Tag Archives: Worcester County Food bank

Hooray!!! Kudos to all involved!!!! … Supporting local farmers! Supporting the working class and poor! FRESH PRODUCE AND MORE VIA WORCESTER’S NEW FOOD HUB!!!

The Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) and the Regional Environmental Council of Central MA (REC) are pleased to announce continued funding for their food hub partnership.
In 2015, the Chamber and the REC embarked on a yearlong assessment to determine the feasibility of establishing a food hub in the Worcester region.

Food hubs are broadly defined as facilities that manage the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, or marketing of locally and regionally produced food. A food hub provides better consumer access to fresh, locally grown food and a larger consumer market for the region’s farmers.
At the conclusion of the study, an application was submitted to The Health Foundation for funding of a pilot year. A slate of programs falling into three categories have been identified for the pilot grant year.

These initiatives will:

support healthy local food access

job creation

economic development

While the food hub currently has no official headquarters, much of the pilot year activities will be operated out of the Worcester County Food Bank in, Shrewsbury.
“Food is fundamental to our lives. We all eat, and we all want to eat fresh healthy food. So, ease of access to affordable healthy food is critically important to us, regardless of our station in life. Yet, it is estimated that 90 percent of the food we eat in New England comes from somewhere else,” stated Dr. Jan Yost, president of The Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts. “Thus, the Foundation is pleased to announce a grant of $423,235 to the Regional Environmental Council of Central Massachusetts to partner with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce to pilot a regional food hub.”

Yost went on to explain that, “Today 80 percent of the land in New England is covered with forest, much of which used to be farmland. Researchers suggest that by 2060, New England could expand its farmland to 6 million acres, or 15 percent of the entire land mass, which would enable New England to grow half of its own food.”
“The Worcester County Food Bank is the region’s largest anti-hunger organization, annually distributing nearly 6 million pounds of donated fresh and non-perishable food to a network of 131 Partner Agencies that help feed hungry people”, said Jean McMurray, Worcester County Food Bank’s Executive Director. 

She continued: “We are proud to host the Food Hub’s pilot year because we believe that healthy food grown and processed by community members benefits the entire community, including those struggling with poverty and hunger.”
Responsibility for pilot year activities will be split among the partner organizations, with the REC leading efforts to create opportunities for healthy eating via marketing, aggregation, and distribution of local farm products to institutional food service providers at area schools, colleges, and hospitals.

An initial group of eight to ten small to mid-sized family farms will be involved in these activities during the pilot year and four to five institutional buyers will be purchasing local farm products via the food hub.

The food hub will also be working to enhance healthy, local food offerings through the REC’s existing Mobile Farmers Market and through the City of Worcester Division of Public Health’s Mass In Motion Healthy Corner Store initiative.
”The REC has been working with organizational partners and grassroots community members for decades to help make healthy, local food universally accessible in the Greater Worcester area,” said Steve Fischer, REC Executive Director. “We are thrilled at the prospect that a regional food hub could help create a regional food system that is increasingly based on principles of economic and social justice and environmental sustainability. Working together, we have an opportunity to make healthy food more accessible while supporting local farmers, growing the economy, creating jobs, and preserving the environment.”
The Chamber will oversee food hub activities operated through a Commercial Kitchen Incubator to be located at the Worcester County Food Bank. During the pilot year, the Chamber will spearhead the recruitment of potential tenants including farmers, budding food entrepreneurs, small culinary businesses looking to take the next step in their development, and even home cooks looking to scale up a long-held family recipe.
“Given the success of last year’s planning grant process, we are excited to move forward with this pilot year that will set the stage for long-term success,” stated Chamber president and CEO Timothy P. Murray. “Our efforts with the commercial kitchen fit into our working motto of recruit, retain and incubate. Incubating the next generation of food entrepreneurs will help them turn their passion into a career, add to the region’s growing food economy, and result in a healthier population in Worcester and Central Massachusetts.”
The final piece of the pilot year project is a culinary training program that will be overseen by Quinsigamond Community College (QCC).

QCC expects to train at least 2 cohorts of 8-10 students and to provide job placement at area restaurants, caterers and institutional food service providers.

