The Farm-to-Food Pantry Program reclaims food donated from local farms and distributes it to food pantries and soup kitchens across Ulster County with the goal of increasing access to local food in food deserts and areas of poverty.
In Ulster County, 66% of its residents fall below the 185% poverty threshold for Nutrition Assistance Programs and the rate of children with food insecurity is 16% (source: Feeding America).
This program operates in partnership with Family of Woodstock, UlsterCorps, Ulster County Community Action, ARC of Ulster – Greene, and the Rondout Valley Central School District.
Local farmers in the Rondout Valley and Hudson Valley are tremendously supportive of the program by making weekly donations of foods they are not able to sell through their retail or wholesale markets.
The Farm-to-Food Pantry Program partnered with UlsterCorps volunteers to “glean” or harvest produce left in farm fields during, or at the end of, the growing season. Crops gleaned included apples, broccoli, greens, blueberries, and more.
In order to extend the growing season and to make local products available throughout the year, RVGA processed local items such as tomatoes into tomato sauce, apples into apple sauce, and froze broccoli, corn, peppers, blueberries, and more. This was made possible by partnering with Community Action, Rondout Valley Central School District, and Ulster ARC to utilize their kitchen and freezer spaces.
Rondout Valley Central School District Partnership
With 47.2% of students eligible to receive free and reduced lunch food, security and access is a significant concern for the Rondout Valley Central School district. As RVGA realized this need we also identified a major barrier to schools using fresh local foods is their ability to process them and the affordability of the product. As a result we moved forward in providing Farm to Food Pantry products to strengthen food security and improve access to healthy local items. In return, Rondout Valley High School let us utilize their kitchen space and equipment. This partnership was part of RVGA’s larger collaboration with RVGA on Farm to School and Sustainable agriculture education.
A total of 196,900 pounds of fresh, processed, and frozen local produce was distributed to 61 food pantries, shelters, and community meal programs in 2020, which was an increase of 46% from 2019. Additional frozen items continued to be distributed throughout the winter months. Since inception in 2009, the RVGA Farm to Food Pantry program joined by Family of Woodstock and UlsterCorps volunteers has collected and distributed over 290,000 pounds of locally grown produce to those in need in our community.
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Thank you to all of our partner organizations, farmers, and community volunteers who make this program possible. Together we are strengthening our local food system and fight hunger by increasing access to healthy local foods in our community.