A Step Forward for Food Recovery and Security for Our Region

by Allison Levin

Did you know that every season about one million pounds of food is grown on farms in Washington County that never gets to our kitchens and dining room tables? Despite the fact that the need for that food has never been greater, food insecurity continues to be a major issue for too many neighbors. Local community meals and food shelves report a continuing need for fresh, local food to help those who need this nutritious food the most.

For the past four years, Community Harvest of Central Vermont has been bringing neighbors together to glean that unused surplus out of farmers’ fields to fight food insecurity and to reduce food waste in our communities. Our farmers are excited about the opportunity to feed more members of the community, and we are all learning more about the local food system that operates every day in our midst.

Now, Community Harvest is pleased to announce that as of March, 2018, we have received official recognition as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization from the Internal Revenue Service.  As part of our transition to an official non-profit, Community Harvest has named a new board of directors. Cynthia Hartnett of Montpelier, a Community Harvest volunteer since its inception in 2014, serves as board president.  Other board members include Scott Hess, Sylvia Fagin, Jake Claro, and Ellie Stubbs.

Our board is made up of food activists, business people, and civic leaders who have a commitment to serving the community and helping all have access to the healthy, fresh food that is grown in our region.  These are people who lead through their service to the community, and I’m thrilled to have each of them a part of our team.

We are also very grateful to many towns in the region who have offered their support for our work. At Town Meeting 2018, six towns served by Community Harvest approved contributions in the coming fiscal year, totaling $6,600, the largest of which came from the Montpelier Community Fund. We are gratified to have this support, and hope to reach out to several more towns we serve in the future. Thanks to voters in Berlin, Northfield, Roxbury, Moretown, Waterbury, and Montpelier.

Community Harvest also recently received $5,700 through the Vermont State Employees Credit Union’s “We Care 2” program.  Community Harvest got the second most votes from Credit Union members in the competitive final round of the grant application review process.

All of this support helps us in our collaboration with our 17 recipient partners—food shelves, early childhood and afterschool programs, community meals sites, senior meals programs, and as part of farm-to-school partnerships at schools with high free- and reduced-lunch rates, and others—all feeding those in need.

Earlier this month, Community Harvest volunteers undertook their first field glean of the season. We recovered over 100 pounds of spinach from a greenhouse at a Middlesex farm, one of 30 such farms with whom we partner each season. We’re very excited to get out into the fields—there is nothing like a little bit of good hard work with neighbors that will result in hungry people getting nutritious food. It makes all involved feel great about themselves and the community. We hope to see lots of new volunteers join us for the 2018 harvest season. To join us, you can register to volunteer with Community Harvest at our website.

As Community Harvest starts its fifth season of gleaning, we will continue to further our mission of bringing the community together through gleaning to recover surplus food produced on area farms to feed those with limited access to healthy, fresh, local food, and in the process help the community to gain a greater awareness and appreciation of the local food system, healthy eating, and waste reduction.

Those interested in finding out more about Community Harvest’s gleaning efforts or becoming a partner, sponsor, contributor, or volunteer can visit www.communityharvestvt.org or contact me, Allison Levin, at communityharvestvt@gmail.com.

Allison Levin is the executive director of Community Harvest of Central Vermont

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