and vegetables with help from home produce growers and farmers in our community.
Drake Dahlinghaus, Emma Eichenauer, Halle Mason, Audrey Thacker and Katie Ward formed the group Got Veggies? at the end of June.
"It's kind of like the Got Milk? commercials," said Thacker. "It's catchy while quickly getting the point across."
"We wanted something familiar on flyers so we took the name Got Veggies? asking if people had vegetables to give," agreed Eichenauer.
The group's first donations came from people contributing leftover vegetables from home gardens. Members of the group then drove to homes to pick up donations and took the produce to Catholic Social Services (CSS.)
"It's rewarding knowing that the work you are doing is for people who are right here in our community, and knowing that what you are doing is actually helping," said Ward.
Mason shared that she saw firsthand how Got Veggies? is making a difference. "I have been volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul homeless shelter for a couple of years now. I would often watch families come in with junk food because they had a limited amount of money. Now, families can use the coins they have for food and vegetables from the CSS Food Pantry down the street."
Some of the produce the group has donated to CSS so far includes corn, lettuce, raspberries, beets, green beans, and cucumbers. Monnin's Fruit Farm has also contributed to Got Veggies? donating hundreds of pounds of produce. The group set an original goal to donate 1,000 pounds of food to CSS and have now surpassed that.
"Something unexpected that I have learned from being in this group is that so many people are willing to donate and help spread the word," said Thacker. "I have gained a greater sense of hope for the community."
The group said they were motivated to continue their mission because of a startling statistic. According to a report by WHIO-TV, the Dayton metropolitan area was listed as one of the worst in the nation for food hardship because of so many "food deserts."
"Before this group formed, I did not know Dayton was ranked ninth in the nation for worst food deserts," Eichenhauer explained.
The USDA referred to a food desert as "urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food." The group said with continued help from the community, they know they can make a difference in the Dayton area.
"We hope to continue our mission by continuing to collect food throughout the school year," said Ward.
Mason agreed, "In order to help our community, people can spread the word or donate."
The students will keep track of their contributions and continue researching this subject as part of their Senior Capstone Project. The group has also begun putting down groundwork to keep the organization going after their graduation.
You can read WHIO-TV's story on Got Veggies? here.