Jul 31, 2021
Beth McLendon Albright, the Co-Founder and Director of UlsterCorps, is a master organizer.
Beth McLendon Albright, the Co-Founder and Director of UlsterCorps, is a master organizer. Over the past decade UlsterCorps has been inspirational in its ability to rally volunteers across Ulster County to support a multitude of important causes and initiatives. Albright’s work motivating locals to help glean farm fresh food for distribution to regional food pantries through The Farm To Food Pantry Collaborative has been particularly influential on HVADC’s similar FeedHV community food network initiatives.
The Collaborative is a group of Ulster County nonprofits including UlsterCorps, Family of Woodstock Inc., Rondout Valley Growers Association and the Bruderhof Community. The organizational dream team addresses food insecurity by engaging local farmers to donate produce and training volunteers to glean, process and distribute nutritious food to the network food pantries, feeding programs and shelters in Ulster and surrounding counties.
Albright said the pandemic emphasized how much need there is for programs fighting food insecurity and was glad to see smaller town-by-town regional support organizations spring up. There was more need than ever but there were also more people looking to help.
“Volunteers stepped up in a major way,” Albright said. “For years I was just filling up my Subaru with the produce we gleaned. Fortunately, with the generous funding we get through (the NoVo Foundation) we were able to purchase a van. We now have a network of walk-ins and storage around the county that have drastically increased our capacity.”
Since its inception in 2009, The Collaborative has gleaned, collected and distributed over 904,900 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to soup kitchens and food pantries in the county. In 2020, the collaborative distributed over 196,900 pounds of produce from 30 donors and distributed to 61 food pantries, shelters, and community meal programs in the Hudson Valley. During the 2020 growing season, 172 volunteers contributed a total of 1019.5 hours of labor.
In 2015, the collaborative started an initiative to create five food hubs, which each including expanded freezer and cooler capacity to improve food storage and significantly decrease waste. The hubs are being located in key locations throughout the county, each supporting four to five food pantries from their surrounding communities. According to UlsterCorps, “These hubs will not only decrease waste and improve food quality but will significantly lower transportation costs and thereby operating costs for the local pantries.” The hubs are located in Kingston, Ellenville, Rosendale, New Paltz and Woodstock.
Before founding UlsterCorps Albright was a co-founder of Freelance Farm, a web development co-operative specializing in nonprofit and arts organizations, and has designed and developed numerous award-winning websites for service agencies and nonprofits. She holds a master’s degree in architecture from Princeton School of Architecture, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from Yale University. The daughter of a girl scout leader, Albright says she’s been a committed volunteer her whole life, serving with the ASPCA as a teenager, Women’s Aid while living in Dublin, Ireland, and the Santa Fe Rape Crisis Center while living in New Mexico. Albright now lives in Stone Ridge in the passive solar home she designed in 2005.
“Beth’s work inspiring a culture of volunteerism in her community and throughout the region is truly inspiring to all of us at HVADC,” said Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC deputy director. “The foundation UlsterCorps and The Farm To Food Pantry Collaborative laid in Ulster County was a big help, influence and proof of concept for the work FeedHV did through the pandemic and today.”
Last fall, due in large part to generous Mother Cabrini grant funding, FeedHV collaborated with UlsterCorps, Community Action and others to supply volunteers and kitchen space for farm to food processing events. Specifically, apples were processed to make apple sauce, parsnips were roasted, and cauliflower were processed and stored for future distribution.
UlsterCorps continues to lead the Hudson Valley region with its gleaning, processing, storing and distribution logistics. This month alone, UlsterCorps will host three gleaning events – two are blueberry gleans at the Hudson Valley Farm Farm Hub Stand in Hurley and the third is a chard glean at Four Winds Farm in Gardiner. These events are listed on FeedHV’s ChowMatch interface so that FeedHV volunteers can support the Farm to Food Pantry efforts of UlsterCorps.
To learn more about UlsterCorps, visit www.ulstercorps.org, and about FeedHV, www.feedhv.org.