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Editorial: Survival Center’s fresh start

For the second time in a few years, a donor has stepped up to improve the Northampton Survival Center’s ability to serve. The newest gain: fresh milk. The center helps 5,000 people obtain food to patch gaps in what their incomes provide. Now, it is able to offer milk from the Our Family Farms cooperative instead of powdered milk.

The arrangement, aided by an anonymous family foundation’s $25,000 gift for each of the next three years, also helps Our Family Farms. The money enables the center to work out a special price with the dairies that benefits both sides of this transaction.

Managers of Our Family Farms say their new partnership with the survival center builds on a connection with the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts. The trucks now delivering milk to the survival center’s operations in Northampton and Goshen answer a desire by the five participating dairies to help local communities, as well as extend their own viability.

Earlier, another family’s grant helped the survival center offer more fresh produce, another leg of the local agricultural economy. The group Community Involved with Sustaining Agriculture, now in its 20th year, has proven itself to be an important partner in all such local ventures.

The survival center’s leader, Heidi Nortonsmith, says the family backing the milk project asked her to monitor it and make it as effective as possible. If all goes well, the availability of fresh milk may be extended beyond three years.

Milk is just one of many basic foods the center offers. The fact that it is now fresh is nonetheless significant. Perhaps nothing says compromised circumstances as much as powdered milk.

Since the financial crash of 2008 and the arrival of the Great Recession, thousands of local families have seen their livelihoods erode through job losses. That has sent more and more people to programs like the survival center, which distributes 2,500 pounds of food each day, or about 700,000 pounds a year.

The anonymous donation is inspiring and deeply meaningful. The family that provided the money is standing beside neighbors who’ve fallen on tough times. And with their gift they join the generosity of hundreds of volunteers who help the center operate.

Coming clean in Amherst

Often, residents of Amherst dread the prospect of undergraduates roaming their streets in the early hours of a weekend.

A group of Greek organizations at the University of Massachusetts turned that concept on its head this past weekend when members of fraternities and sororities set their alarms relatively early on a Sunday and ranged out across Amherst to collect trash and litter left by their peers and others. Seven teams of at least 10 members, equipped with gloves and trash bags, covered sections of nearly 20 streets.

A leaflet given to participants made clear that beyond the simple good of cleaner streets, an image needed to be tidied up. “This is as much to get our faces and (Greek) letters out there as positive members of the community as it is to actually pick up trash,” the sheet provided by the UMass Greek Councils said. “Make sure to be friendly to any townspeople you see and explain to them what we are doing.”

We hope these volunteers had a chance to visit Sunday with year-round residents and to work, in small ways, to rebuild trust. People who’ve seen the worst of late-night, alcohol-driven misbehavior know, in concept at least, that most undergrads don’t behave that way.

Seeing students out picking up trash puts a picture to that truth.

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