Thirty communities in western Massachusetts have hunger rates that are six times higher than the statewide average.
The first items that many individuals reach for when donating to a food drive or food pantry are canned or boxed non-perishable items. Now many community organizations in Berkshire County are reaching for shovels as a means to stretch donations and provide those in need with a source of nutritious, organic, locally-grown produce.
Each Tuesday morning the parking lot at the Berkshire Community Action Council (BCAC) springs to life as organizations arrive in pick-ups, vans, and sedans as a tractor trailer filled with food donations from The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts arrives. But, also waiting to be loaded into those waiting vehicles are over 600 pounds of fresh organic produce, harvested three hours earlier less than five miles away. Donations of cabbage, tomatoes, greens, carrots, potatoes, onions, and others make a surprising addition to the food sent out to pantries and allow the creative cooks at meal sites to add another dimension of nutrition to their meals.
Russell Moody, the minister at The Church of Christ in Pittsfield has created the “Giving Garden,” A 200-by-80 foot organic garden proudly displayed on the rolling hill in front of their building. This is the first year for the Giving Garden. With an average weekly donation of 500 pounds the crop yield has peaked at nearly 800 pounds, all going directly to local food pantries and meal sites. The entire garden is supplemented and maintained through donated plants and 100 percent volunteer-driven harvests. Dozens of volunteered man-hours go into producing those 600-plus pounds of food each week.
The Church of Christ is not the only organization localizing food donations in Pittsfield. The Unitarian Universalists of Pittsfield also have a dedicated garden space, along with a mobile chicken coop to provide much needed protein to the local agencies. You can listen to the Unitarian Universalists Garden radio webcast, and find more information about the program here!
There are also community gardens popping up throughout the Berkshires. Schools, housing complexes, and little swaths of green space have been allocated for organic gardens with some or most of the harvest going directly to local food pantries and meal sites.
With fresh, organic produce speed is of foremost importance. On Monday August 20th, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts received a large donation of organic eggplant. The produce was sorted and inspected at 9am Monday morning and later packaged and organized for shipment. On Tuesday morning The Food Bank’s tractor trailer arrived at BCAC at 10:25am. By 12:30 as the First Methodist Church in Pittsfield is beginning to prepare it its Harvest Table meal for the evening, food pantry clients are choosing that very same eggplant that was donated to The Food Bank only one day earlier.Comments Off
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