Rachel’s Table expands food rescue program in Hampshire County 

  • Lizzy Ghedi-Ehrlich, a volunteer with Rachel’s Table, unloads food donated by Cooley Dickinson Hospital with Lee Anderson, the treasurer of Manna Community Kitchen, at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Northampton on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Lizzy Ghedi-Ehrlich, a volunteer with Rachel’s Table, unloads food donated by Cooley Dickinson Hospital with Lee Anderson, the treasurer of Manna Community Kitchen, at Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Northampton on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

For the Gazette
Published: 7/5/2021 10:34:31 AM

At the end of every day, hundreds of pounds of food are thrown away in restaurants, supermarkets and bakeries. One local organization is trying to change that, one delivery at a time.

After nearly 30 years, Rachel’s Table, a food rescue and redistribution program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, is expanding its services to Hampshire County. The program also delivers to agencies in Hampden and Franklin counties.

The food comes from businesses that would have otherwise thrown it out.

“For restaurants, this would be food that is still in the kitchen. It’s still safe, still good, it just hasn’t left its container,” said Jodi Falk, the director of Rachel’s Table, which has its headquarters in Springfield.

For supermarkets, the food rescue program generally gets food that isn’t getting purchased, but “is still well within date, hasn’t been touched, is still wrapped in whatever it’s wrapped in,” Falk said.

Rachel’s Table has more than 50 agencies that receive food from donors through the program, and it’s looking for more. The organization now has seven drivers, three new food donors and two new agencies participating in Hampshire County.

The new agencies are the Amherst Survival Center and Manna Soup Kitchen, where people in need can pick up food.

The new food donors are Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Atkins Farms, and several Pride gas stations.

“You may think convenience store food might not be so great. But, actually, Pride has their own kitchens, and they make their own food on the premises,” Falk said.

The program relies heavily on its 200 volunteers, who shuttle the food from point A to point B. It’s also looking for more volunteers in Hampshire County.

Rachel’s Table originally began its food redistribution program in Hampshire county when the pandemic began. At the time, the organization wanted to provide extra support to families who were put in difficult financial positions. As the pandemic began to subside, the need for food was still present in Hampshire County. During the pandemic, the agency says it delivered 70,000 to 140,000 pounds of food a month to more than 50 agencies in Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.

“Hunger didn’t go away because we have vaccines now,” Falk said. “We’re here because, unfortunately, hunger is here. It’s all about the abundance on the one hand, and the need on the other, and making sure that abundance is shared.”

Rachel’s Table had already done some other work in Hampshire County, even before the pandemic began. It has a Gleaning Project, where volunteers collect extra produce from farms, most of them in Hampshire County, and then deliver the produce to its agencies.

Rachel’s Table also has an initiative called the “Growing Gardens program,” which aims to teach communities how to grow their own food. The project is in its early stages, but Falk has begun to help some of the agencies set up gardens to help feed constituents.

The program started in April when it donated 640 starter plants to seven agencies. For two of the agencies, Rachel’s Table’s Teen Board helped plant.

“All of it is about how to sustain the livelihood of growing your own food,” Falk said.

None of the seven agencies participating in the Growing Gardens program are in Hampshire County currently, but Falk hopes to implement it soon.

In addition to helping alleviate hunger, the agency’s work also has an environmental component.

“Food in landfills is one of the most toxic forms of waste, in terms of the gasses that get omitted,” Falk said. “It was kind of an early conservation effort, too.”




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