This new certificate program will target students who are members of vulnerable populations in Worcester County and who have previously experienced barriers to employment.
Dale Allen, QCC’s vice president for community engagement stated “Quinsigamond Community College is excited about being selected as a key partner in this grant. We are committed to supporting program activities that will increase access to healthy, fresh foods for underserved neighborhoods in our city. This program will be modeled after QCC’s successful ‘Cooking Up a Culinary Career’ program which has been offered for the past several years through the Worcester Youth Center and Hector Reyes House. We look forward to working with the Regional Environmental Council and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce to expand access to healthy food and economic self-sufficiency for vulnerable populations in Worcester County.”
All of the pilot activities will be carefully evaluated and measured by an evaluation team from John Snow Inc., a health consultant company. Working closely with the grant management team throughout the pilot year JSI will continually evaluate the activities to provide real time feedback. The success of the outcomes of the various aspects of the piloted activities will be key to determining how the food hub operates after the pilot year.
The Food Hub project will hire a full-time operations manager to oversee the day-to-day aspects of the project during the pilot year.

Other partners collaborating on the project include Central Mass Grown, World Farmers/Flats Mentor Farm, Worcester Public Schools, Pepper’s Fine Catering, UMass Amherst Stockbridge School of Agricultural Extension, Worcester Division of Public Health and the Community Harvest Project.

Clark University parked in A.I!

Feb. 18


At Clark University: A social entrepreneur’s approach to 
hunger and wasted food

Former president of Trader Joe’s to present Clark U President’s Lecture
Social entrepreneur Doug Rauch will speak at Clark University at 4 p.m., on Thursday, February 18, in Razzo Hall in the Traina Center for the Arts, 92 Downing St.

Part of the President’s Lecture Series at Clark University, “A Social Entrepreneur’s Approach to Hunger and Wasted Food,” is free and open to the public.    
Rauch is founder and president of the Daily Table, an innovative retail concept designed to bring affordable nutrition to the food insecure in our cities through using the excess, wholesome food that would otherwise be wasted by growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

It offers “grab-n-go” meals, freshly prepared on-site, as well as a variety of healthy grocery items (produce, dairy, bakery, etc.) at prices that meet or beat less nutritious food costs. 

Rauch spent 31 years with Trader Joe’s Company, the last 14 years as its president, helping grow the business from a small, nine-store chain in Southern California to a nationally acclaimed retail success story with more than 340 stores in 30 states.

He developed their prized buying philosophy, created their unique private label food program, and wrote and executed the business plan for expanding Trader Joe’s nationally. He retired from the company in 2008.

Rauch is also CEO of Conscious Capitalism Inc.; a Trustee at Olin College of Engineering; on the Board of Overseers at WBUR; and serves on the board of several for-profit and nonprofit companies. 

Rauch received his Executive M.B.A. from the Peter Drucker School of Management at Claremont University, where he won several honorary awards including the Early Career Outstanding Entrepreneur Award from Peter Drucker.  Rauch was also a recent Fellow at the Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative, where Daily Table was hatched.


The Worcester County Food Bank makes the holidays brighter

By Jean McMurray, executive director, Worcester County Food Bank

The holidays are upon us and, as always, the Worcester County Food Bank (WCFB) and its network of food pantries are grateful for the generous and warm-hearted people who support our efforts to help feed our neighbors in Worcester County during the month of November and throughout the year.  
Neighbors like the two young girls I noticed during a recent visit to one of WCFB’s partner agencies – a church food pantry.  It was a Saturday morning, a beautiful autumn day and the girls were riding their bikes around the neighborhood.  As they rode by, I heard one of the girls ask the other, what food did you get from the church?

The girl exclaimed that she got cupcakes and then added that she also got cereal, rice, and hamburger meat.  As they rode away, I could hear the first girl saying that’s what she got too.  In a matter of moments, I went from feeling glad about the assistance the girls and their families received to feeling sad that a food pantry was a part of their reality at such a young age.

And yet it is a reality for a lot of children and families.  Research by Feeding America, the national network of food banks, suggests that for the majority of households seeking help, pantries are now a part of a household’s long-term strategy to supplement monthly shortfalls in food.

The girls I overheard that day are some of the 35,000 children in 39,000 households in Worcester County – 12% of all households – who do not always know where their next meal is coming from and who turn to WCFB’s network of food pantries and community meal programs for help.  This year, WCFB distributed 5.4 million pounds of food to its network; enough food for approximately 87,000 meals a week.  Individuals and families in need of food can visit WCFB’s website, www.foodbank.org and use the agency locator to find a range of food and nutrition assistance programs.  

The WCFB’s efforts go beyond the distribution of donated food because our mission is to engage, educate, and lead Worcester County in creating a hunger-free community.  We believe that food is a fundamental right of all people and that hunger is an issue of social justice. WCFB is a leading advocate for federal nutrition programs that promote access to healthy food such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps.  For children, we specifically advocate for healthy food and nutritious meals through school breakfast and lunch programs and the summer food service program.   These solutions are systemic and sustainable and they support children and their families in being more food secure and healthy.  

