growing community

This week we would love to share with you about two local food relief/food justice-oriented programs we have been working with this summer.  As was mentioned in our last post we started off the season by spending some weekends volunteering at Not Bread Alone(NBA), a CHD program-soup kitchen in Amherst which is run by Bob Stover. NBA serves meals to the community on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons with canned goods and bulk veggies available on Saturdays. As the season moves along, we have been able to donate food to NBA from our harvests supplying mostly zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers. We are so grateful to know and have the opportunity to work with Bob and the many volunteers that come to NBA as well as have the opportunity to help those in need.

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A few weeks ago, the UMass Student Farm took a trip to Gardening the Community, a food justice, youth oriented, urban agriculture non-profit located in Springfield Massachusetts.  Ruth Hazzard, long-time supporter and former co-founder of the UMass Student Farm helped initiate the connection and workday. We met with Ibrahim Ali, the co-director of programs and marketing, to spend a day working on the sites GTC has and listen to what programs are offered. GTC grows vegetables and fruits with youths of middle and high school age to sell for their CSA called “GRTC Eats!”, their Walnut St. community farm store, and to deliver to farmers markets and individuals via bike! We were able to take a look at their new youth-run farm stand and their sites for growing on Walnut St. and Hancock St. Much of the program’s success comes from how well it has been received by the youth in the area, and much of the day to day work is done by youth in the community including running the farm stand and managing the crops. Youth even participate on the board and some receive a stipend for their work and education about the food system and sustainable urban agriculture and living. GTC aims to address some of the lack of access to healthy foods in Springfield through educating and empowering youth within their community to grow and distribute their food. We had a great time spending the day weeding beds and talking with some of the employees and local community members that were on site.  Volunteer days are on Saturdays from ~9am to 1pm, meeting at 200 Walnut St. in Springfield..learn more here!

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An evolution and expansion…introducing UMass Student Farm Food Access Initiative

As the 2019 farm season is underway, there are new exciting developments happening for Food for All. In past years, Food for All has functioned primarily as its own single entity with a focus on growing food for donation and providing food security education to students at UMass Amherst. During the 2018 season, a connection between Food for All and The UMass Student Farm was strengthened through the efforts of the Food for All Program Manager, Kayleigh Boucher, who was also on the Student Farm. The connection allowed for both groups to pool their resources which has yielded greater impact in both the Amherst and Campus communities. Working with the Student Farm has allowed for Food for All to access a much larger source of excess produce for donations as well as access to a larger work force of passionate students. Last season Food for All and the Student Farm were able to donate over 10,000 pounds of produce together! Ultimately, the combo proved itself worthy of repeating. 

This year we are making the connection between Food for All and The Student Farm official.  Allison Driscoll and Nick Ferlazzo, with guidance from faculty Sarah Berquist & Amanda Brown, will be leading food donation efforts this 2019 season. As of this year, we will be going by the title of:

 The UMass Student Farm Food Access Initiative!

For the past few weeks the new The UMass Student Farm Food Access Initiative  program co-managers have been working on the Umass Student Farm getting the fields prepared and plants in the ground. There are usually varying amounts of excess materials and produce when farming and at the student farm we prioritize donating whatever excess we have to those who could use it before composting. We have begun developing a relationship with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center’s new Coop Workers Farm and were able to donate excess starts of potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers to another new emerging community farm.  We have also been able to donate some of our brassica crops and summer squash to local families.

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Allison Driscoll and Morgan Reppert cleaning up shop at CHD’s Not Bread Alone 

 

As the season progresses we look forward to switching gears from plant-start donations to food donations and volunteer hours! Later on this month the student farm crew will travel to Springfield to volunteer for a day with Gardening The Community, a food justice organization engaged in youth development, urban agriculture, and sustainable living. We are also hoping to get in contact with farms close to our South Deerfield location to ask if we could pick up any excess produce at the end of the week as a part of our donation drop-off to the Western Mass Food Bank. All in all, we are having a great start to the season and are making a lot of plans…stay tuned!

 

Welcoming Our New Program Managers!

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2019 UMass Student Farm crew in the field.

Welcome Allison Driscoll and Nick Ferlazzo, our new program managers for the 2019 season! They are both also on the 2019 UMass Student Farm crew. They will be working this summer and fall to redirect excess food grown on the Student Farm to our community partners Not Bread Alone and the Amherst Survival Center. They will also be growing nearly half an acre of flowers for donation, working to coordinate community events around local food insecurity, and working with the Student Food Pantry and UMass Permaculture to increase food access on campus. We are so blessed to have these two dedicated, hard-working, inspiring students on board! Welcome to the team, Allison and Nick!

