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Photo: Cape Cod Fishermen’s Alliance
Captain Eric Hesse is a member of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, which is participating in a collaborative initiative to help food banks and fishermen at the same time.

Even though fishermen have been able to fish during the pandemic, reliable clients like restaurants have not been able to buy. Fishermen — and those who support the industry — have had to put their creativity to work to find new ways to survive.

This story highlights one recent solution, a win for food pantries as well as for fishermen.

As Meg Wilcox reported at the Boston Globe, “Massachusetts fishermen have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic, as restaurants — their main market — have closed or scaled back. Less demand for seafood means fishermen get paid less for their catch, or worse, they can’t sell it. That’s led some to make the painful decision to forgo fishing.

“Now, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance has found a way to keep fishermen on the water while also helping local families in need keep food on their tables. Haddock chowder.

“With philanthropic support from Catch Invest, the fishermen’s alliance will pay fishermen a fair, predictable price for haddock, making it worth their while to harvest the fish. The alliance will also pay a Dorchester fish processor, Great Eastern Seafood, to fillet the fish, and a Lowell soup company, Plenus Group, to produce the chowder, which it will donate to Massachusetts food banks.

“Starting Monday, Aug. 17, chowder frozen in 18-ounce containers will be provided to four Massachusetts food banks. The first donation includes 18,720 containers, providing about 56,000 individual servings. All told, some 100,000 pounds of haddock will be donated through the program. …

“Hearty, yet light, the chowder recipe features 25 percent locally caught haddock, potatoes, celery and onions, and milk sourced from New England dairy farms. Most chowders typically use only 10 to 15 percent fish, according to Seth Rolbein, director of the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust and coordinator for the effort. ‘But we felt very strongly we wanted to increase that, and make a really great chowder.’ ”

Food insecurity has increased 53 percent in Massachusetts as a result of COVID-19, so this is big.

‘Our big hope is to help with food security,’ said Rolbein, while also supporting Cape Cod’s historic small-boat, independent, fishing fleet.

“After the initial donation, the alliance plans to introduce the chowder to retail outlets under the brand name Small Boats, Big Taste to raise revenue to keep the program self-sustaining. …

“Other kinds of chowders, including quahog or oyster stew, could be added to the line based on the needs of local fishermen and the availability of product.

“The Plenus Group, maker of Herban Fresh, a soup line that supports local agriculture, and Boston Chowda, sees potential in Small Boats, Big Taste. ‘We’re hoping it takes off and are looking forward to growing it along with the fishermen’s alliance,’ said Michael Jolly, Plenus’s marketing director. ‘It’s a great product, with a great story.’ ”

More at the Globe, here. You might also be interested in this retail/wholesale seafood vendor that gives Rhode Island fishermen an outlet for their catch. I follow the family-owned company on Instagram, @andrades_catch, and I can attest that the photos are really mouth-watering.

 

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Photo: Owen Dubeck
Stanford sophomores James Kanoff and Stella Delp created the not-for-profit FarmLink to salvage surplus food from farmers and donate it to overwhelmed food banks. Above, Kanoff is seen helping to deliver a shipment of onions.

One of the more troubling manifestations of Covid-19’s impact on the economy is that farmers who no longer have restaurants and large institutions buying their food, unable to afford to transport it to food banks that desperately need it, are destroying much of what they produce.

Two sophomores at Stanford University knew that something had to be done. Sydney Page at the Washington Post has the story.

“Doug Hess spent the last three months staring at a mammoth mountain of potatoes — enough to feed more than 6 million people. The potato farmer in Ashton, Idaho, who sells to commercial farms that supply the food service industry, said the novel coronavirus pandemic has gutted his business. …

“He donated what he could, but the cost to pack the produce and ship it to food banks was too high, especially considering the massive financial loss the family farm, which goes back four generations, was already suffering.

“As Hess’s pile of wasted potatoes slowly started to rot, stomachs rumbled across the country.