Worcester is a leader in these programs under the guidance of Donna Lombardi, Director of Child Nutrition for the Worcester Public School District.  Worcester families and their children are fortunate to have a strong advocate in Ms. Lombardi and her child nutrition staff who contribute to the educational success of the whole child by addressing their nutritional needs.  They lead a collective effort that includes school administrators, teachers, custodians, and allied organizations such as WCFB and the Worcester Food & Active Living Policy Council in supporting child nutrition programs, such as breakfast in the classroom.

This collaboration has a strong funding partner in the Eos Foundation, a private philanthropic foundation, which has pledged a 10-year commitment to support universal free breakfast in the classroom in income eligible schools across Massachusetts.  In May 2014, the Eos Foundation recognized Ms. Lombardi and Worcester Public Schools with a Healthy Start Leadership Award for reaching 80% or higher student participation in school breakfast programs at 18 schools for the 2013-2014 school year – more than any other school district in the Commonwealth.  The award was accompanied by a $10,000 grant, which has been used to incorporate locally grown fruits and vegetables into the school breakfast program.
And when summer vacation comes around, the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) strives to ensure that children who depend on school breakfast and lunch during the school year still have access to free, nutritious meals and snacks during the summer when school is out. 

Children need consistent nourishment during the summer so their minds and bodies continue to grow and thrive in healthy ways and they return to school in the fall ready to learn.  

However, in Massachusetts, only one in five low-income children who ate a school lunch during the regular 2012-2013 school year was reached by SFSP, according to the Food Research and Action Center.  So WCFB and Worcester Public Schools teamed up and took SFSP on the road, delivering meals to kids in places where they gather to enjoy summer activities.  Our goal was simple: deliver good food and fun in the sun.

With support from the Our Family Foundation by Stop & Shop New England, WCFB purchased a refrigerated truck and donated it to the Worcester Public Schools.  In the summer of 2013, Worcester Public Schools delivered 4,100 to kids at the Bennett Field swimming pool and the Dennis F. Shine Memorial swimming pool.  In 2014, with a second truck funded by Our Family Foundation and donated by WCFB, the city’s five library sites were added to the delivery schedule and the number of meals provided for kids swelled to more than 13,000.  Ms. Lombardi attributed the increase in participation to a couple of factors – meals being served Monday through Saturday and meals that tasted good and were fun to eat such as fresh produce and yogurt parfaits.  

Another critical resource for families with children is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.  This program, also known as WIC, provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, and access to health care to low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and children up to age 5.  
Child nutrition programs like school meals, summer meals, WIC, and others touch millions of children each day in the United States, and improve educational achievement, economic security, nutrition and health.  More information on these programs can be found at WCFB’s website, www.foodbank.org.

Every five years, Congress reviews a range of child nutrition programs through a reauthorization process and provides funding for these programs to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods.  The current law, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, is set to expire on September 30, 2015.  Between now and then, the reauthorization process is an opportunity for everyone who cares about kids and their well-being to advocate for improvements to child nutrition and school meal programs so they better meet the needs of Worcester’s children and all our nation’s children. 

Priorities include continuing to support the momentum of school breakfast expansion in every state, strengthening the Summer Food Service Program so they can meet the needs of children and communities when school is out, and ensuring more children have a healthy start by improving early childhood nutrition programs.

The Worcester County Food Bank – helping local families make ends meet in a tough economy

By Jean McMurray

A recent visitor to the Worcester County Food Bank exclaimed, “I had no idea how big of an operation this was and everything that goes on inside to help people with food.” Two other recent visitors, a mother and her young son, also did not know what to expect when they came to the Food Bank. The stress was visible in her face and in her voice as she spoke. We offered them a seat in the office while a co-worker went to get a box of food containing cereal, peanut butter, rice, pasta, and a variety of canned goods. We also included some fresh fruits and vegetables. We spent some time talking about the food pantry in her neighborhood that could help her in the future as well as where she could go for help in applying for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. She thanked us and seemed relieved. As my co-worker went to place the food in her car, the little boy took his took his mother’s hand and said with a smile, “Look Mommy we’re rich again.”

All of the donations entrusted to the Food Bank during the course of a year have an immediate impact as the need for our services continues to be a reality for too many people in Worcester County. With unemployment at 8 percent in Worcester County, food is a fundamental need that people are struggling to meet. With the recession and the slow economic recovery, the Food Bank is distributing more food than ever before to its network of partner agencies including food pantries, community meals sites, and shelters.