IMG_0561Allison Driscoll is a Senior majoring in Sustainable Food and Farming at UMass. Allison was born and raised in Northampton, MA and loved growing up in the vibrant Pioneer Valley community. Being surrounded by local farms, they were drawn to pursue an education in sustainable farming. They discovered their passion for food justice while running a chapter of a club called Artists Striving to End Poverty in high school. This summer, Allison will be organizing Food Justice community events for UMass and Amherst, working with our community partners Not Bread Alone and The Amherst Survival Center, and working on the UMass Student Farm crew. They are eager to strengthen the connections between Food for All, the Student Farm, and the UMass and Amherst communities to create a united front against food insecurity.

60855541_2441179245913338_5980634323504594944_oNick Ferlazzo is a senior in the Sustainable Food and Farming major at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture and is a part of the Student Farm and the Student Farm Food Access Initiative. Before attending UMass, Nick worked on organic farms in Pioneer Valley as a crew member and harvest manager. He has also had experience implementing permaculture and grey water design strategies on production properties in Arizona. Nick is excited to be a part of the donation delivery process this summer and to build our relationships with local food relief organizations.

 

 

 

 

Food For All’s Sarah Berquist Receives Major Award for Community Engagement

Sustainable food Instructor Sarah Berquist and student assistant Kayleigh Boucher at the  Faculty Honors Dinner April 29, 2019.

Sarah Berquist, faculty support for the Food For All Program, with 2018 F4A Manager Kayleigh Boucher, at the Faculty Honors Dinner to receive her award in April.

Congratulations to Sarah Berquist, faculty support for the Food For All Program, for receiving the UMass Distinguished Community Engagement Award for Teaching on April 29, 2019. We are so excited to honor Sarah’s dedication to our community and to food justice! She received this award for the work that she has done with CHD’s Not Bread Alone, the Amherst Survival Center, and the School Garden Program at Amherst Regional Public Schools. 

Sarah has been working with the School Garden Program at Amherst Regional Public Schools for years to mentor students who design and execute garden-based lessons for elementary students. Additionally, as the co-founder and faculty support for the Food For All Program, she has been working with local relief organizations Not Bread Alone and the Amherst Survival Center to increase food access in our community.

For the past five years, Food For All has donated thousands of pounds of organic, nutritious, fresh produce, herbs, and flowers to these local organizations. In collaboration with the UMass Student Farm, over 10,000 lbs of produce was recovered and redistributed to Not Bread alone, the Amherst Survival Center, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in 2018!  

Not Bread Alone (NBA) is a community meal program that provides fresh, nutritious, free meals with local ingredients three days a week. They provide free, homemade, hot meals every Saturday and Sunday at 12 pm and every Wednesday at 4pm. Donated groceries are distributed every Saturday at 12:45 pm. They also have counselors on site to help guests resolve issues such as housing, food stamp applications, health insurance, and employment. Not Bread Alone is located in the lower level of the First Congregational Church (165 Main St., Amherst, MA). Everyone is welcome to help cook, clean, or just enjoy the warm, delicious food!

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Bob Stover of Not Bread Alone, pictured right, holding a bunch of beets and a Not Bread Alone volunteer, pictured left, with flower bouquets she made.

For the past five years, Sarah has been working with the help of UMass students to grow produce, herbs, and flowers for Not Bread Alone to help them increase the amount of local, organic, and fresh ingredients they can offer in their weekly meals. This collaboration and work would not be possible without the steadfast dedication of Bob Stover (Not Bread Alone’s Program Supervisor), Connie Rust (Not Bread Alone’s kitchen leader), and all of the dedicated community members and volunteers that work in the kitchens of Not Bread Alone every week.  

Not Bread Alone depends on volunteers and donations to do this important work of supporting each other in our community. Please consider donating to Not Bread Alone if you have the means here. Or purchase the Not Bread Alone Cookbook for almost 150 pages of delicious recipes, photography, and poetry here!

To volunteer or donate to Not Bread Alone visit their website:

https://chd.org/adult-services/community-based-programs/bread-alone/help/

For more information about Sarah’s award, visit this article:
https://www.umass.edu/newsoffice/article/sustainable-food-instructor-sarah-berquist

 

Food For All Farmers’ Market

Blog by: Braeden Leinhart, Fall 2018 Food For All Student
Edited by: Kayleigh Boucher, 2018 For For All Manager 

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The UMass Student Farm encouraged customers to purchase produce to be donated to the Amherst Survival Center at the Food For All Farmers’ Market in Fall 2018.