“Food banks in the United States are grappling with unprecedented need — a direct symptom of widespread unemployment, as roughly 16 percent of Americans are still without a paycheck. …

“James Kanoff, 21, a sophomore at Stanford University, took note of the troubling paradox: Farms have a surplus of food from canceled restaurant contracts and a shattered supply chain, while food banks are experiencing a staggering surge in demand. …

“So Kanoff and a group of college students from Stanford and Brown universities started FarmLink, a grass-roots movement to prevent food waste while also working to address food insecurity. FarmLink raises money to pay farmers for produce and dairy that would otherwise be wasted, then funds the transportation to send the goods to food banks in the neediest areas around the country.

“Since it started in mid-April, FarmLink has delivered 2 million pounds of produce, including some of Hess’s potatoes, to hungry Americans, in just over a month. That’s roughly 1.5 million meals.

“Volunteers have delivered potatoes, eggs, milk, onions, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, salt, celery, carrots and sweet potatoes to communities in 22 states, including Hawaii — with no plans to stop, even after the pandemic ends. …

“Through social media campaigns and word of mouth, the initiative has raised more than $750,000 — mostly from small, individual donations.

“Kanoff grew up volunteering at Westside Food Bank in Santa Monica. When he heard the organization’s food supply was scarce, he decided to test the FarmLink concept by reaching out to a local farm and asking if it had an oversupply. …

“Farmers all around the United States are experiencing a major surplus — from thousands of acres of fresh fruits and vegetables in Florida and California, to millions of gallons of milk and countless eggs in Vermont, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin.

“Once Kanoff and his team secured 90,000 pounds of [onions from Shay Myers, the CEO of Owyhee Produce,] they reached out to Food Finders, a nonprofit food rescue organization that connects donated food to hundreds of pantries in Southern California. …

“ ‘The problem with the government programs is that the farms are not in the business of sourcing food banks,’ said [Diana Lara, the executive director of Food Finders]. … FarmLink is helping to bridge the gap. USDA distributors, including Borden Dairy, have started reaching out to FarmLink directly for assistance in finding food banks in need and distributing surplus product, Kanoff said.

“The burgeoning organization has divided its [100] volunteers into three specializations: the farms team locates farms with excess supply, the logistics team targets hot spots with the greatest food insecurity, and the food banks team connects directly with local pantries across the country to assess demand. The organization also has sponsorships with Uber Freight and Coyote Logistics, to assist with transporting the goods.

“FarmLink’s work has made an impact on some of the hardest-hit regions of the country, including Navajo Nation at the intersection of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah … Nathan Lynch, a site coordinator at Navajo Nation Christian Response Team, … who delivers emergency food boxes to 2,000 homes on the reserve, said the food insecurity in the region is pervasive. ‘FarmLink has filled a big void.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Tony Avelar/Special to the Christian Science Monitor
The secret pop-up food bank for indigenous farmworkers in Santa Cruz County is promoted by word of mouth. A typical farmworker here lives under the poverty line and has few protections from unjust practices.

As we were saying, a living wage is preferable to charity. But for some people, charity is the only hope. Consider the farmworkers in this story.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “The early winter storms gathering in the Pacific bring welcome rains to California’s tinder-dry landscape. But for farmworkers picking strawberries for less than minimum wage, the rains signal the end of the harvest season and regular work, and deliver a downpour of hunger and worry.

“That’s why about 170 indigenous Mexican women from Oaxaca line up for hours in an alley to obtain sacks of produce, diapers, and other essentials from a secret food bank once a month. For those who spend grueling days harvesting America’s bounty, this surreptitious pop-up – organized solely by word of mouth – provides a safe place for accessing free, nutritious food and supplies without fear of deportation. …

“[Watsonville] is home to some of the country’s most vulnerable – the thousands of indigenous farmworkers in California, an unknown number of unauthorized residents, who live in severely substandard conditions and speak a variety of pre-Columbian languages rather than English or Spanish.

“The stealth food operation … is organized by Ann López, in conjunction with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County. An emerita professor, ‘Dr. Ann’ as she is known, started a nonprofit called the Center for Farmworker Families after interviewing numerous agricultural laborers for her Ph.D. dissertation.

‘There was a family with four little girls crying for food,’ she recalls. ‘I opened the refrigerator and they had a head of lettuce, one third of a gallon of milk, and two Jell-O cups. That was it. What I found was a population inordinately poor and suffering.’

