by Suzanne Sorrentino
Ever wonder what happens to all the leftover fruits and vegetables from the farmer’s market at the end of the day?
At the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow Farmers Market (the TaSH), it’s being redistributed to feed the hungry.
As much as 600 pounds of farm fresh produce from the TaSH’s Saturday market have been donated to local families in need each week, thanks to a partnership that started in August between the TaSH and Dobbs Ferry-based non-profit Eat Local NY.
Through Eat Local NY’s Local Food For All Project, the food is given to members of the Community Food Pantry for Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown and distributed at other sites in Yonkers, Mount Vernon, White Plains and New Rochelle.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Eat Local NY in their food rescue program to ensure that these farm fresh foods are making their way to families in need,” said Angeline Montoya Powell, a director of Rivertowns Village Green(RVG), the all-volunteer nonprofit community organization that runs the TaSH. “It is within RVG’s mission to make local, fresh food accessible to all in our community and it helps reduce food waste in a big way.”
In Westchester County, about 200,000 residents are food insecure or at risk of hunger, according to Eat Local NY Executive Director Derek DiGuglielmo. “That’s 1 in 5 in the population,” he said. “Among households with children, 33% are food insecure with very low food security.” Eat Local NY’s mission is to eliminate childhood hunger while supporting local food producers.
Annually, about a third of all food produced (2.9 trillion pounds) is estimated to be wasted. According to food bank network Feeding America, 53% of fruits and vegetables in the United States are either lost or wasted.
“It’s been amazing working with the board members of TaSH to build community, promote food justice and eliminate hunger,” DiGuglielmo said. “Our missions collide on so many levels … the partnership has enabled us to impact hundreds of neighbors in need.”
The Local Food For All Project, launched in 2014, increases access to healthy food by connecting local food producers to food pantries, youth shelters and other emergency food outlets, with a special emphasis on children, community and education. By working with a network of farmers and farmers markets throughout New York, the project is able to help prevent food waste and rescue imperfect produce, support young farmers and promote healthy eating.
At the TaSH, Blooming Hill Farm, Mead Orchards, Gaia’s Breath Farm, Fable: From Farm to Table, Mobius Fields and Fishkill Farms have signed onto the program. At the end of every market day, an Eat Local NY project volunteer arrives at the Patriots Park market and collects the leftovers, delivering them that day to children and families in need.
The other end of the Local Food For All Project is the Food Education Program, which builds the knowledge of food pantry staff, community members and volunteers through educational opportunities, cooking demonstrations, farm visits and other resources.
One of Eat Local NY’s community chefs is Connor McGinn from The Twisted Oak restaurant in Tarrytown, who not only volunteers to educate youth about cooking through the Food Education Program, but also helps rescue produce at the market. When he drops off pounds of produce at the Mount Vernon Youth Shelter, he also helps expand opportunity for the dozen youths living there as part of an alternative to incarceration program. McGinn and the rest of the Eat Local NY team teach the boys how to prepare and cook the farm produce.
“I was super nervous at first,” McGinn said. “These are 15 to 18-year-old kids, and I’m bringing bread and kale and telling them it’s good for them?”
Whether it’s that their curiosity is piqued by tasting unfamiliar foods or that their memories are stirred about cooking at home or that the activity builds camaraderie and gets them telling stories and swapping jokes, the boys seem to like it, McGinn said.
“We’re not only trying to eliminate childhood hunger and close the summer food gap, but also trying to educate and inspire the youth,” DiGuglielmo said. “There are so many children that get excited about produce they’ve never seen before and that’s just the first step in strengthening child nutrition,” DiGuglielmo said.
The TaSH food rescue program is not the first collaboration between the TaSH, Eat Local NY, and the Community Food Pantry of Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. Through the combined effort, 250 families in need in the community receive tokens they can spend at the TaSH, increasing these families’ ability to buy farm fresh, nutritional foods.
Both organizations are dedicated to assisting families who are food insecure. During the next few months, Eat Local NY will be applying for grants and looking for private funding to help expand the Local Food For All Project. Meanwhile, the TaSH continues its Double Bucks program that doubles the value of Food Stamps (SNAP) at the market, with the assistance of a grant from the Westchester Community Foundation.
Suzanne Sorrentino is co-president of Rivertowns Village Green, Inc.