On November 9, the UMass Student Farmers’ Market devoted a week to Sustainability and represented the theme by emphasizing the importance of equitable food access, justice, sovereignty, and security. In addition to the usual Student Farmers Market vendors, additional tents and tables were set up by different UMass student-led organizations including Food For All, the UMass Student Food Pantry, and the UMass Food Recovery Network.  The UMass Student Farm also facilitated leadership during the Farmers’ Market by promoting and hosting a Buy One Give One sale, where customers had the opportunity to purchase additional produce and donate it. They also encouraged their CSA members to donate goods from their CSA share which were undesirable to them. All fresh food donations collected during this event were donated to Amherst Survival Center and Not Bread Alone Soup Kitchen.

Our mission as representatives of Food For All on this day was to engage in dialogue with the student body, and talk about what Food Access and Security means to both us and them. We set up several interactive stations that were designed to engage participants of 1000x750.jpeg.397e5463deac4226902ef536c9d2762dthe activities with different components of the food system which we interact with regularly.  One activity station visually articulated our current food system and eloquently illustrated the complex web of interconnectedness allowing it to happen day after day. However, as magnificent and miraculous as our food system is, there are several aspects within it that lack efficiency and result in food waste and insecurity. We demonstrated the food waste aspect by asking participants to fill a compost bucket with what they thought would be an appropriate amount of food wasted on average per person per day. The result of this activity usually ended with a Food For All representative adding additional food into the compost bucket indicating that more food is being wasted than most people realize.

Another activity set up by Food For All designed for Farmers Market patrons to participate in was a food justice pledge. This activity encouraged individuals to think about how our actions may impact our food system, and how we may find a way to remediate harmful characteristics of it by changing the way we see and treat our food and behaviors that revolve around it. I was fortunate to have some really great conversations with participants and they seemed eager to make a pledge applicable to their life after talking about food waste and insecurity in our communities and on campus.

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Gleaned sweet potatoes distributed for free at the market.

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Soup made with gleaned sweet potatoes served for free at the market.

Lastly, Food For All set up a table upon which we put butternut squash and sweet potatoes that were free for people to take. The butternut squash had been gleaned from the UMass Student Farm, and the sweet potatoes were recovered from Lakeside Organic Farm, just off campus in Hadley. The response people had to the free food was pure joy and excitement. Those who chose to take some for themselves seemed really eager to go home from the market and prepare something with the food that they had just played a part in recovering. It was a gift to talk about issues within food and justice with the UMass community, have an opportunity to share some of what I have learned this semester with Food For All, and to have learned something new with each person I talked to on this day.

Flowers for All

Blog by: Jacqueline Williams 

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Food For All students delivering flower donations to Not Bread Alone.

At Food For All, we dedicate ourselves to fulfilling our mission of working with local relief organizations to recover and deliver locally grown produce to the surrounding community. In doing so, we hope to provide easier access to fresh, healthy food to those who would not have access otherwise. We strongly believe that everyone should have enough food to sustain themselves through their daily activities and that having the power to make choices in what you are eating is important.

One organization we work closely with is CHD’s Not Bread Alone, a program that distributes donated grocery items every Saturday and that provides free community meals three days a week. Part of our connection to Not Bread Alone is volunteering at the facility outside of our deliveries to them. By participating in that part of the process, we are able to actively see how the work we do impacts real people in our community. One experience that has really stuck with me in its impact is when we brought and distributed flowers to one of NBA’s Saturday dinners.

We spent the morning in the Food For All garden searching for, picking, and trimming the best flowers we could find. By the end, we had found ourselves with a few buckets stuffed with a lovely variety of zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, and sunflowers. After gathering some of them up into bouquets and picking up the vegetables we were planning to deliver that day, we packed the truck and we went.

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From left to right: Jackie Williams, Kayleigh Boucher, and Braden Leinhart making mini bouquets for Not Bread Alone patrons. 

Upon arrival, we set up our table full of bouquets, loose flowers (so people could make their own bunches as they please), and food for donation. Not Bread Alone patrons came up one-by-one, taking their choice of flowers as they left. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to see the joy that something as simple as flowers brought. Our aim for this was to bring something beautiful to our community members, in hopes that it would brighten their day (even in the slightest).

