Farm partnerships are a critical piece of the Polack Food Bank puzzle. Esther Magasis, Food Bank Manager, counts on these relationships to provide clients reliable access to the fresh produce that can directly impact their health and well-being.
“We are a once-a-month food bank, so when someone comes in, we want to ensure they have fresh produce that day,” Magasis said. “For a lot of the people we work with, there aren’t that many guarantees, especially when it comes to resources.”
But consistently stocking high-quality produce for clients on a food bank budget is not a given. It requires ingenuity and creativity, as well as alignment with core values and the JFS mission.
So, instead of thinking in a transactional way, Magasis and JFS supplement community donations to the Food Bank through the farm partnerships they have cultivated. This kind of integrity in sourcing benefits not only the health of clients but also the health of the local food system.
“If the goal of the Food Bank is to reduce and eliminate the effects of poverty and hunger, we need to be doing that at every step along the way, not just at the end, when we provide the food,” said Magasis. “We need to be mindful of the labor employed with the food we purchase.”
One of the oldest JFS farm partnerships is with Oxbow Farm & Conservation Center. It started with JFS volunteers gleaning produce from the farm for Sukkot and grew from there.
“We took the partnership to a really beautiful place,” said Adam McCurdy, former Farm Manager at Oxbow. “It’s symbiotic for the Food Bank and the growers.” McCurdy spent more than a decade at the farm and helped build the partnership with JFS.
Another local partnership is with Sound Vegetables. The arrangement allowed the farm to get off the ground in 2017, according to co-owner Erik Goheen. “We wouldn’t have started without someone who agreed to buy our produce at the beginning,” Goheen said. “It allowed us to focus on a quality product.” That quality product now goes to the vulnerable individuals and families JFS serves.
The same is true for Chubby Bunny Farm. The contract and predictability with JFS allowed the farm to invest in its four-season greenhouse and walk-in cooler. As a result, the farm provides JFS access to fresh produce throughout more of the year. “Even in the dead of winter, we will have nutrient-dense foods, such as beets and carrots and cabbages, available for JFS,” said owner Michael Deitering.
The results are clear. Local farms are important partners for JFS, assuring that the Food Bank can stock its shelves for clients, month in and month out. At the same time, local farms know they have a reliable customer and distributor in JFS.
JFS staff regularly visit farm partners and meet employees. They are working on guidelines to ensure JFS honors the rights of farm workers. “We want to make sure we aren’t taking advantage of one group of people to help another,” Magasis said, “And, we want clients to know that if they need us, they can count on us.”
Local farm partnerships help make both possible.
THANK YOU TO OUR FARM PARTNERS!
By Rachel Anne Seymour, JFS Marketing & Communications Coordinator