Produce Project uses wholesale buying to get veggies to Raleigh’s needy

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Every Thursday, Mike Shumake spends his day grocery shopping, then packs up hundreds of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We went online and said, ‘Hey, how about ten of us buy in bulk and wholesale,’ and then what happened was everyone got 20 tomatoes,” Shumake said. “And nobody needs 20 tomatoes.”

And so, what started as a way for his family to get a better deal on vegetables turned into the Produce Project.

“People go to the website and they buy a share of produce for $18,” he said. “We take all the money on Thursday morning and we take it to the farmers market and we buy as much as we can in bulk and wholesale.”

Shumake said it’s a frugal way to get fresh produce.

“Sometimes what they’d pay for it at the grocery store is about $50 or $60 dollars,” he said.

But that’s not the whole point. Last year, the nonprofit donated more than 12,000 pounds of fresh produce to Raleigh families in need.

“The whole business model is a vehicle for donation,” he said.

The donations come from the surplus that’s leftover after they make up the customers’ boxes.

“It’s helped out a lot, just makes you feel happy, good about yourself every day,” said volunteer Seth Griffin. “You wake up, you know you’re helping somebody, just giving up your time to help needy families get some food.”

People are also encouraged to leave behind what they don’t need.

“It feels like not only am I getting a deal but I’m helping some other people out too,” said Lauren Strohofer, a customer.

Still other people buy shares strictly for donation. Those cost $15, rather than $18.

Now, Shumake is working to raise enough money to bring his project into schools.

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