From sprout to table: Following an Oregon Food Bank tomato

PORTLAND, Ore. -- It's a new twist on farm-to-table.

We thought it would be interesting and impactful if we gave our viewers and readers an inside look at where the vegetables and fruits go after they are grown in the Oregon Food Bank garden.

But we did it in an unconventional way. We chose a tomato and followed it from sprout to table.

KGW spotted one that we decided to track along and see where it would end up once it was picked.

We started in July.

It was hot outside. Really hot. Dozens of tomato plants had just been planted and were really starting to pop.

"And we had these little foot-high tomato plants, that we put in each of the holes," said Jocelyn McAuley, an Oregon Food Bank volunteer.

Not just one plant, but countless others make up the Oregon Food Bank's Learning Garden.

No one can argue it's impressive. It's a vast field of fruits and vegetables, all of which eventually go to different hunger-relief agencies in our area.

More than a million people rely on what's growing there every year.

We randomly chose a tomato. We tagged the post it was on and checked back in August. It was time to harvest.

"So it's really fun seeing the process of what a plant can do when you keep up on giving it attention and the care that it needs to grow," said McAuley.

McAuley is the person who helped put the plants in the ground and was the one to pick our chosen tomato.

"That one going to a table. What a lucky tomato," she said with a laugh. "Hopefully it'll go into somebody's salad or somebody's lunch," said McAuley.

But first, the tomato was put it into a box and weighed. We put it in a clear produce box and labeled it.

"And, that box of tomatoes is going to go over to the Oregon Food Bank and it's going to get picked up by an agency that will take it and distribute it to people who need tomatoes," McAuley said.

Picking up the box with our tomato inside? Erich Sour.

"We serve about thirty to forty homeless youth a day. Three meals a day, six days a week. So, yeah, we're going through a lot of veggies," said Sour.

Sour is one of the chefs at Outside In, which helps about 1,000 homeless teens each year.

"Today's a really good day. We're getting four boxes of produce!" he said back on August 26.

He took our labeled tomato and several other boxes of fruits and veggies, then he headed off to make lunch for the day.

Tuesday, it was time to serve up our chosen tomato.

"You'd be really surprised how many kids warm up to the idea of fresh vegetables when we serve them with every meal and make them really tasty," said Sour, this time in the Outside In kitchen.

It was just before lunch at Outside In in downtown Portland.

The food was prepped, chopped up and cooked.

It's also lunch time for Luke Boone, who does not have a place to call home.

"Having a place to come eat or stay or have shelter is really nice," said Boone.

Boone was the one to get our tomato in his salad for lunch.

"Um, sorry I ate your tomato," said Boone with a laugh.

What did he think about where it came from and how the tomato got to his plate?

"It does mean a lot to me. What it represents and the opportunity it presents that to have fresh food when I might not otherwise have access to that means so much," said Boone with a nod.

And, there's a big need for fresh food.

Last year, The Oregon Food Bank said it gave out more than a million emergency food boxes in Oregon and Southwest Washington for the third year in a row.


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