In fiscal year 2011, the Food Bank and its network helped over 83,000 people, including 32,000 children under the age of 18. Every day, we speak with individuals and families experiencing economic and emotional hardship. People like the man who has been unemployed for a long time, his savings are gone and he’s eaten very little in the past three days and the husband and wife who work and care for elderly parents and their young children. Every day, we also appreciate hearing from thoughtful people who offer meaningful gifts in the form of food, funds, and volunteer time.
Although these economic times remain uncertain and difficult, the community’s support of the Food Bank has been steadfast and heartwarming. The Food Bank is only able to provide help because of the tremendous support we receive from many individuals, businesses, foundations, and organizations as well as the state and federal government.

This past year, over 335 volunteers provided nearly 5,000 hours of volunteer service in the Food Bank’s warehouse sorting through food donations, while checking for food safety. Hundreds of food donors contributed a total of 5.8 million pounds of food, which is enough food for approximately 86,000 meals a week. Of the food distributed by the Food Bank, the two highest categories were fresh fruits and vegetables and protein in the form of meat, fish, and poultry.
The community’s support sustains our efforts to be a reliable source of good food to our network of partner agencies and the people they assist at Thanksgiving and throughout the year. Help and hope are precious gifts at any time of year for a parent trying to provide for their family or a senior citizen trying to meet their basic needs.
As an organization, the Food Bank is an efficient network of agencies and a resourceful public-private partnership. However, over the last three years, we have been challenged by unprecedented demand and uncertainty over available food resources. Throughout the region, we have seen a 12 percent increase in the number of people helped since 2008.

As the U.S. Congress makes difficult decisions this year about our national priorities, it is imperative that they do not take food away from Americans in need. We must remember the families in Worcester County who are facing hunger and the important role that nutrition programs play in their health and well-being, especially for vulnerable children and seniors. Any loss in federal support for federal nutrition programs, like SNAP, due to budget cuts or as part of the deficit reduction plan would make it harder for families to recover from the recession and would result in a gap for food that will be difficult for the Food Bank to fill.

With unemployment still high, investing in anti-hunger programs is not only the right thing to do but also makes fiscal sense, as these programs allow us to care for our neighbors, build our communities and lead to savings in healthcare and education down the road.

Everyone can help protect the federal nutrition programs from cuts as Congress moves forward to implement the Budget Control Act of 2011. Our legislators need to know that the problem of hunger is solvable and an issue of social justice that we care about. Everyone can contribute to ending hunger by contacting their legislators about the harmful cuts to nutrition assistance programs and encouraging them to pass a budget that addresses the deficit while safeguarding safety net programs that protect our neighbors in need.

Becoming an anti-hunger advocate is easy to do by visiting Feeding America’s Hunger Action Center at www.hungeractioncenter.org or the Food Research and Action Center, www.frac.org. By signing up at one of these websites, you receive action alerts on federal issues affecting hungry Americas that can be forwarded to your members of Congress with a click of a mouse and you learn about federal programs that bring relief to the millions of America struggling with hunger, including the 33,000 households who turned to the Food Bank and its network of partner agencies in 2011 for help with feeding their families.

If you have been to the Worcester County Food Bank, then you know, like all of our visitors, that it is a unique place, a place where the community comes together to make incredible things happen – one advocate, one volunteer, one dollar, and one pound of food at a time. If you have not been to the Food Bank, we invite you to come visit us sometime soon, so you can see firsthand what we do and how the generosity of so many people is at work in the community.

Worcester County Food Pantry: feeding Worcester since 1982

By Jean McMurray, executive director, Worcester County Food Bank, with Liz Sheehan Castro, project manager, Hunger-Free & Healthy

As the door opened into the third floor apartment, the woman’s smile along with the warmth of her kitchen greeted me. I introduced myself and handed her a carefully covered meal while wishing her a Happy Thanksgiving. Before I turned to go back down the three flights of stairs I had just climbed, she offered me a Kennedy half-dollar as a tip in gratitude for the Thanksgiving dinner I had brought her. I declined the tip and thanked her explaining that I was a volunteer delivering meals for Catholic Charities. As I started down the back stairs, I felt relief knowing that this elder woman had a warm home, food, and people that cared about her.

She was one of the dozen or so people I would meet throughout the morning as I traveled city streets and neighborhoods delivering meals. Hours later as I sat down to enjoy a Thanksgiving Day dinner with my own family, the experience came with heightened awareness and appreciation for what I had as well as for the people I met who were enjoying their dinners and for those who cooked the wonderful meals and organized the volunteers. Continue reading Worcester County Food Pantry: feeding Worcester since 1982