The smiles and the warmth in the room spoke for itself. 10/10 times, I would relive this experience and help out again. I learned just how important it is to think more about the things that I may sometimes take for granted, and to never underestimate how much you can make a difference. Bringing something beautiful to those who may not always have access to the luxury of flowers is a really great thing to do, because everyone deserves flowers, regardless of socioeconomic status.

To support Not Bread Alone through donations or volunteering, or to access their resources available to all, visit their website. 

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Zinnias grown in the Food For All garden for donation to Not Bread Alone. 

Sweet Potato Gleaning Effort

Blog by: Melissa Bonaccorso, Fall 2018 Food For All Student 

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(From left to right) Melissa Bonaccorso, Braeden Leinhart, Dan Bensonoff, Courtney Spera, and Michi with 500 lbs of gleaned sweet potatoes from Joe Czajkowski Farm.

In late October, a group of Food for All and UMass Permaculture members had the pleasure of gleaning sweet potatoes from Joe Cjakowski Farm in Amherst. Gleaning is the process of going to a farm and collecting produce that might not be high enough quality for the farmer to sell, but is still good enough to eat. Kayleigh Boucher, Courtney Spera, Braeden Leinhart, Melissa Bonaccorso, Dan Bensonoff, and his three-year-old son, Michi, teamed up to glean 500 lbs of sweet potatoes within two hours! The veggies were used to benefit local efforts to serve those in need, such as Not Bread Alone and the Food For All Farmer’s Market which was hosted on November 9th.

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Student Kayleigh Boucher (pictured right) helping a community member sort through gleaned sweet potatoes to take home.

Despite rampant food insecurity in the United States, 30- 40% of food produced here is ultimately wasted. A good portion of this is produce that never even makes it to the grocery store and is simply left in the fields to rot. Often, this is due to the incredibly high standards we have about what our food should look like, which ultimately controls what is able to be sold. This can be partially attributed to how, collectively, our society experiences a tragic disconnect from our food.

As our gleaning operation kicked off, we were all immediately amazed at how much food we were able to collect. While it took some time to sift through crops that were on their way to retreating back into the soil, we were still able to retrieve a substantial amount of sweet potatoes from this field – many of which were funky fun shapes!

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Braden Leinhart, Sustainable Food and Farming Student at UMass, digging for sweet potatoes at Joe Czajkowski Farm.

Upon committing to this project, I admittedly was reluctant to waking up early on a Saturday to do this work. But my attitude was quickly turned around by the brisk autumn morning air, the quiet of the open field surrounded by the sight of the last several colored leaves still clinging to their branches, the brilliant attitudes of my companions, and the satisfaction that always comes with starting the day bright and early. Perhaps the most uplifting out of all of us was three-year-old Michi. I always find children to be an inspiring presence, because of how they help us look at the world and everything in it as a fresh experience and every task as a game. Michi gleefully searched alongside us for salvageable potatoes, and excitedly squealed “I FOUND ONE!” every several minutes, sometimes holding up potatoes as big as his head. With Michi by our side, the energy in the field was positive, and gleaning became a much better way to spend a Saturday morning than sleeping in. Aside from the fun of the work itself, it was eye-opening to connect more directly with the concepts of food waste and food security, and to see hands-on how these two issues could be addressed simultaneously if we were to take large-scale collective action.

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Michi, holding up a sweet potato he harvested.

We are incredibly grateful to Joe Cjakowski Farm for allowing us to come and collect food for donations. It is inspiring to be surrounded by a farming community in the Pioneer Valley that is dedicated not only to providing the area with healthy food, but also to working collaboratively with the community at large and helping to combat food insecurity.

 

 

 

Free Fall 2018 CSA Shares to Food Insecure UMass Community Members

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Jackie Montminy, Farm Manager conversing with a CSA member as he picks up his share.

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Student Farm grown flowers available in one week’s share.

Last week was the last pickup for the Student Farm’s 2018 Fall CSA (Community Supportd Agriculure) share. Funded by the UMass Sustainability Initiative and Engagement Fund (SIEF) and with the help of Food For All Program Coordinator Kayleigh Boucher, the UMass Student Farm offered 25 free CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) this past 2018 season for food insecure members of the UMass campus community.

SIEF is a Sustainable UMass initiative that was created to supply funding and support for student-led sustainability projects on campus. In the Spring of 2018, SIEF granted $8,500 to the Student Farm to cover the cost of 25 fall CSA shares to be offered for free. Applicants were accepted on a first-come first serve basis and made up 20% of the Student Farm’s 115 person 2018 CSA this season. The 25 free shares fed 25 families, or an estimated 75 people, for 10 weeks this fall.

