Posts Tagged ‘food pantry’

Photo: Manufactured Housing Village.
Willow Pines mobile home park in Kaysville, Utah. An empathetic woman makes the manufactured housing parks she manages truly homes.

At a manufactured housing park in Utah, as Cathy Free reports at the Washington Post, one woman is making a huge difference in residents’ sense of security.

“Pat Blake, who manages two mobile home communities in Utah, began to notice some of the children who lived there seemed hungry after parents came to her to inquire about food assistance. Blake was one of seven siblings raised by a single mom. She knew hunger personally.

“She started using some of her own money to pick up extra jars of peanut butter, cans of soup and bread at the grocery store. Then she let her residents know to come to her office and help themselves.

“ ‘It doesn’t matter whether a child lives in a mobile home or in a fancy apartment — they all deserve to be fed,’ she said, explaining that there are 120 families in one community and 45 in another at the mobile home parks in Davis County. …

“With rent increases hitting most mobile home communities in recent years, more families are finding it difficult to afford groceries and housing, she said.

“ ‘I started bringing food in for people, just a little at a time,’ said Blake, who has been managing the two parks since 2020. “And then I realized that I had a huge room behind my office that wasn’t being used, and I could do more.’

“Blake, 79, lives in a mobile home in Apple Acres, one of the communities that she manages. She said she asked a friend to help install some shelves in the large room at the second mobile home park, Willow Pines, so she could turn it into a pantry.

“Then she stepped it up a level. She contacted the Bountiful Food Pantry, which collects donated food and distributes it throughout Davis County, including in Fruit Heights City, where she lives. They started coming twice a month to offer groceries to residents.

“Blake stocked the shelves of her pantry with some of the donated items, and she told her tenants they could come by on Thursdays to pick up any extra staples they needed.

She used her savings to buy a refrigerator to hold meat, cheese, eggs and gallons of milk, she said.

“Almost three years later, she said residents at Apple Acres and Willow Pines now have enough to eat, regardless of their family size or financial circumstances. …

“Linda Wilson lives at Willow Pines and is among those who have felt the pinch of rising food and housing costs. Three years ago, Wilson, 75, took in her daughter and three grandchildren when they were going through a difficult time, she said. They are still living with her in her mobile home. …

“ ‘I’ve lived in several mobile home parks over the years, and I’ve never run across a manager like Pat,’ she said. ‘She helped me with some rental assistance, and she takes the time to get to know every resident here and what their needs are.’

“Before Blake became manager of Willow Pines, Maribel Urquizo said she often struggled to buy groceries for her three children in the week before her husband, who works with granite countertops, received his regular paycheck.

“ ‘It was a little hard sometimes to make ends meet,’ said Urquizo, 29. ‘Now we can go to Pat’s office, and she gives us what we need to get us through. Milk, eggs, snacks for the kids — she has it all.’ …

“Blake said she understands the struggles of many of her tenants because she’s been there. She dropped out of school at 13 to help look after her siblings and bring in extra money from babysitting kids in her neighborhood, she said, noting that she eventually received her high school diploma at age 29. …

“Besides keeping food in her residents’ refrigerators, Blake said she makes sure they have Christmas presents every year and that children have backpacks and school supplies.

“The families she helps often thank her by bringing her casseroles, cookies and jars of salsa made with the free groceries they pick up every other week.

“She said she can go to sleep content at night knowing that nobody at Apple Acres and Willow Pines is hungry.

“ ‘Needing groceries is nothing to be ashamed of,’ she said. ‘We could all use a boost sometimes. These families need someone, and I’m happy that I can be that person to help. More at the Post, here.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that protection from rising rents at mobile parks is often best tackled by joining with neighbors to become a Resident Owned Community. Read about how to do that here.

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Art: Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
“The Gleaners, “1857

When farmers are done harvesting their crops, or when homeowners grow fruit trees for decoration but don’t eat the fruit, an opportunity arises for gleaners. Some gleaners may scavenge for food for their own tables, but nowadays it’s become more of an activity to feed people who need extra help. I blogged about the concept in 2011, here, and 2014, here.

A recent article by Henry Schwan in WickedLocal provides an update.

He writes, “Ruth Lyddy bent over and used a sharp farm tool to take a whack out of a thick stalk of kale at Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord. Lyddy had the look of a full-time farmer, but she’s a volunteer gleaner, which is someone rescuing crops before they are plowed over and destroyed.

“She joined other volunteers Nov. 17 at Barrett’s Mill Farm in Concord, and their leader was Dylan Frazier, who works for Boston Area Gleaners, Inc. (BAG). …

“The nonprofit formed in 2004, and is in the midst of its ’10 Tons in 10 Days’ campaign. As the name says, the goal is to gather 10 tons of food in 10 days, which is distributed to local food pantries.

“Frazier said many farms only harvest what they can sell, so BAG swoops in, takes the excess and hands it over to Food For Free in Cambridge, which distributes it to local food banks and pantries. …

“The volunteers also harvested purple-top turnips, red beets, leaks, daikon radish and Savoy cabbage, and all of it was piled into a truck, paid for with a $25,000 grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. …

“Volunteer John Pilch summed up why people give their time to BAG as he carried a box full of kale that he just cut. ‘It’s very grounding for me. I love to give back, because I’ve been so blessed in my life,’ Pilch said.”

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Check out this story in the Boston Globe. It seems especially timely given the increasing numbers of people growing their own food and the concerns about many others who are struggling.

“Every summer, 40 million backyard farmers produce more food than they can use, while people in their communities go hungry. If only they could link up. Enter Gary Oppenheimer, 59, of West Milford, N.J. He was directing a community garden a couple of years ago when inspiration struck. In May 2009, AmpleHarvest.org hit the Internet, connecting food pantries and gardeners. In just 150 days, Rosie’s Place in Boston became the 1,000th pantry on the site, and the growth has continued. As of Labor Day, 4,188 pantries were listed, in all states. Oppenheimer says the nonprofit organization is actively seeking grant funding to sustain what has sprung up.” Read more here.

If you have extra produce from your garden, you can go to AmpleHarvest to find a food pantry near you.

Photographs: Sandra M. Kelly

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Here’s an interesting thought for harvest time.

In the NY Times, T. Lynne Pixley writes about Kelly Callahan and other Atlanta residents who forage for food among the many neglected, foreclosed properties in their neighborhoods.

Walking her dog in her neighborhood, Callahan saw “plenty of empty, bank-owned properties for sale.”

She also noticed that the “forlorn yards were peppered with overgrown gardens and big fruit trees, all bulging with the kind of bounty that comes from the high heat and afternoon thunderstorms that have defined Atlanta’s summer. So she began picking. First, there was a load of figs, which she intends to make into jam for a cafe that feeds homeless people. Then, for herself, she got five pounds of tomatoes, two kinds of squash and — the real prize — a Sugar Baby watermelon.” Others have joined in. Read more here.

I was interested to learn about “foraging” in Atlanta because I had recently read about a related activity in Vermont, called “gleaning.” Gleaning is a bit more out in the open. Farmers who are finished harvesting their crops give permission to gleaners, usually volunteers, to pick over what’s left and take it to families in need and to food pantries. One group engaged in this effort is the Addison County Gleaning Program. Read about it here.

It turns out that there is a lot of food that would otherwise go to waste. So it seems good that the food benefits someone.

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