Soup kitchens emphasize importance of farm’s donations
The Jamestown Community Farm recently completed its 12th season of operation and set a new record for the amount of produce that was harvested. The turnout of volunteers was also impressive, with at least 150 individuals helping out at the farm, ranging from 10-year-old children to seniors in their 70s.
According to farm manager Bob Sutton, more than 20,000 pounds of vegetables were grown this year. Approximately 14,000 pounds were donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens. The balance of the vegetables was sold at the farm stand. Proceeds are used to operate the farm.
“We had an excellent season,” Sutton said. “We had great volunteers. We had a really good harvest. Everything went well.”
The farm donates vegetables to a number of facilities for people in need around the state. Among them is McAuley House, the meal site and outreach program of McAuley
Ministries in Providence. The Sisters of Mercy founded the meal site and it has been in operation since 1975. While the sisters still sponsor the McAuley House, they don’t fund it. The mission of McAuley Ministries is to provide food, shelter and clothing to the most vulnerable people in the community.
“McAuley House is a house of hospitality where every guest is treated with hospitality, dignity and respect,” said Don Wolfe, executive director.
McAuley House serves a cold breakfast and a full hot lunch, which adds up to more than 300 meals a day. According to Wolfe, vegetables from Jamestown are crucial to his group’s mission.
“Fresh vegetables are something that no other organization develops,” Wolfe said. “Without the Jamestown Community Farm, we would have to go out and buy them.”
Wolfe said that the fresh vegetables are used for meals within two days of being received. If there are any vegetables remaining, they are given to people who come for lunch.
“Everything that’s been donated has been used within 48 hours,” Wolfe said. “Having the vegetables from the community farm is a big help. It lets us use our funding for other things. They do great work.”
Marilyn Warren is the executive director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Newport. It has been in operation for 90 years. The facility is devoted to helping the members of the local community, and according to Warren, receiving donated vegetables from the community farm helps fulfill its mission.
“They are a huge supporter of our food pantry,” she said.
The center offers several programs including an educational component, a summer camp, women’s programs, art therapy and the food pantry. The pantry has served more than 1,000 families this year. By the end of October, the center had already served 88,500 meals compared to 49,000 during all of 2011. Warren said the center was on track to double the amount of meals served last year.
Breakfast at 7:30 each morning is the only meal served at the center. The food pantry is open three days a week, as well as one evening. A mobile pantry is about to be launched to feed people who are unable to get to the center.
“That’s a need we are seeing that it totally unmet,” Warren said.
According the Warren, nutrition education is an important part of the center’s work, and the ability to provide fresh vegetables is an important part of that effort.
“Most of our clients are eating food out of the food pantry, or inexpensive food from the grocery store that is not all that healthy. Poverty brings with it diabetes, heart disease and a lot of other health issues. If we didn’t have those vegetables, we couldn’t even really promote that we’re trying to stop that. It’s vitally important.”
It’s not only vegetables that the community farm provides, Warren said. She says that the farm’s eggs are also important to her clients. They are used in the breakfast program and are also given to visitors to the food pantry.
“They provide eggs and fresh produce once a week,” said Warren. “It’s beautiful, beautiful food. We’re trying to supplement the food that comes from the food pantry with as much healthy food as we can. Without the Jamestown Community Farm, we would have no green vegetables in any variety.”
Sutton said that the barn that was built by volunteers operated exactly as it was supposed to. The new solar array served all of the needs of the farm, and it also provided excess energy that was resulted in a credit from National Grid. The rainwater from the barn roof that was collected in a new cistern provided more than adequate water for the farm’s needs.
“We use the water for washing vegetables,” Sutton said. “We use it for irrigation in our greenhouse. We use it to feed water to the chicken and sheep, and very minimally for irrigation if something is really dry.”
The amount of cash donations to the farm this year was another source of satisfaction for Sutton.
“People donated money very beautifully this year,” Sutton said. “We had excellent donations.”
The farm is presently working with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service to develop a study of the farm’s soil. The study will determine what the nutrient value of the soil is, and how to maintain that value over time as the vegetable growing continues. The study is being paid for by a grant from the federal Department of Agriculture.