At the end of March, Gaining Ground hosted an interdisciplinary panel focused on the issue of hunger relief. In a community like ours, hunger might not be obvious, but here are the numbers:
41 million Americans are hungry, and yet 40% of food in the US is thrown away during the growing, distribution, and eating process.
Children struggle with hunger with 1 in 8 children in Eastern MA being food insecure and 1 in 6, nationally.
800,000 Massachusetts residents do not know where their next meal will come from, an increase of 71% in the last decade.
Our panel included:
Danielle Nierenberg, activist, author, and journalist who co-founded Food Tank, a non-profit organization that researches food systems, hunger, and poverty.
Dr. Kathryn Brodowski, preventive medicine physician who specializes in food insecurity and nutrition. She oversees both program and research at The GBFB.
Doug Wolcik, farm manager at Gaining Ground. Doug has focused on soil health and introduced no-till agricultural practices to Gaining Ground, a switch that has vastly increased the amount of food the organization is able to donate to hunger relief efforts.
We had a full crowd join us for an evening of discussion about food security, human health and one of the most surprising levers for positive change: the soil beneath our feet.
Read on for the full story by Patricia Brady.
It is magical to watch the ebb and flow of farm activities throughout the season and the improvements in production annually. Last year was a big year from beginning to end. In 2017 we donated the most produce in five years and, for the first time, we distributed every month, January through December.
Our farm staff couldn’t have done this work without the help of our 2,600 volunteers who start out in the soggy days of April and work through the hot summer months into chilly October.
In 2017, we distributed our produce in Concord, Bedford, Devons, Maynard, Sudbury, Westford, Lowell, and Boston through partnerships with 13 hunger-relief organizations that distribute through meals, food pantries, and direct free markets.
Each year we build on the previous year’s experience to improve what we grow, how we grow it together with our volunteers, and how we distribute it through our partners to families in need.
Say the words “food pantry,” and most people think of canned vegetables and boxes of pasta. But more and more, a large portion of the food that pantries give out is fresh and local.
So when Open Table’s community dinner and food pantry looked to expand their fresh food offerings, naturally they looked to Gaining Ground, which also serves the Concord-Maynard area.
Gaining Ground presents:
Hunger Relief: From the Ground Up
Thursday, March 29, 2018 • 7 p.m.
The Fenn School—Ward Hall • 516 Monument Street • Concord, MA 01742
Please join us for an evening of discussion about food security, human health and one of the most surprising levers for positive change: the soil beneath our feet. Our panelists for the evening will include: Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder and president of Food Tank; Dr. Kathryn Brodowski, senior director of health and research at the Greater Boston Food Bank; and Doug Wolcik, farm manager at Gaining Ground.
At the beginning of the summer, Gretchen Nelson, head of the board’s Recipient Committee, and I scheduled visits to the amazing organizations that distribute our produce. With growing season in full swing, seeing our vegetables filling tables, shelves, and bags was clearly going to be powerful. I had been told that our produce is often the only fresh food many of these organizations receive on a weekly basis, but seeing it first-hand solidified why we do what we do at Gaining Ground.
Market season is upon us. Tomatoes are ripening up and our fall plants are going in the ground this week. Here are a few highlights from our three markets in Lowell and Concord where we directly distribute our produce.
We are off to a great start at our two markets for Head Start families in Lowell. At one site, we serve approximately 23-28 families each week. At our first market we found a caterpillar on the fennel, which was adopted by a classroom, heard many food stories and saw many children happily eating the snap peas and broccoli out of hand. A mom who is Vietnamese American was excited to see the fennel for her pho soup.
Thanks to improved farming practices and expanded infrastructure, for the first time ever Gaining Ground has donated produce each month this year and started full-season distribution earlier in June than previous years.
We donate to a mix of organizations that provide food pantries and/or meal programs in a variety of locations. This year, our full-time recipient partner organizations include:
- Food Pantry and Meals: Open Table (Concord/Maynard)
- Food Pantry: Bedford Food Pantry, Loaves and Fishes (Ayer), Rosie’s Place (Boston), Sudbury Food Pantry, Westford Housing Community
- Meal Programs: House of Hope (Lowell), Lowell Transitional Living Center, Pine Street Inn (Boston)
- Free Markets: Food for Families (Concord); Head Start (two locations in Lowell)
For the first time ever, we grew and harvested fresh produce throughout the winter, thanks to improved infrastructure and evolving farming practices. Just as the crops were ready to pick, we discovered that Mill City Grows in Lowell was in short supply of fresh, locally grown vegetables for its nutritional cooking classes.
Did you volunteer at Gaining Ground last year? If so, you were one of more than 3,000 volunteers who contributed to 7,500-plus hours of planting, weeding, watering, and carefully tending the rainbow of produce on Gaining Ground’s farm.
How fortunate we are that Liza Connolly, chef and co-founder of Kids Cooking Green, has volunteered to pick up and help prepare our produce weekly during this fall’s pilot partnership program with Waltham Boys and Girls Club (WBGC). With a mission to inspire youth to reach their full potential, WBGC offers a welcoming space weekdays and holidays for athletics, creativity, social recreation, and community service. These activities require energy fueled by good food, yet for many of its members, hunger and nutrition are a daily challenge.
This is a farm to feed neighbors, a civic investment for long-term yields without the government’s hand in the matter. This is about respect for land and food, and the dignity of people who have neither.
Fresh, locally grown cucumbers, kale, spinach, apples, berries, and more… That’s breakfast for many homeless and low-income men and women living in the Lowell area! How? These delicious vegetables are turned into free healthy breakfast smoothies thanks to a new partnership with Gaining Ground and other produce providers.
Another record-breaking harvest gave our farmers a problem that was a pleasure to solve: we had to find another group to receive the bounty from our fields. Rosie’s Place in Boston proved to be ideal. It meets our criteria for distribution—it is located within 20 miles of our farm, has a “choice” pantry and refrigeration, and offers nutritional education. Rosie’s also provides healthy lunches and dinners in their welcoming dining room to 220 poor and homeless women and their children each day.
At the end of March at The Fenn School, Gaining Ground hosted a multi-generational panel focused on the issue of hunger relief. In a community like ours, hunger might not be obvious, but here are the numbers.