This year's Summer Lunch Program featured beautiful, fresh fruits and vegetables grown just up the road! Thanks to support from the Haas Foundation and a strong collaborative spirit, nearly 70 families (more than 200 children) brought home fresh fruit and vegetables grown at Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton. The partnership between Heron Pond and ONT brought 20 CSA half-shares, plus the 'extras' thrown in by Andre and Greg, to really boost the offerings provided to families who might otherwise be struggling during the summer months.
This partnership is not anything new at ONT. In fact, for more than 5 years, it's been the norm. Every week during the local growing season, ONT receives bushels (and sometimes truck loads) of fresh produce from growers like Heron Pond Farm, Old Stone Farm in West Newbury, or the Farm at Eastman's Corner, as well as countless personal gardeners and the school-based community gardens, like the one at Cashman Elementary School. "It's like our own little farmers market. Everything is freshly picked," shares ONT Executive Director Lyndsey Haight. "For most of our guests, fresh produce is too expensive to purchase on a regular basis. Thanks to these partnerships and our community's generosity, we can offer it to our guests every week."
From the familiar carrots and tomatoes, to the adventurous kohlrabi, guests at ONT's pantry and meal programs enjoy the best our region has to offer - YEAR-ROUND! This year, Heron Pond will be sending 30 winter CSA shares to the ONT pantry with another grant from Haas. It will be an incredible supplement to the produce we've been getting through the colder months thanks to an increasing focus on fresh produce at the Greater Boston Food Bank.
With as little as a $10 donation, ONT can provide a family with a healthy helping of fresh vegetables and fruits, a half gallon of milk, a dozen eggs, assorted dairy, healthy items like hummus and tofu, meat or fish.
"It's great to see fresh food becoming the focus of hunger relief work around the country. We started with a bit back in 2010, then, in response to our guests' requests, we really boosted the program in 2011 and don't plan to stop anytime soon," explains Haight. "Today, we spend more than 95% of our food budget on fresh foods. We work hard to engage wholesalers, retailers, local growers, and the food banks to help us get the most from every dollar. But we never sacrifice quality. If it's not something I would eat, we don't give it out."
In the last two years, ONT has also partnered with Pennies for Poverty to help leverage the pennies collected at registered across the region into gift cards to local farms like Cider Hill, Colby Farm, and Tendercrop Farm. These gift cards allow ONT's guests to shop on their own and participate in the rich agricultural traditions that have become staples in our local culture.
If you'd like to learn more about contributing fresh, local produce to our programs, contact ONT Pantry Director Lori Townsend.
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