When you think of a food pantry, one image tends to come to mind: canned goods sitting on the industrial wire shelves. You may not picture fresh fruits and vegetables. But the East Bay Food Pantry (EBFP) is cultivating those kinds of options – straight from the soil.
This past spring, EBFP launched Farm2Pantry, a program that grows fresh fruits and vegetables on local farms and distributes them to families in need. Farm2Pantry grows a range of products, such as hot peppers and kale, catering to the diverse cooking traditions of East Bay residents. Spearheaded by Executive Director Nicki Ann Tyska and Programs and Operations Director Karen Griffith, Farm2Pantry will grow its produce at the RI Community Farm in Bristol. The seedlings and land prep were donated by David and Barbara Frerich of Frerichs Farm in Warren.
The EBFP has always striven to provide a consistent inventory of fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, and whole grain foods. In 2017 alone, their Fresh Food Friday program was visited by families over 5,300 times (an increase of more than 40 percent over the previous year). The food pantry itself was visited more than 4,300 times. Through these programs, EBFP distributed a whopping 93,000 pounds of produce to hungry families. With such high demand, last year’s production wasn’t nearly enough to meet nutritional needs.
Tyska says she “learned of the farm sitting sallow last summer and, working with [Griffith], developed the program.” In years past, the same land was used to grow crops for the Pantry by Bristol philanthropists Ira and Suzanne Magaziner, so it only made sense for the EBFP to lease the land from the couple to fill the crop void.
Tyska expressed her hopes for the implementation of the program, saying she wants Farm2Pantry to “engage the population” and “help some of their needs.” Food banks have developed their own community gardens in cities across the country, and Tyska and Griffith are excited to see Farm2Pantry flourish. More information about the program and volunteer opportunities can be found on their website. Bristol