Rachel’s Table in the Upper Valley
Rachel’s Table, the nearly 30-year-old food rescue and redistribution program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, is expanding its daily program into Hampshire County. Expansion plans include 7 Hampshire County-based drivers, 3 new food donors in Hadley, Amherst and Northampton, and 2 new agencies in Amherst and Northampton.
Rachel’s Table already rescues and distributes 100’s of pounds of healthy food to Hampden and Franklin Counties and has now officially launched its 6-day-a-week food rescue program in Hampshire County. Over the years, hundreds of volunteer gleaners rescue fruits and vegetables at the Hampshire County-based farms who donate their produce to local agencies. During the pandemic, Rachel’s Table delivered healthy meat and produce to the entire Upper Valley through its Healthy Community Emergency Food Fund including 100 pounds of meat and gallons of milk.
One of Rachel’s Table’s main goals during the past two years has been to support food security throughout the Pioneer Valley, not just in greater Springfield. The difficulties many agencies had during the pandemic to find reliable food sources catalyzed the Hampshire County expansion. “While we have had a consistent presence in Hampshire County through our gleaning program, we have now been able to expand and fill in the hunger gaps in this region by making sure local food goes to local people and not to landfill,” says Jodi Falk, director.
Rachel’s Table also plans to bring their new Growing Garden initiative to Hampshire County, providing materials and mentoring to help Hampshire County agencies grow their own food. “This seeds the future of food security and provides more direct access to healthy, culturally appropriate and personally desired food,” says Falk.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rachel’s Table increased drivers and deliveries to local agencies. Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Atkins Farms, and several Pride gas stations now have their food donations delivered 3 days a week to Manna Community Soup Kitchen in Northampton. As part of its annual Foodraiser event, Rachel’s Table donated food to the Amherst Survival Center, purchased shelf-stable milk through its Kalicka fund, and provided healthy meat and produce through its Healthy Community Emergency Food Fund. Pandemic deliveries included between 70,000 to 140,000 pounds of food a month to over 53 agencies in Hamden, Hampshire and Franklin Counties.
Before and especially during the pandemic, Rachel’s Table has been stepping up to meet the need through its traditional food rescue model as well as through various new partnerships and emergency purchase programs to the entire Pioneer Valley:
Expanding into Hampshire County on a daily basis helps sustain the volume of food Rachel’s Table will be able to deliver, as well as increases the people it can serve.
Addie Stiles, a volunteer driver in Hampshire County says, “It’s been a great experience to be able to provide food from Atkins Farms and bring to Manna on Sunday mornings! The folks at Atkins are always so wonderful and knowing that they are willing to help our community is great. The team at Manna are always so appreciative every time I drop off. I love being able to give back to the community of Northampton, where I grew up!” We too, at Rachel’s Table, love giving to the whole of the Pioneer Valley community.