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Woman repurposes restaurant produce to help people amid the COVID-19 crisis

Posted at 3:12 PM, Jul 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-13 17:27:20-04

DENVER — As we begin to rebound, we start to see things like farmers' markets return. But one tent is brand new at the One Belleview Station Farmers' Market in Denver.

A laid-off barista started the LittleJohn Produce Box Project amid the COVID-19 crisis. Using restaurant suppliers, she's boxing up fresh vegetables to be sold and donated amid the pandemic.

"This is a produce box project that was founded out of COVID-19," LittleJohn Produce founder Alexandra LittleJohn said. "I never thought I'd be slinging produce at the farmers market in a pandemic."

LittleJohn used to work in a coffee shop. When the pandemic started, she used her restaurant connections to buy produce boxes for co-workers.

"Once I got laid off, people just started sending me money and said we wanted to donate a box. So I found a way to donate the boxes," she said.

So she started selling the boxes online and at farmers' markets, like the one at Belleview Station. They're filled with locally grown fresh produce from Fresh Guys Produce that would usually be sold to restaurants, but due to the pandemic, it's not.

"It would just go to waste, and the farmers wouldn't be getting their full price for them," she said.

She wanted to help farmers, the food sellers, and of course, the people who need the fresh food.

"We use some of the profits for operating expenses like buying a banner getting a tent or paying for gas, but then we also buy boxes to give back to other people," LittleJohn said.

They have sold almost 800 boxes so far, and with the help of sponsors, they've donated over 350 boxes.

Now she's applying for 501(c)(3) status to get grants and do even more.

"It makes me feel like I'm contributing in a positive way to just get us through this. We're all in this together," she said.