Thursday, April 8, 2010

Growing healthy kids and healthy farms in Ithaca

A guest post from Lara Kaltman:

As part of an initiative to build an equitable and sustainable local food system in Ithaca, a group of farmers, school gardeners and other food justice-minded community members have come together to help develop a system for redistributing extra produce from our local farms to the Beverly J. Martin Elementary School fruit and vegetable snack program and other local food programs, including Southside Community Center and GIAC. The system involves exchanging volunteer labor on the farms for fruits and vegetables when there's extra.

Our local farms can contact Katie Church, Full Plate Collective's CSA manager, to let her know if they have volunteer needs or extra produce. Katie will post the farm work opportunity on the new "Ithaca Crob Mob" google group website* to let community volunteers know which farms could use an extra hand and when.

A number of youth and other community organizations have already expressed interest in the opportunity to help on farms and support efforts to improve the community’s access to fresh local produce**. Becki Hawley will be working directly with these organizations to help match them with the farm work based on the group's availability, size, experience level/need for supervision and transportation capabilities. Both Becki and Katie will be available to help supervise the volunteer group on the farm to ensure it is an enjoyable, educational and positive experience for volunteers and farmers alike.

GreenStar has generously offered cold storage space to hold the donated produce and Marlo Capoccia of Garden Gate Delivery has graciously volunteered to help truck the produce to GreenStar and from GreenStar to the various snack and meal programs.

What's so exciting about this initiative is that not only will it provide farms with free labor in exchange for fresh produce (when there's extra) it also will offer children the joy of connecting with local farms and the people who grow their food. Thanks in large part to Vanessa Wood, BJM’s fruit and vegetable snack program manager, we’ve already seen the profound impact of bringing fresh local produce to kids in the classroom. Now kids will have the opportunity to go to the farms to continue cultivating their appreciation for fresh food and sow a seed for a lifetime of healthy eating.

This group has been organized by Liz Karabinakis of GreenStar Community Projects and CCE's Healthy Food for All, and Lara Parrilla Kaltman, director of the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. Lara and Liz have been working closely with local farms, businesses, community organizers, the Village at Ithaca and ICSD board member, Scott Perez, on this work and recognize that our shared goal of building an equitable and sustainable local food system will take years of dedicated and fulfilling work together.

*Farmers can also contact the Ithaca Crob Mob ( if they could use volunteer labor for other farm work (like weeding) that doesn't necessarily involve harvesting produce.

** If you are interested in learning more about this volunteer work, please contact Lara at

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