Men Alive produce stand provides jobs skills, fresh food for community

by Kate Stoltzfus for The Elkhart Truth,  June 14, 2014
This venture may brand new, but Men Alive began in January 2014 through Church Community Services. The life and work skills program runs 20 weeks, giving men who are unemployed or just out of prison a fresh start. There are eight participants between the ages of 21 and 60, who will finish the program in August. Sean Murphy, director of Men Alive, calls the month of June a “soft opening” for the stand — an opportunity to train, learn and grow.
“A big part of the program is to empower and increase job skills,” Murphy said. “We’re using social enterprise and the stand as a tool to empower skills and also service the community.”
The program currently gets produce from Wakarusa Produce Auction and has a partnership with Rise Up Farms in Elkhart. The goal, said Murphy, is to sell only produce from Elkhart County, and the plan is to expand to a wide variety of produce items as the project develops.
Each week, one or two participants will go to the produce auction and area farms to bid on what to buy for the stand.
“As weeks go on, we hope to develop relationships with farmers in other areas,” Murphy said. “It’s basic wholesale and resale: understanding what products are needed, what is freshest, what will sell, what customers are willing to pay, what the auctioneer says. These are universal principles and we’re all learning at the same time.”
The larger plan is to start a garden for the program in the next year, so the men can sell food they grow themselves. Men Alive currently helps with Church Community Services’ Seed to Feed garden, which provides food to local pantries.