Sunday May 6, 2012

I’ve been looking for creative ways to support my local food pantry.

It may look like the economy is improving, but too many people are still out of work -- and out of money and having to turn to free food pantries and meals programs to get enough to eat. Yes, it’s true, even here in the Berkshires

The growing need comes at a time when government subsidies for such programs are down because the money to pay for them simply isn’t there.

A cash contribution is always useful, of course, but I was looking for a donation that kept giving -- at least through the growing season.

I found it at Hoosac Harvest, an all-volunteer Northern Berkshire organization that raises money to subsidize shares for low-income people in farms that operate on a community supported agriculture (CSA) model. The shares give families weekly access to fresh, local produce.

I spoke with one of the organizers, Kathy Keeser, at an Earth Day event in Williamstown recently.

She told me that Hoosac Harvest, in partnership with the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition based in North Adams, also has a "Grow Extra" program that encourages home gardeners to plant an extra row of fruit or vegetables this summer to donate to local food pantries or feeding sites.

They are also looking for volunteers willing to "glean" unharvested produce from local farms. Gleaning in an ancient agricultural practice that allowed poor people to gather grains left in the fields after the landowner’s reapers had gone through.

Similarly, Hoosac Harvest volunteers would seek permission to glean leftover produce from local farms and get it to nearby food pantries and meal sites.

For further information on joining the Grow Extra program or subsidizing shares in a CSA farm, contact Kathy Keeser at Hoosac Harvest (413) 346-7196 or kathy
keeser@gmail.com; or Amanda Chilson at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition at (413) 663-7588, ext. 16 or achilson@
nbccoalition.org.

For information on either organization, visit www.hoosacharvest.org or www.nbccoalition.org.

To reach Charles Bonenti:
cbonenti@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6211.
On Twitter: @BE_Lifestyles