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Vacation Vittles youth program connects vacationers with locally-grown produce

Published: Jun. 25, 2021 at 11:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - A program based out of Delco is connecting beach vacationers with fresh produce grown locally in southeastern North Carolina.

Youth ambassadors with Men and Women United for Youth and Families serve as the bridge between the farm-fresh produce and people visiting Brunswick County beaches.

The program is called Vacation Vittles, and runs for 14 weeks over the Summer.

“The fact that we can work with the youth in the community to help put these bags together and they actually — by doing this, they actually are making money, so that they can make money over the summer,” said Sabrina Wallace, Vacation Vittles program manager. “It helps benefit them as well as the vacationers to help get local produce.”

Every Friday, youth ambassadors with Men and Women United for Youth and Families gather to fill produce bags. The fruits and vegetables are harvested from farms across three counties.

“The produce comes from local farmers all around this area: Brunswick, Columbus and Bladen counties,” said Molly Bennett, a Vacation Vittles intern.

Then those produce bags are delivered to drop sites at all the Brunswick County beaches. Vacationers order the produce in advance. The bags are $45 for about 10 pounds of food.

The youth ambassadors even helped pick some of the produce.

“It’s pretty much fun, it’s a good way to spend your summer and just like not being bored — it was hot though,” said Ja’Mya Hazel, a youth ambassador.

Some farmers dropped off their crops to be put in the bags. Monisha Brooks with Grow Green Acres brought two bushels of pattypan squash and round zucchini.

“It’s absolutely wonderful that we have vacationers that are coming to the east coast from all over and they get to taste our products — taste the flora and fauna of our local area. I think this is a great program,” Brooks said.

Vacation Vittles is fruitful in more ways than one.

“It’s good benefits and stuff and you get — better than sitting in the house — and you get paid,” said Cameron Blanks, a youth ambassador.

“You’re teaching them to be entrepreneurs, you’re giving them a connection to the land,” Brooks said.

Vacationers who have received the produce bags have weighed in as well.

“A lot of them are just so impressed with our produce bags and they always send us emails letting us know they’ll be back next year,” Wallace said.

Wallace said that while the program currently only runs through the summer, they are hoping to expand it to be year round soon.

This program is in collaboration with People-First Tourism through NC State University.

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