Fork & Spade with Francie Lin: A community food digest for May

  • The Northampton Survival Center provides more than 14,000 pounds of nutritious, culturally relevant food to Hampshire County clients every week. As members of The Food Bank of Western Mass, the Center is able to take advantage of free produce when The Food Bank offers it. Recently, that’s meant an influx of tubers considered delicacies in a number of Asian and Latinx cuisines, and clients excited to see foods from home. Submitted photo

  • Planting peas at the Dwight Street Community Garden in Holyoke. The garden has big plans this season, with educational programming and community organization and collaboration offered along with their food distribution and free and open community cookouts. Submitted photo

For the Gazette
Published: 5/17/2022 2:36:28 PM
Modified: 5/17/2022 2:34:42 PM

The leaves are out and the hills are greening up! If the news has been heavy lately, take comfort in the fact that every day, in your own backyard, your friends and neighbors are working to help each other and the world we share. Be well!

Grow Food Northampton

Grow Food, with its emphasis on both environmental and food access issues, has a wide reach in our community, and never more so than this spring. Interested in learning about no-till farming methods? Join Grow Food in the Giving Garden on May 18, 5:30-7 p.m., for a hands-on workshop demonstrating sheet mulching, sequestering carbon, increasing soil health and growing nutrient-dense produce while preparing and planting six beds of asparagus and strawberries. 

All Giving Garden produce is donated to Grow Food’s local partner food pantries and meal sites. Please register at https://www.growfoodnorthampton.org/2022springworkshops/

Maybe you’re looking to give back to your community this year through volunteer work? Grow Food is looking for more volunteers to support produce deliveries, garden work and more. The Community Food Distribution Project, which distributes fresh, free, and beautiful local produce to our neighbors, needs some friendly helping hands Tuesdays 3-6 p.m. and Thursdays 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Or come and help grow produce at the Grow Food Community Farm in Florence! Grow Food Northampton is collaborating with Star Light Center and Manna Community Kitchen to create 30 new community beds at the farm to grow a selection of high-quality vegetables and herbs that will add value to meals and food pantries at those sites. Volunteers can help with tending and harvesting these gardens over the summer. To sign up for either the Community Food Distribution Project or garden work, go to https://www.growfoodnorthampton.org/volunteer/

For those looking to access affordable local produce, there is still time to sign up for a SNAP Share at Crimson & Clover. Grow Food Northampton is happy to partner with Crimson & Clover Farm again this year to provide SNAP Shares. Support your local farmer, support your craving for beautiful food, and support your budget! Learn more and sign up at https://crimsonandcloverfarm.com/snap-shares/

None of this work would be possible without donations from supporters committed to bringing about a more just and sustainable food system in our region. If you would like to show your support for farming and food justice in our region, Valley Grows Day is coming up on May 17! Donate to local food access, farming, and food justice organizations working to ensure that the food we grow here reaches those most in need now. For more information, go to valleygrows.org

Northampton Survival Center

The Northampton Survival Center provides more than 14,000 pounds of nutritious, culturally relevant food to Hampshire County clients every week. As members of The Food Bank of Western Mass, the Center is able to take advantage of free produce when The Food Bank offers it. Recently, that’s meant an influx of tubers considered delicacies in a number of Asian and Latinx cuisines, and clients excited to see foods from home.

Crates of malanga, dasheen, cassava, and coco have been recent freebies for Center clients. Sometimes difficult to come by locally, these tubers are frequently found in dishes from the Caribbean to Southeast Asia. Clients have been thrilled to discover items on offer that can be expensive to buy around here.

Last month, a client was excited to take a whole box of malanga to prepare a traditional Cambodian New Year dish to share with her family and local monks. And when Jo Ella, a member of the Center’s Client Advisor Committee, brought Jamaican dasheen, cassava, and coco back to her housing complex, many of her neighbors gathered around outside, sharing the tubers and stories about cooking traditional recipes.

“All the Caribbean and Latinx people came out to talk about [the tubers],” said Jo Ella. “It was such a beautiful moment. This root that I never heard about brought so much joy to so many people. They came together to talk about this wonderful thing, sharing stories and memories. That sense of community, of sharing with neighbors, of celebrating home — made me cry.”

Northampton Farm to School

The Farm to School program is excited to announce that some of its students from Northampton High have been invited to present their composting program at the Massachusetts Farm and Sea to School Conference.

Caroline Cooper, Amelia Ritt, and Lily Shimpach will explain how to introduce composting into school cafeterias. They will outline the necessary steps to get administrative approval, explain the nitty-gritty logistics of waste collection and removal, and provide the attendees with ways to engage students in the process and incentivize them to help out.

They hope to encourage students to start initiatives in their own schools by providing them with a successful example and empowering them with information and resources. You can watch their presentation via Zoom by registering for their workshop (May 18, 10-11 a.m.) and many others for free at http://www.massfarmtoschool.org/get-involved/conference/

Food Services Hero Day was on May 6 and Farm to School wants to give a huge thank you to their entire team for all of the work they give to help feed the students in the Northampton School District. The JFK team includes Shealgh Andrikidis, Kristin Thibedau, Marc Freeman, and Jasmine Galereave. The NHS team includes Kim Bowler, Janelle Kennick, Lorelei Blanchette, Kim Enko and Sara Boyle. The Ryan Road team includes Barbara Morin, Paul Diemand and Lynn Brakey. The Bridge Street team includes Tina Chapman, Tamara Pownall and Theresa Hannigan. The Jackson Street team includes Sandy Homan, Patricia Fenton and Nancy Calden. The Leeds team includes Sarah Nowak, Patricia McGrath and Layla Romero. The District team includes Bryan Kline, Pauline Judd, Debra Scott, Barbara Rakaska, Mistelle Hannah, Debbie Zuchowski, and Bryan Jersky.

Dwight Street Community Garden

Dwight Street Community Garden in Holyoke has big plans this season, with educational programming and community organization and collaboration offered along with their food distribution and free and open community cookouts.

Gardeners looking to use plants for medicinal purposes can check out a workshop led by The People’s Medicine Project, which donated plants for a new healing garden at Dwight Street, on making herbal teas and other medicinal products on July 30. And starting this month, the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) Massachusetts will hold free and open gardening workshops at the garden, leading gardeners through the basics of soil maintenance and ways to increase harvest through various pruning and harvesting techniques. All workshops start at 11:30 a.m. on the last Saturday of the month from May through October.

Having recognized the need for cold storage after last season, Dwight Street is partnering with UMass’s Energy Transition Institute and several engineering students to design a solar-powered fridge. In the meantime, the free produce bin will remain outside the garden fence, and the Garden will still make donations to Enlace de Familias’s food distribution on Fridays, with food grown from starts donated by Paradise Lot in Holyoke, Atlas Farms in South Deerfield, and Dave’s Natural Garden in Granby.

Finally, Neighbor to Neighbor is currently organizing a tenants’ union in western Massachusettss, and Dwight Street is welcoming residents from Springfield and Holyoke to meet organizers and other groups who are taking a stand against a variety of issues surrounding their housing. For more info, about organizing meetings or Dwight Street, email terry@n2nma.org or call

Francie Lin is Grow Food Northampton’s writer-in-residence. She can be reached at francie@growfoodnorthampton.org.
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