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Student Farm CSA Pickup at the Student Farmers’ Market on Goodell Lawn every Friday of the Fall semester from 12-4.

The  25 available shares filled up in a matter of days after being advertised, and 25 families is a drop in the bucket on a campus of over 30,000 people. At UMass, up to 23% of undergraduate students and 26% of graduate students cut or skipped a meal because they didn’t have enough money to buy food (Clark & Harris, 2015). These free shares were claimed by undergraduate and graduate students of all genders and from all departments. The Student Farm hopes to be able to secure funding for this initiative again for next season and to be able to offer more than 25 shares in the future.

Thanks so much to Sustainable UMass and the Sustainability Initiative and Engagement  Fund (SIEF), the Student Farmers and Managers Jackie and Amanda, Food For All’s Sarah Berquist, and the Stockbridge School of Agriculture for enabling this initiative to happen!

Email the Student Farm at studentfarm.enterprise@gmail.com to inquire about future free CSA shares and other food access initiatives.

To be notified about volunteer opportunities with Food For All fill out this form.

 

 

 

Bouquet Making at the Amherst Survival Center

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Kayleigh making bouquets at the Amherst Survival Center.

Last year Food For All Student Garden Coordinators Grace and Kate visited the Amherst Survival Center and handed out flowers to patrons there. The event seemed to be enjoyed and appreciated by community members that took flowers with them as they left. This year, our zinnias were seeded as a last minute decision in hopes that we would have enough to do a similar event at the Survival Center again.

On August 23rd, Food For All Student Manager Kayleigh picked all of our best flowers and brought three heaping buckets to the Survival Center including zinnias, celosia, marigolds, sunflowers, and cosmos. Each flower was carefully cut and laid on the table for visitors at the Center to make bouquets or to order one custom-made.

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Merav and Kyle, Student Farmers, help Kayleigh weed our zinnias this July.

Providing flowers to an organization like the Amherst Survival Center is important because everyone deserves access to beauty, not just those with access to wealth. Our hope is that a minuscule act such as making a bouquet for someone to enjoy or give to someone they love could make them feel just a little lighter.

Many thanks to the Amherst Survival Center for inviting us! To learn about how to utilize the resources they offer, visit their website. If you would like to make a donation to their organization, click here.

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Food For All zinnias, ready to be delivered to the Amherst Survival Center.

Combining Forces with the UMass Student Farm

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2018 UMass Student Farmers

For the past four seasons, the Food for All program has managed nearly an acre-large donation garden and has grown and donated hundreds of pounds of food each year.  This season, Food For All is scaling back our production to focus more on distributing food being grown on campus that is already in excess. Through our transition from production to redistribution in 2018 we intend to create a more sustainable campus food system by using time, energy, and resources more efficiently. We are still growing sunflowers, herbs, and raspberries in the Food For All garden but the UMass Student Farm has put most of the garden in flower production.

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Student Farmers harvesting swiss chard at their South Deerfield farm.

Food For All is working primarily with the UMass Student Farm to integrate food donation and waste reduction more efficiently and effectively into their production systems. The Student Farm manages over ten acres of land and sells most of their produce to Big Y and UMass Dining. For many different reasons, there is inevitably food that cannot be sold through these two markets. This summer Food For All and the Student Farm have been working to develop a sustainable donation system that can be passed down to future student farmers to recover excess food the Student Farm is producing. So far this season over 2,000 pounds have been recovered from the Student Farm and donated to Not Bread Alone, the Amherst Survival Center, the First Baptist Church in Amherst, and the Food Bank of Western MA.

 

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Oregano, chives, sage, and raspberries from the Food For All garden.

A huge thanks to Not Bread Alone, the Amherst Survival Center, the First Baptist Church in Amherst, and the Food Bank of Western MA for partnering with Food For All and the UMass Student Farm. We appreciate your collaboration in the fight to reduce food waste and address food insecurity in Amherst. To learn more about these organizations or volunteer, visit their websites listed below:
Not Bread Alone: https://chd.org/adult-services/community-based-programs/bread-alone/
Amherst Survival Center: https://amherstsurvival.org/
First Baptist Church Amherst: http://www.fbcamherst.org/food-pantry/
Food Bank of Western MA: https://www.foodbankwma.org/