Accessing delicious, varied, and fresh-from-the-farm produce isn’t easy for many food pantries’ recipients, but it’s the summertime norm now at The Louis & Goldie Chester Full Plate Kosher Food Pantry (Kosher Food Pantry), one of Jewish Collaborative Services’ most popular programs. That is thanks to the efforts of Kosher Food Pantry Program Coordinator Marcie Ingber, who began volunteering last year at McCoy Community Farm. The one-acre farm in Warren, RI relies on volunteers to plant and harvest vegetables and then distribute that produce to area food pantries.
Last year, Marcie helped to harvest produce every week at McCoy Community Farm and brought those vegetables back to the Kosher Food Pantry. “Due to COVID-19, the Kosher Food Pantry has changed its schedule. It has – and will continue to be – open every other week for grocery pick up. The pantry has reached out to the Jewish community for assistance with harvesting and delivering the produce to the pantry for us,” said Marcie. “I volunteer at the farm every other Wednesday.”
The Rhode Island Community Food Bank provides basic produce – such as potatoes, onions, and carrots – to the Kosher Food Pantry.
“Getting a variety of farm-fresh produce is huge, and it saves our customers from having to spend their limited grocery budgets on fresh produce, which is typically expensive,” said Marcie. “They love the fresh produce, which includes – depending on the month – eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, corn, and butternut squash.”
New volunteers Cynthia Scheinberg and her daughter, Gavi Klein, have been volunteering once a week at McCoy Farm since mid-July. Of seeing the jprov list serv that Marcie had posted, Cynthia said, “It was such a fortuitous thing; I’d been thinking about how I could do more to support food security.” Calling it a travesty that we have hungry people in this country, she added, “I love to garden and I wanted to do something outside. When we got to the farm, there was such a lovely group of like-minded people. I love seeing everyone and seeing the task of the day; it couldn’t be a better match for us.”
The harvest is sufficiently bountiful that everyone using the Kosher Food Pantry will get something. “One week, in mid-July, I had about 25 boxes of zucchini and squash, so everyone was able to take as much as they wanted; other times, I have to limit the quantities or pre-bag them.” In addition, the RI Community Food Bank occasionally provides food pantries, including the Kosher Food Pantry, with Gotham Greens’ organic lettuce, basil, and herbs, which our customers love.
Demand for the Kosher Food Pantry is up, since COVID-19, said Marcie. Since the virus, some 145 households/families get food from the Kosher Food Pantry each month, up from an average of 120 households/families. While Jewish households are entitled to access the Kosher Food Pantry twice every month, non-Jewish individuals or families are permitted emergency access only once, due to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s member agency guidelines.
“I am so pleased that we were able to remain open throughout COVID-19 to provide essential nutrition to food-insecure families in our community,” said Marcie. “We are grateful to Cynthia Scheinberg and her daughter Gavi and our other volunteers who have offered their time to harvest and deliver produce for us every other week.”
Want to volunteer to harvest produce in a safe and socially distanced fashion? Contact Marcie Ingber at 401.331.1244, ext. 365 or Marcie@jfsri.org