From Left to Right: BriarPatch Owner Relationship Coordinator Chelle Wheatley, BriarPatch General Manager Chris Maher and Bob Thurman, Interfaith Food Ministry Board President in the cooler at the food distribution center.

Grass Valley March 24, 2020 – In an effort to feed Western Nevada County’s hungry during COVID-19, BriarPatch Food Co-op and Earl’s Organic Produce teamed up to donate four pallets totaling 2,501 pounds of fresh produce to Interfaith Food Ministry (IFM).

“The Co-op has been a lifeline for so many people during this challenging time and we’re grateful we can support them. But we know there are community members really struggling right now. We wanted to give back to families who lost their jobs or are staying home with their kids without much to eat,” said BriarPatch Marketing Manager Rebecca Torpie.

“Earl’s Organic wants to do our part to help people in need during this time of health safety. We are happy to partner with our long-time customer BriarPatch Food Co-op to donate organic produce to IFM, an organization they support throughout the year,” said Susan Simitz Marketing and Social Media Manager for Earl’s Organic Produce.

Tuesday morning, a driver from Earl’s Organic Produce delivered more than a ton of asparagus, oranges, apples, sweet potatoes, Swiss Chard, kale, cilantro, parsley, Romaine lettuce, spring mix lettuce, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, tomato and mandarins valued at $2,000 to IFM. The organic produce will be added to bags of groceries to be distributed on Wednesday and Friday to meet a growing demand for fresh food from families experiencing food insecurity.

“This is really critical. That’s what people are short on,” said Bob Thurman, IFM Board President.

The food is supplemental for people living with limited means like limited refrigeration or storage space, people who can’t store food for long periods of time.

Currently, 14,000, or roughly one of seven Nevada County residents live in food insecure households. In 2019, IFM served 8069 individuals. With COVID-19, IFM is seeing a flush of new clients – people who have recently lost jobs and families struggling after the closure of schools throughout the county.

“We’ve noticed a three-fold increase of new clients. This seems to be a trend with people losing their jobs and being uncertain,” said Thurman.

At a time of greater need, IFM has lost half of its volunteers because many are over 65, seniors in high risk groups who are following state mandated stay at home orders in light of the pandemic.

Interfaith Food Ministry plans to continue its curbside/ drive through distribution days from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. IFM is also working with the Food Bank of Nevada County to identify where the gaps are.

“Everyone is coming together and helping,” said Thurman.

Food Supply Remains Strong

“Now more than ever, there is a need to provide people and their families with fresh healthy food during a time of economic and job uncertainty. Earl’s intention is to eliminate as much concern about one’s food supply as we are able,” said Simitz.

The donation comes at a time when national food supply chains have come under tremendous stress yet remain strong, vibrant and able to serve and be accountable in times of crisis, said Earl Herrick, Owner and Founder of Earl’s Organic Produce.

Earl’s partners with more than 300 sustainable growers to deliver a full line of organic produce to its customers – a mix of restaurants, natural food co-ops, independent retailers, regional grocery markets and national chain stores between Arcata and Monterey and a few select retailers scattered across the country and in Hawaii.

“The virus has challenged us to reflect on our responsibility to all we serve – providers, employees and their families and our customers,” said Herrick.

How to Help

For those that want to help and do more locally, it is “March Matching” an important fundraising month for IFM, a campaign that funds about one-third of the organization’s annual budget. With IFM’s buying power, every $1 donation goes far, as much as two to five times its value to purchase supplies that are needed.

“We’re getting more smaller donations. I think because of what’s happening, people are seeing the need.”

With seniors staying at home, more volunteers are needed from everything like on-the-ground pre-packaging Tuesday and Thursdays, distribution days on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and for those that prefer to stay home, there are admin tasks available.

Learn more:

Know & Go

Interfaith Food Ministry: Distributes food 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 440 Henderson St. in Grass Valley (to the left of the Prosperity Lanes Bowling Alley and the Beam Easy Living Center). For information, go to or call 530-273-8132

The amount of food provided depends on family size. Each family can come to one distribution every two weeks. New clients are asked to bring a photo ID and a proof of address. Clients who are making the decision to stay home due to high risk reasons can send a pick-up person to get their groceries for them, with a signed note

BriarPatch Food Co-op is a community-owned cooperative business. We provide our community with quality food and products, strengthen our local economy, and support local/regional businesses that are committed to regenerative agriculture, sustainability, humane practices, and organic farming.