Flowers for All

Blog by: Jacqueline Williams 

43580112_1969364076440135_2569389748753793024_n

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.

42461356_1952569938119549_24390582403072000_n.jpg

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. 

IMG_3499.jpg

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

Advertisements

Sweet Potato Gleaning Effort

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

45034014_1982289075143648_4373456255671336960_n

(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.

45817443642_29f6ba634e_o.jpg

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!

44985058_1982289188476970_8449252504427823104_n.jpg

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.

44921178_1982289248476964_5833855766078947328_n

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

31648937628_159a6b810e_o.jpg

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

44383612745_dfee13f301_o (1)

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.

29856227652_f8dbfd91ba_o-1.jpg

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

39959686_2231662460403647_7678129214201004032_n

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.

38716713_2214176638818896_8170962679758848000_n-e1535669803108.jpg

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.

40051355_2231662473736979_5369729827567828992_n

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

Combining Forces with the UMass Student Farm

37023402_1969771473054120_5637950303274795008_n-e1532122397649.jpg

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.

sfe2students-chard-rinsing-e1532122387112.jpg

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.

 

img_30911.jpg

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/

From the field to the Not Bread Alone Kitchen

At Food For All, our goal is to communicate with community members and figure out exactly what they need and desire at local food relief organizations. In doing so, we believe it provides a stronger connection between the volunteers and members of the community. We also hope that it gives them a sense of power to choose so that they also play an important role in what they are eating. Food for All has a unique role in the community compared to others farms because our sole purpose is to donate nutritious foods and help provide meals to the community.

IMG_5974

Mikaela Thiboutot (left) and Anna Plewa (right) getting Food For All butternuts ready for a meal at CHD’s Not Bread Alone 

As we volunteer at CHD’s Not Bread Alone as part of our work with the Food for All Garden, we’re excited to see farm to table play out in a real, hands-on experience. Not only do we harvest the vegetables, but we get to prepare them at Not Bread Alone, make a delicious meal, and then serve them to our community members. It makes us feel truly connected to the food and the purpose of the garden. It’s rewarding to participate in community work centered around food, because it brings people together in a unique way. We have to work together to make both appealing and nutritious food. There are also various levels of cooking knowledge in the kitchen, so it can be fun to learn alongside community members and our peers. We’ve both also learned so many new recipes!

How does it feel to be a student participating in the community?

Mikaela – I am from Southeastern Massachusetts. I feel that I am a temporary member of the community, since I am student at UMass Amherst and not here for a very long time. In some ways, that creates a layer of separation in community work. Most volunteers at Not Bread Alone are students, maybe getting community service hours for a class or for an organization on campus. Whether they volunteer once or for an entire semester, they are not actually a long term part of the community that will see change or the lack thereof. This might make students less invested in coming back, or make the community members feel like a charity project. However being students, especially in the Nutrition and Sustainable Food and Farming majors, we have a direct interest in learning from the community and creating solutions to improve certain situations in it. We have resources on campus, which enables Food for All to exist.  We surround ourselves with energy and creativity from our classes and peers who are also passionate about such topics like food justice. For these reasons, I think being a student actually gives us a beneficial perspective in community work.

Anna – I agree with Mikaela! As for me, although I am not a permanent resident of Amherst, I live closeby near Springfield. It’s interesting to see how the differences between communities can affect food relief organizations. It’s no surprise that Amherst relief efforts can provide fresh, local produce, since it is surrounded by farmland and numerous supermarkets. Many of these supermarkets make generous produce donations to Not Bread Alone. On the other hand, other surrounding areas, particularly in Hampden county, do not have as many local and fresh resources. Therefore, from my experience with food relief organizations in that area, donations are usually canned goods and other non-perishable items. Working in various areas with distinct differences in economic demographics and accessibility to resources has broadened my curiosity of how community building can affect food systems.

As students who study both nutrition and SFF, we constantly see connections between the two fields. It would be difficult to consider one and not the other. Agriculture and the food system play an immensely important role in nutrition and health outcomes. Food justice work can help impact a community for the long term, decreasing the prevalence of disease. Working with the Food for All garden and Not Bread alone, we get to work right at the intersection of these two fields. We hope to not only improve community access to nutritious foods but also improve health outcomes of community members.

In these two majors, we also see differences in the discussion of food sovereignty. In the nutrition major, food systems and food justice are only discussed in some classes, mostly electives. The major requirements are focused on content-heavy science courses, such as biochemistry, microbiology, and organic chemistry. Therefore, knowledge from our SFF classes has truly enriched many discussions in our nutrition classes more than the other way around. We admire our nutrition professors that stir up a discussion on food justice in their classes.  

