The HVADC Cultivator
A Busy September for FeedHV
September is harvest time. While that means an abundance of farm fresh food is available, it also means it is the time when the most excess product gets left behind and wasted, all while too many in the region still go hungry. Early in the year it had been estimated that one in ten Hudson Valley residents are food insecure, and the need has only been exacerbated by the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic with some agencies seeing a 40-60% increase in demand.
Throughout the year FeedHV, the community food network administered by HVADC, has been working hard to mitigate food waste and reduce hunger by connecting food producers and businesses which have excess product with organizations that can get it to those who need it most. A network of FeedHV volunteers helps move the food from donors to receiving agencies with food assistance programs, and FeedHV employs the ChowMatch app to help streamline the process.
“The team effort exhibited by those working on the ground as well as digitally for the growth of FeedHV has made September 2020, an active month for the network,” said HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling. “While there is a lot for all involved with FeedHVs successes to be proud of I know none of them rest on their laurels. This team and this community are driven to make the biggest impact possible on the issues of food insecurity and food waste. This is just the beginning.”
In September FeedHV launched a new website filled with resources and the stories of connected partners that make the community network possible. To this end, the connective power of the new FeedHV website will greatly improve its ability to reach partners, volunteers and the public.
Guided by HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson and marketing consultant Diane Greco of Tactix Inc. the new site was built by Cecile Rothchild of Create & Associates Inc.
The overhaul saw the creation of a new logo for FeedHV, to reinforce the concept of it being a community network. The three circles tell the story of the three groups FeedHV connects – volunteers, donors and receiving agencies. The site’s content and a striking educational video tell the stories of the food rescue network. Additional content explains how ChowMatch works and enables the connections between FeedHV’s three circles. A ‘counter’ on the home page now graphically tallies the impact of FeedHV in pounds of product moved, meals provided since the program was started, as well as carbon gas waste reduction.
Another page has also been added about “Hunger in the Hudson Valley” to provide specifics and statistics about the actual need in the Valley. An important new feature is the Find Food tab, which people can use to find the FeedHV receiving agencies with food assistance programs. Those in need can locate meals directly through the FeedHV site.
To move perishable items quickly when they become available means FeedHV has to be nimble and able to coordinate pickup, processing and delivery at a moment’s notice. This is only possible thanks to FeedHV’s committed network of over 300 volunteers, approximately 130 donor organizations and over 100 receiving agencies.
“Seasonal abundance mixed with a recent cold snap required an extra burst of effort to prevent excessive loss,” said HVADC Program Coordinator Brianna Merrill of FeedHV’s September efforts. “Our community food network held a series of farm gleaning and processing events to rescue over 1,000 pounds of local produce.”
HVADC Program Associate Erica Doyle worked closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County Program Coordinator Dan Foss and Food Security Coordinator Stiles Najac to glean 920 pounds of tomatoes, 90 pounds of sweet peppers and 60 pounds of potatoes. The produce was harvested by volunteers during two different gleaning events at Fishkill Farms, in Dutchess County. The CCE-Orange “GleanMobile” transported the produce to Second Chance Foods in Putnam and Fishkill Farms donated the boxes used for packing and transportation. Martha Elder and her team at Second Chance were able to process the tomatoes into 363 quarts of marinara sauce. The sauce accounts for 1,450 servings.
Doyle had also coordinated previous gleaning events at the farm in July and August which resulted in over 3,200 pounds of squash harvested and distributed to agencies. She is spearheading volunteer outreach in Sullivan and Greene, two of the four counties that joined the network earlier in the year, and providing volunteers with branded FeedHV masks and shirts so they may be easily recognized when conducting food runs.
While larger gleaning and processing events make a big impact all at once, FeedHV is making smaller but equally as important connections every day, as every donation is significant. Donations come from various avenues, such as restaurants, farms, food makers, stores, hospitals, universities, corporations or other institutions. Within food safety guidelines, FeedHV accepts locally grown or produced agricultural products, shelf-stable food donations and prepared nutritious food. In late September, Merrill received a call from Rabbi Bryan Mann at Vasser College, saying he had ten boxes of vegan meals with no one to feed them to. FeedHV immediately located a local children’s’ home that worked with a vegan family and were able to get the food to them. Merrill says these smaller immediate connections are as emblematic of FeedHV’s work as larger orchestrated projects.
“When COVID-19 happened in March we really had to shift our efforts,” said Merrill. “Institutions closed down and the food intended to go to them needed to be redirected somewhere else and we have been able to help get that food to the people who have been left more food insecure due to the pandemic. We realized this is where we can help right now and really turned it up.”
Because FeedHV has to sometimes work fast in order to take in a donation, there are unique challenges. Cooler space is a constant need when a large product donation becomes available immediately. As the potential of a winter COVID-19 case spike looms, FeedHV is working to locate storage and processing space that can be called upon if needed.
Also in September, FeedHV launched a radio campaign on Radio Woodstock (100.1 WDST) to further spread the word about the network and recruit volunteers and donors.