“Ernestina Solorio, who has legal status to work in the U.S., spends 10 hours a day, six days a week in the fields during the season. Strawberries are among the most labor-intensive crops, known as la fruta del diablo, or the devil’s fruit, for the hours it takes hunched over low-to-the-ground berries to pluck them without bruising.

“Ms. Solorio earns $20,000 in a good year, well above average for a farmworker but also well under the federal poverty rate for Ms. Solorio’s family of four children. … The math is grim: about $200 a month after rent to pay for everything else.

” ‘The work won’t pick up again until mid-April, depending on the weather,’ Ms. Solorio explains. ‘That’s why so many of us are stressed.’

“From a makeshift staging area in a garage, her compatriots file past tables piled high with diapers, laundry detergent, and toilet tissue, all while juggling toddlers in pajamas and babies nestled in blankets or shawl rebozos (traditional baby carriers).

“Some dig through piles of donated clothes before moving on to the main event – repurposed onion bags heavy with sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbage, kale, and other fresh vegetables and smaller white plastic bags filled with rice, lentils, and canned goods from the USDA. Strollers double as grocery carts. …

“ ‘You would never see this concentration of Oaxacans,’ says Ms. López, dressed for the season in a bright red sweater and snowman earrings. ‘They are always hiding in the fields or their apartments.’  …

“A monthly phone tree alerts people to the food bank’s hidden locale. ‘I never dreamed it would expand to the whole community,’ says Dominga, who is an unauthorized resident and fears for her family’s safety. …

“Her landlord refuses to provide a rent receipt, and a friend who was recently evicted similarly had no paper trail. Dominga worries the same thing could happen to her own family. [And according to Gretchen Regenhardt, regional directing attorney for California Rural Legal Assistance,] wage theft – not paying overtime, making people work beyond the clock, or under-recording hours worked – is common. …

“The underground food bank joins 30 established food distribution sites scattered around Watsonville at churches, health clinics, and charities. A hefty portion of the vegetables come from local farms and packing houses, much of it privately donated, says Willy Elliott-McCrea, CEO of Second Harvest Watsonville. …

“For the holidays, a local church [gathered] up coats and shoes while the Friends of Farmworker Families, which depends largely on private donations, supplies the toys. But for those patiently waiting, the most important gift is having enough food to tide the family over.” More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

If anyone knows of a way to ensure that the fruits and vegetables I buy are picked by farmworkers who are being treated fairly, I’d sure like to know what it is. Is there some kind of label farms can earn? Send it along.

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If you are a consumer these days, after Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday. I do love Giving Tuesday as there are so many worthy causes to choose from, and you don’t have to go farther than your computer to donate. This year I am torn between a food bank I admire and my favorite refugee nonprofit, although I do love the Granola Project. Maybe I will do something for all three.

But tomorrow is Saturday, and I am headed down to Providence to help Erik with the kids while Suzanne has a Luna & Stella birthstone-jewelry trunk show at Talulah Cooper Boutique on Traverse St, just off Wickenden (12 pm to 5 pm).

While we are on the subject of Luna & Stella (the parent of this blog) you should know that now through Cyber Monday (November 30, 2015) only, you can get 40% off all earrings, plus $20 off orders over $100 anywhere on the website — with code SHOPSMALL.

This season, Suzanne is into mixing her jewelry with some vintage lockets she has found. The ones in the picture are all from the Greater Providence area, long known for jewelry making.

Photo below: Rhode Island Foundation
A Luna & Stella trunk show pictured in a profile at “Our Backyard,” which features Rhode Island people and businesses, here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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With increasing numbers of Americans experiencing food insecurity, it seems like an appropriate time of year to be grateful that at least there are many goodhearted people managing food banks and community meals and doing what they can.

If you know of anyone in New England who could use the help just now, or if you want to volunteer or donate, this partial list may be a good starting place.

Rhode Island

http://www.rifoodbank.org
“The Rhode Island Community Food Bank works to end hunger in our state by providing food to people in need. We envision a day when all Rhode Islanders have access to nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle.

Massachusetts

East
http://Gbfb.org
“The Greater Boston Food Bank’s mission is to End Hunger Here. Our objective is to distribute enough food to provide at least one meal a day to those in need.”

