Filling food pantries with fresh produce
By Jennifer Gragg | Thu, 07/09/2015 - 2:00am
A food justice group is doing what it can to grow what food pantries in Madison can offer to their clients.
The Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice, and Sustainability recently began planting food to donate to food pantries. Its goal, they say, is to help improve the offerings at food pantries by making organic food available.
The Farley Center, located in Verona, owns 43 acres of land that it uses to promote its goals of peace, justice, and sustainability. This includes holding environmentally friendly natural burials, helping new, local farmers get on their feet, and of course, promoting organic food.
For many people, a food pantry is the last place they would think to find organic food.
“People have that conception of organic food as being just for the upper middle class,” said Ronald Schell, the head volunteer for the food pantry food. “I’d like to break through that. The Farley Center is all about making organic food more accessible.”
To make this goal a reality, the Farley Center has planted fruit such as raspberries, strawberries, and gooseberries at both the Center itself and at the Ken Witte garden in Madison. Once the fruit is ready to eat, it will be sent to various food pantries such as the Allied Dunn’s Marsh Food Pantry and the Saint Vincent de Paul food pantry on Fish Hatchery Road.
This accessibility doesn’t stop once the recipients pick up the food, though. An educational component is also added to help people make the most of these organic foods.
“We’re going to do labels that say what vitamins are in the food and maybe a little bit on how to prepare them and characteristics of those foods,” said Schell. “We want to try to give people an idea of how healthy these local perennial fruits are. It could be a catalyst for people who have the ability to grow these fruits themselves.”
Taking on this task may be simpler than it sounds. Since these foods are native fruits, it is relatively easy to continue growing them once they’ve been planted for around 20 years.
This focus on sustainability runs deep with the Farley Center. Like many nonprofits, the Center currently relies on grants and donations for support. Its goal is to become completely self-sufficient from the revenue of the natural cemetery. Shedd Farley, the Farley Center Director and Natural Path Sanctuary Coordinator, understands the implications this is already having on the Farley Center.
“We’re not completely self-sufficient yet but we’re financially stable. This allows us to concentrate on social justice and anything else we can do to serve the community,” said Farley. “Supplying food to the food pantries is a food justice issue. We want to get good quality and nutritious food to people who may otherwise not be able to afford it or have access to these types of fresh fruits.”
Planting these fruits is a joint effort. The Farley Center staff shares the work with local volunteer organizations and individuals. Bringing people together to work towards this goal is something that the Farley Center finds particularly important.
“We are a liberal organization, although we are definitely non-political,” said Farley. “But liberal groups always get together and talk about the issues, and that’s where it ends. So it’s really important to have a place where people can actually do something.”
Schell shares Farley’s enthusiasm for this kind of work.
“You can send a check somewhere, and that’s certainly a good thing. But you can actually come out here and get your hands dirty,” he said. “And to me, that’s so much more exciting.”
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