NEW PORT RICHEY
The New Port Richey Library's offerings already go way beyond books, with free concerts, digital music, exercise equipment and line-dancing classes.
So why not fresh produce?
Thanks to a new arrangement with Tampa Bay Organics, an organic produce delivery service, library patrons getting fresh reads can also pick up fresh fruits and vegetables.
This month the library became an official co-op partner of Lutz-based Tampa Bay Organics. Patrons can go online to order boxes of fresh produce, which are delivered to the library each Tuesday — a day the staff now calls Tasty Tuesday.
"We want to do something to sustain the community and improve the health of residents," said Ann Scott, the library's outreach director.
It was Scott's interest in organic gardening that inspired the program.
"I've always been interested in organically grown foods, for my own health, the health of my family, and of the planet holistically," she said.
Organically grown fruits and vegetables are produced without genetically modified organisms, pesticides, preservatives and other chemicals. "These fruits and vegetables haven't been tampered with," Scott said.
When representatives of Tampa Bay Organics appeared at a library Earth Day event, Scott asked them about offering a weekly produce delivery, with 10 percent of all proceeds going to the New Port Richey Friends of the Library organization, which in turn supports library programs.
Once the library became a co-op, Scott and library director Susan Dillinger were among the first to order fruit and vegetable boxes that contain everything from blueberries to baby carrots, oranges to tomatoes, artichokes to bananas, peaches to mangoes. Boxes are available for $29.50 for a small box, $38 for a medium box and $47.50 for a large box. Add-ons such as coffee and honey can be ordered.
Scott posted an informational blog and video about the program on the library website, along with a recipe for a smoothie made from organic rhubarb, blueberries, banana and tangelos.
"You can order an all-fruit box, an all-vegetable box, or a mixture," said Jessica Papesh, marketing director of Tampa Bay Organics. "You also can do some substitutes and trade outs, if there are items on the box menu you don't like."
Papesh says that the New Port Richey Library marks the first fundraising co-op for their organization; and she hopes that, aside from raising funds for the library, this project will raise awareness as well.
"We need to get the word out there to eat healthy and be healthy," she said.
Along with offering books and multimedia presentations about the value of nutritious organic foods, the library co-op program will do much to further that goal, Scott said. And in the near future, she said, the Suncoast Co-Op also will offer its locally grown, organic and pesticide-free produce through the library co-op program.
"This goes back to the core of the library's purpose," she said, "to share information."