West
https://www.foodbankwma.org/
“We are fortunate to live in such a special part of the country, allowing for the growth and harvest of a multitude of fresh fruits and vegetables. As this harvest season comes to an end, we have received more than 266,800 pounds of fresh produce — including potatoes, lettuce, carrots, apples and squash — donated by local farms this year.”

Vermont

http://www.vtfoodbank.org/FindFoodShelf.aspx
“If you are looking for a place to have a Thanksgiving meal or to volunteer to help cook, serve or clean-up, download our list of Thanksgiving meals.”

New Hampshire

http://www.nhfoodbank.org/
“Need Food? We Can Help. If you are in need of assistance, use our search to locate the nearest food pantry or soup kitchen to you. Search by your town or county, or view all of our partner agencies.”

Maine

http://www.foodpantries.org/st/maine
“There are several food pantries and food banks in the Maine. With help from users like you we have compiled a list of some. If you know of a listing that is not included here please submit new food pantries to our database.”

Connecticut

http://www.ctfoodbank.org/
“The mission of Connecticut Food Bank is to provide nutritious food to people in need. We distribute food and other resources to nearly 700 local emergency food assistance programs in six of Connecticut’s eight counties: Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven, New London and Windham.”

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A couple years ago I asked someone who organizes gleaners in Vermont to write an article for the place that I work. Gleaning was new to me then, but now I read about it often.

The idea is that volunteers are invited into farms after a harvest to pick the perfectly good remnants that would otherwise be plowed under. The excess produce is then handed over to food banks at peak of freshness.

Kathy Shiels Tully wrote for the Globe today about one gleaning effort.

“Founded in 2004 by Arlington resident Oakes Plimpton, Boston Area Gleaners organizes volunteers, sometimes on only one to two days’ notice.

“Timeliness is important, said Emma Keough, market and food access manager at Brookwood Community Farm.

“ ‘It’s really critical people show up … We’re growing really intensively, so there’s only a small window to pick excess crops in order to give us time to turn over the land and plant a new crop.’ …

“Todd Kaplan of Somerville signed on four years ago after hearing about Boston Area Gleaners ‘through the grapevine.’

“Averaging a dozen gleaning sessions a year, Kaplan, a legal aid attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services, has gleaned mostly on farms west of Boston — Dick’s Market Garden in Lunenburg, where he’s picked kale, tomatoes, and green peppers; Kimball Fruit Farm in Pepperell, which has offered the group first pick of apples; and the Food Project Farm in Lincoln.

“The gleaning nonprofit ‘moves an inordinate amount of food that would otherwise go to waste into the hands of people who really need it,’ Kaplan said.

“Lynn Langton, a North Andover resident, says her immediate reaction to learning about gleaning in a newspaper article three years ago was ‘I want to do that!’ … It’s such a high-quality, fresh product. It’s unbelievable.’ ”

More here.

Photo: John Blanding/Globe Staff
The Boston Area Gleaners program organizes volunteers. to pick excess crops from farms and donate them to food banks for distribution. Matt Crawford is the group’s coordinator.

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In a Yes! magazine op-ed, reprinted in the Christian Science Monitor, Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures writes about his favorite topic: the potential of older Americans to contribute beyond retirement.

“With big thinking,” he writes, “there is a chance to tap the talents and experience of the ‘baby boom’ generation to solve longstanding social problems, from health care to homelessness, education to the environment. There is a chance to turn an older population into a new workforce for social change.

“Some people, like Gary Maxworthy, are leading the way … [Around age 60] he thought a lot about his old Peace Corps dream and the prospect of returning to it. In the end, he chose a more manageable domestic option, VISTA, part of the AmeriCorps national service program. VISTA placed Maxworthy at the San Francisco Food Bank, where he discovered that—like food banks throughout the state of California—it was primarily giving out canned and processed food. It was all they could reliably deliver without food spoiling.

“Maxworthy knew that California farmers were discarding tons of blemished but wholesome fruits and vegetables that were not up to supermarket standards. He launched Farm to Family, a program that in 2010 distributed more than 100 million pounds of fresh food to needy families in California.” Read more.

For those who are interested in “encore careers,” check out Encore.org, by Civic Ventures, “a nonprofit think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.”

 

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