IMG_5975

Peak Summer @ F4A

I am surprised this blog is even getting written amongst all of the weeding, harvesting, weeding, and growing (and weeding) happening in the garden. Grace, our student production manager this season, has been doing an incredible job in navigating all the tasks and miscellaneous emergencies that happen being a near full-time farmer.  This last month has been full of Grace working hard alone in the field, with Kate’s assistance, and with 20 sets of hands in the garden with the HCC/UMass Clean Energy & Sustainable Ag Summer course visiting the Food for All Garden learning about social/food justice. Amazing to see what many hands can do in just 1 hour!   We are also grateful for the help of UMass Student Farm. 

Last Friday, Grace, Kate, and I ate lunch together at Paul & Elizabeth’s to indulge AND reflect on how the season is going so far. July is a time when things can really get out of control and it can be a struggle to just keep up with the day-to-day, and not pause to reflect on what is going well, and what could be better. The 3 of us are working together really well, piecing together our schedules amongst other jobs, projects, and trying to have some summer fun.

On Friday, before our lunch, we spent some time with Bob Stover, CHD Not Bread Alone’s Meal Program Supervisor, and delivered some lettuce, kale and bunches of fresh herbs to be used in the meals over the weekend. Bob’s passion for his job and the Not Bread Alone community is contagious. We’ve done several deliveries so far and look forward to more and more as the crops grow in the field.

 

We are excited to announce our first official COMMUNITY WORKDAY of the season on Monday 7/24, 4-6pm.

Stop by for 30mins or the whole time! We’ll be weeding (by hand and with tools), harvesting, clipping and trying to keep up with all the plants growing in the garden. More info here. Hope to see you there!

Be sure to check out our FACEBOOK PAGE for more up-to-date info & spontaneous work day announcements.  Happy summer!

Welcoming 2017!

Today was an exciting day! Our new crew visited the garden, prepared it to begin FILLING it with plants that will grow to nourishing food to be donated to CHD’s Not Bread Alone & Amherst Survival Center for the fourth season!

This year, Grace McKay (left) will be our Student Production Manager and Kate Brodsky (right) will be our Student Production & Education Assistant. See the garlic behind them?!

IMG_4489.JPGWhile it is always hard to say goodbye to our AWESOME production managers, it is a great opportunity to welcome  new SFF students into these leadership roles to learn how to grow food organically AND make an impact to address hunger in our community.  It seems like just yesterday we were planting the garlic and putting the garden to bed.

IMG_2939 2

The raspberry plants have soft fuzzy leaves, weeds are starting to grow taller each day and we are bright-eyed & ready for the season ahead. STAY TUNED to hear about community workdays & summer events!

A note closing our season

With the New Year right around the corner and a fresh layer of snow covering the garden, I can’t help but already get nostalgic of all the beautiful moments shared and the inspiring people I was able to meet this past summer. Food For All is an amazing and unique project that I will always hold true to my heart, and I know for a fact that with every new year it will continue to prosper and grow into a thriving community environment. I gained a LOT of knowledge and made even more mistakes, but I realized that is THE true beauty of organic farming systems. A special thanks to  CHD’s Not Bread Alone and Amherst Survival Center for doing what they do and accepting all the food we were able to deliver. To Michelle Nikfarjam for being my warrior woman, co-manager. To The Stockbridge School of Agriculture, UMass Amherst for funding and land. And last, but NOT least to Sarah Berquist for being the catalyst and backbone of this whole project. It truly takes a village! Stay tuned, but till then; peace, love, and vegetables .

-Hannah Smalls, 2016 Production Manager

Many hands making light work

Our vegetables (and weeds) are loving life despite the hot, dry weather.  Hannah and Michelle have been hard at work, cycling plants through the garden and sharing abundant deliveries of lettuce, spring onions and herbs to CHD’s Not Bread Alone in Amherst.  We are grateful for Bob Stover’s committed collaboration with Food For All.

To keep up with it all, we’ve reached out to our community members, students, friends and families to join us in our effort to get more fresh food where it needs to go in Amherst.  We’ve hosted two of our monthly community workdays and have really appreciated additional helping hands in our garden.

Good conversation, laughter, relaxation, and connection with community & nature are all reasons why we keep hosting these events.  There is something so satisfying about rescuing a long row of carrots getting taken over by grass. A task that would take 1 person nearly 10 hours can take a small group 45 minutes!

Please join us in July & August. STAY TUNED for more updates and announcements of our summer workshops, including a tour of the garden!

2016 F4A Comm Work Day