The public was giving the gift of good health to area food pantries Saturday during the Greater North Penn Area Nutrition Coalition's Fresh Food Drive at Shop Rite in Hatfield Township.
"It will get busier as we go," said Carol Doyle, of Keystone Opportunity Center in Souderton. "It takes a little explaining of what we're doing and why there's a need for it."
The coalition holds a fresh fruit drive to collect fruits and vegetables, like potatoes, bananas, broccoli, pears, grapefruits, carrots and more, twice a year. All items collected are evenly distributed to the participating food pantries in the region: Bethlehem Baptist Church in Blue Bell, Emmanuel E.C. Church in Hatfield, Hatfield Church of the Brethren in Hatfield, Keystone Opportunity Center, Lamb: Cornucopia Food Cupboard in North Wales, Manna on Main Street in Lansdale, Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard in Ambler, and Shepherd's Shelf at Christ Lutheran Church in Towamencin.
"It's important to educate our clients to eat fruits and vegetables," Doyle said. "There are benefits to buying fresh and preparing it."
Doyle said the drives are usually scheduled for the weekend before the pantries are open to clients. All fresh items are refrigerated until distributed to clients.
Nicole Murphy, of the Food Trust, which is funded by Hatfield's North Penn Community Health Foundation, said one fresh food drive last year yielded 570 pounds, with more than 1,500 pounds donated altogether.
"Sometimes people won't take the time to talk to us about the drive," Murphy said, "but they'll read the brochure and realize the importance. They come out of the store with donations."
Anthony Tarzia, of Manna on Main Street, said the drive is another opportunity to provide good, healthy food for its clients.
"We use the fruits and vegetables for our pantry, and in our kitchen. So, our clients have fresh produce whenever they come to Manna," Tarzia said. "This time of year, we're always in need of fresh fruit and vegetables. Any contribution is great.