For some people, making healthy food choices can be simple. You make a list, drive to the supermarket or farmers market, purchase a variety of fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods, and go home to prepare your healthy meals.
For others the steps to eating healthy are much more complicated. According to members of the Food Pantry Collaborative, a group comprised of food pantry and meal sites in Pittsfield, the number of families they are serving has grown over the past few years. Because of this, there have been several local efforts working toward ensuring these sites can provide fruits, vegetables and nutritionally dense food.
Pittsfield is home to seven community gardens overseen by the city's Department of Community Development. Unlike traditional community gardens, where members have their own plot to grow and harvest, most of the food grown in these gardens is donated back into the schools and food pantries in the immediate neighborhood.
During the growing season, the fresh produce is incorporated into the free meals at the meal sites and offered in the food pantry. Last season, about 1,700 pounds of fresh produce was donated.
The active gardens this season are located at Morningside Community School, Rice Silk Mill, on the Pittsfield Common, Robbins Ave, The Christian Center, Coolidge Park and Conte Community School. For more information, visit the Pittsfield Community Gardens Facebook page. To volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be Well Berkshires Healthy Donation List
One way pantries procure food is through seasonal food drives and donations from community members. In an effort to increase the nutritional quality of these donations, Be Well Berkshires, a grant-funded initiative from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, created a Healthy Food Pantry Donation list. This list contains a variety of non-perishable low cost suggested items for you to consider when making a donation to a Food Pantry or food drive.
Grains: Brown or wild rice, steel cut or rolled oats, whole wheat pasta, whole grain cereal.
Proteins: canned fish — tuna, sardines, salmon (packed in water, not oil); beans (canned or dried) — black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, lentils; nuts and seeds — pumpkin seeds, cashews, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds; nut butters (non-hydrogenated) — peanut butter, almond butter, tahini.
Fruits and vegetables: Canned — low sodium and packed in water, not syrup; dried — no sugar added.
Canned soups: Low sodium
Herbs and spices: Oregano, basil, black pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, dill
Cooking oils: Olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil
Personal care items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc.
To grow this effort, Berkshire Health Systems will have a box available for donations from this list at the Community Health van at the July Third Thursday, and at the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market on July 30. For more information about Be Well Berkshires visit www.bewellberkshires.org or like them on Facebook.
An increase in fresh produce and nutritionally dense food in the food pantries and meal sites means everyone in our community can have the opportunity to make healthy food choices. The Food Pantry Collaborative is one of many groups and programs working toward a coordinated effort to increase healthy food choices. If you are interested in joining the Food Pantry Collaborative, call 413-445- 7069.
Morgan Ovitsky is the project coordinator of Be Well Berkshires, Healthy Pittsfield Partner.
The Healthy Pittsfield Partnership is coordinated by the Pittsfield Health Department and Board of Health. Partners include local health and human service organizations representatives and community advocates. The partnership is commiteted to community based initiatives that will improve the health and quality of life of Pittsfield's residents and workforce. For more information, visit www.cityofpittsfield.org/cityhall/healthandinspections/healthypittsfield.