How Local Farms Support Food Security in Western MA
Local Farms Help Cultivate Our Community
We are fortunate to live in a very special part of the country, allowing for the growth and harvest of a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables. There is a seemingly endless number of farms in our region, many of which generously provide a portion of their annual harvest to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts throughout the year. Their commitment to helping feed our neighbors in need has continued to strengthen our community.
Much of the food donated by farms is produce that is cosmetically imperfect, yet is perfectly fine to eat. It may be either too large or too small for what supermarkets are looking to stock on their shelves. Farmers would typically throw these items away, or use them as cow feed.
“It’s really nice to have a place to take this food and have it distributed, because we don’t have the ability to distribute it ourselves,” explains Wally Czajkowski of Plainville Farm in Hadley. “We know that someone is eating it somewhere. That’s what counts.”
The donated produce is collected by The Food Bank, and sorted and packed by our staff and volunteers. Once prepared, it is distributed to our member agencies (comprised of food pantries, shelters and meal sites). It will also be distributed through our own direct-to-client programs, which includes our Mobile Food Bank, and Brown Bag: Food for Elders program.
These donations help support us in a number of ways. Not only does it allow us to provide more nutritious food to some of our area’s most vulnerable populations, it also enables us to use our limited resources to purchase other necessary foods throughout the entire year. Working together with our local farms, we are truly strengthening the roots of the emergency food network in our community.
Since 2009, The Food Bank has enjoyed a very unique and important relationship with Mountain View Farms, a community supported agriculture farm in Easthampton. They lease use of The Food Bank’s farmland in Hadley, in exchange for 100,000 pounds of fresh, chemical-free produce to distribute to food pantries, meal sites and shelters. During last year’s growing season, Mountain View Farms was our largest food donor, providing nearly 200,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We feel that making fresh, healthy, local produce available to families and individuals struggling with hunger is an important part of our mission as farmers and small business owners in the Pioneer Valley,” explains Liz Adler of Mountain View Farms.
In partnership with Hilltown Families, The Food Bank will be hosting a special Family Volunteer Day on Saturday, October 31 from 9 – 11:30am. Be sure to wear your costumes for this Halloween-themed event, as it will be providing a fun opportunity to learn about the issue of food insecurity in our region and the impact it has on the community. All ages are welcome, as families are invited to help prepare food to be distributed to pantries and meal sites across Western Massachusetts, and enjoy fun cooking activities from our nutrition staff. Reservations are required by contacting The Food Bank’s Education Coordinator at 413-247-9738 or sign up here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Wojcik is the Marketing & Communications Manager at The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts is committed to feeding our neighbors in need and leading the community to end hunger. Founded in 1982, The Food Bank is the leading provider of emergency food that reaches individuals and families in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties. From their warehouse in Hatfield, they distribute food to their member agencies (which include food pantries, meal sites and shelters) throughout the region. They continue to build a stronger community through a variety of initiatives, including our Mobile Food Bank, SNAP outreach, nutrition education, and our Brown Bag: Food for Elders program.