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Connecting the community through fresh produce

Apples were one of the items offered during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020.

Apples were one of the items offered during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020. Melanie Simon, a SJAFB military spouse, organized the SJAFB Farmer’s Market produce run when she recognized the need among base families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

Melanie Simon, left, hands produce to Tina Anderson, during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020.

Melanie Simon, left, hands produce to Tina Anderson, during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020. After purchasing the produce from a nearby farmer’s market, Simon evenly divides the produce, bags it and distributes it to her customers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

Customers pick-up produce during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020.

Customers pick-up produce during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020. Melanie Simon, an SJAFB military spouse, organized a produce run to help base families purchase seasonal fresh produce at an affordable price. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Simon, 911th Air Refueling Squadron Non-commissioned Officer in Charge of readiness and training, carries produce during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020.

Tech. Sgt. Kevin Simon, 911th Air Refueling Squadron Non-commissioned Officer in Charge of readiness and training, carries produce during a bi-monthly produce run at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020. Simon and members of Team Seymour raised more than $200 of produce to donate to a local food pantry. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

Captain Phillip Stokes, Salvation Army of Goldsboro corps officer, left, accepts donated produce from Melanie Simon at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020.

Captain Phillip Stokes, Salvation Army of Goldsboro corps officer, left, accepts donated produce from Melanie Simon at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. on March 22, 2020. Simon is the organizer of a bi-monthly farmer’s market produce run that provides fresh produce to base families and donates left over produce to a local food pantry. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Victoria Boyton)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

Team Seymour is comprised of people that bring the community together in a variety of ways. Melanie Simon, an Air Force spouse and organizer of the bi-monthly produce run, embodies the wing priorities with the creation of a produce run where customers can purchase fresh produce at an affordable price.

During a trip to the local farmer’s market with her mother in October 2019, Simon envisioned the current produce run event that now services over 50 families in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

“I wondered what the cost would be if a group of us bought in bulk and then divided the produce,” said Melanie. “The result was amazing.”

The initial participating families received vegetables such as zucchinis, tomatoes, apples and a few others. The produce run grows with each new participating family.

Bi-monthly, Melanie and her husband Kevin collect funds from the participating families and purchase fresh produce in bulk from a Farmer’s Market nearby. They purchase a variety of seasonal foods and distribute the bags evenly. Within 24 hours, contributing families receive their fresh bags of produce and have the option to purchase more.

“She does the administrative part, I just help her sort and hand it out,” stated Tech. Sgt. Kevin Simon, 911th Air Refueling Squadron Non-commissioned officer in charge of readiness and training.

Kevin added, the produce run serves to bring fresh produce to families and provides an opportunity for members of Team Seymour to connect with each other.

“The people in our group network and make connections,” said Melanie. “We have a Facebook group where members share their recipes.”

During a previous produce run, the customers received aloe and eggplants. The group shared recipes about how-to make “aloe ice cubes” and an eggplant parmesan dish, stated Melanie.

The number of participants has grown so much that during the most recent produce run, the Simons’ needed to rent a trailer for all the food.

Tina Anderson, a produce run customer and Air Force spouse, added, “My family has participated since the beginning and plans to continue taking part in the produce run. It’s cheaper than purchasing the stuff from a grocery store, and we know that we’re getting it all fresh. I also like that the extra produce is donated to charities.”

During this produce run, the participants raised funds to purchase more than $200 worth of produce to donate.

“This is great,” said Captain Phillip Stokes, Salvation Army of Goldsboro corps officer. “The more donations we receive, the more people we are able to help.”

The Salvation Army of Goldsboro has a men’s shelter where they provide a hot meal to their guests, added Stokes. They also have a food pantry open daily for families to receive both perishable and non-perishable food items.

Melanie said, the produce run plans to continue donating to local organizations and grow to provide more base families with fresh produce.

“I think that it’s important to be assets to the community we live in,” said Melanie. “We are able to support local farmers and give to local charities in our area. Keeping the connection between the military community and the local community is a crucial part of our goal.”

Melanie hopes that other bases incorporate a produce run to their community to aid their communities to both receive fresh produce and bond their team.

In response to COVID-19, Melanie coordinated delivery of the bulk produce eliminating the need for her to drive out to the farmer’s market to purchase goods.