Feeding the Need for Nourishment

CHOW garden image image

Picking tomatoes, filling a shopping cart, pouring milk—the simple tasks involved in getting, preparing and sharing food unite communities and families across generations.

Several of our grants in 2013 supported efforts to bring fresh, healthy food to more people. Take, for example, the $14,000 grant to help Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES) plant an orchard in Binghamton, where volunteers grow pears and berries along with ornamental perennials.

VINES had already established an urban farm and several community gardens when it proposed the small orchard on Liberty Street. The project is designed as a “food forest,” says Sean Cummings, VINES’ Binghamton urban farm manager. “It’s going to be a lot more densely planted than a community garden. It’s going to be highly managed, but the look will be more lush.”

The orchard brings a new source of produce to one of the city’s food deserts, and a bit of beauty and positive energy to a neighborhood that’s seen some hard times, Cummings says.

Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) has also gone into farming, converting four acres donated by the Town of Conklin into a source of produce for Broome County food pantries. A $1,500 grant from the Community Foundation paid for seeds, plus rakes, shovels and other equipment.

“The clients we work with have a hard time affording fresh fruits and vegetables,” says Mike Leahey, director of CHOW at the Broome County Council of Churches. Traditionally, CHOW has supplied mostly shelf-stable foods. “We wanted to offset the nonperishables with healthy, fresh produce,” he says.

Volunteers spent approximately 5,000 hours in total setting up the farm and planting and harvesting the crops. Between their efforts and the work of partners who grow food on their own land, the initiative brought in about 7,000 pounds of produce, Leahy says.

Some food banks in rural communities are getting a crucial boost from a designated family fund, established by a Binghamton family that decided to focus some of its philanthropic efforts on food insecurity.

The Special Grants Committee of the Foundation learned that after 30 years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had recently stopped funding small food banks in rural Chenango, Delaware and Otsego County. The committee recommended sending money from the fund in 2013 to the Chenango United Way and United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties, which then distributed the funds to the food banks.

By plugging the budget gaps, the designated fund helped those food banks make sure that
people in need in their communities wouldn’t go hungry.

In Oneonta, the Center for Agriculture Development and Entrepreneurship (CADE) is using a $12,000 Community Foundation grant to help dairy farmers in Otsego and Delaware Counties explore more profitable markets for their milk. The goal is to spur production of “Made in New York” cheese, butter and other value-added products, and to build a pipeline to the New York City market, where shoppers eagerly pay extra for regionally-sourced food.

CADE has hired a consultant to identify options for farmers who want to get involved. “She’s doing the legwork needed to tell farmers where they can get their product processed, what it would turn into, what price would come back to them, how it would get to New York City, who would be distributing it and who would be purchasing it,” says Rebecca Morgan, CADE’s executive director.

If dairy farmers earn more for their milk, that will help to strengthen the state’s agriculture industry and its economy, Morgan says.

In a similar way, all these initiatives to put wholesome food on the table help to strengthen
our communities.


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