Thanks to fantastic growing conditions and an additional acre of cultivation, Massaro Community Farm was able to donate more food than ever in 2012. The farm exceeded its commitment to give 10 percent of its produce to hunger relief organizations by donating 6,600 pounds of produce, or 13.7% of the total harvest last year. Given the good season, the farm was also able to offer a much greater variety of produce than the prior year. On average, beginning in June and running through October, approximately 300 pounds of produce went to four area non-profit agencies each week.
Massaro Community Farm's food donation partners in 2012 were BH Care Social Club (formerly Birmingham Group Health Services) in Ansonia, Jewish Family Services of New Haven, Woodbridge Senior Center Services and Columbus House in New Haven. Given that food donations are down overall for many area food pantries, farm food donation recipients were very appreciative of the addition of fresh produce to the non-perishables and food vouchers they routinely offer clients.
Jewish Family Services operates a stand-alone food pantry that offers food assistance to those at risk nutritionally or who qualify based on income level. JFS has been offering this food assistance since about 1997 but moved to its current location at 1402 Whalley Avenue in 2004, when the volume of food distributed outgrew the oversized closet it was housed in at the main JFS office.
The JFS food assistance program operates like a small grocery store, allowing its 300 participating members to come in and select foods for their monthly allotment of groceries. And that doesn't even take into account the 10-30 families that the food assistance program serves on an emergency basis each month.
"We never turn anyone away," says program director, Sandra Hagan. "We were also one of the first programs that allowed participants individual choice," Hagan goes on to say.
Allowing members to make their own food choices makes the program more efficient: people can select foods based on dietary restrictions, which reduces the amount of food getting wasted or returned to pantries. While JFS relies heavily on non-perishable food purchased from CT Food Bank, Hagan says the fresh produce from Massaro Community Farm is very popular among its elderly and Russian population.
"Nothing goes to waste here," Hagan says.
Massaro Community Farm plans to continue its food donation program to its community partners in 2013. Massaro Community Farm is a non-profit farm on a 57-acre parcel of land in Woodbridge, Connecticut, 10 minutes northwest of New Haven. Its mission is to keep farming, feed people, and build community. Its vision is to enhance the quality of life for generations to come. For more information visit www.massarocommunityfarm.org.