Coming together for the community: How you can help during COVID-19 (even from quarantine).

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There’s no shortage of uncertainty these days as people everywhere are practicing social distancing and placing themselves and families under quarantine to avoid spreading COVID-19. Grocery store shelves are emptying faster than clerks can stock them with food, sanitary products and other health and wellness necessities. Those fortunate enough to have the resources to stock up in order to hunker down at home might be experiencing inconvenient interruptions to their daily routines, but for some more vulnerable community members, this is a real crisis.

It’s important to remember that food insecurity, poor access to housing, and an inadequate health care system have left many families in the Valley scrambling for basic necessities like food, diapers, common medications and a warm bed to sleep in. Fortunately, a number of area community service organizations are working overtime serving the most vulnerable members of our community. 

Over the past few years, Northeast Solar has been working with two locals, Brian Adams and Morey Phippen, to give free solar PV systems to some of the most effective local nonprofits working in Western Massachusetts. The idea was that solar power would offset their electrical costs, thus freeing up funds to pump back into the community. Those extra funds are coming really handy right now, but they still need your help.

The Northampton Survival Center:

The Northampton Survival Center is a food distribution center that has been serving the community since 1979. COVID-19 has not stopped them from serving food insecure families, but they have had to move distribution outside and have established working protocols to avoid sharing the Coronavirus. 

Their website says, “We remain committed to staying open and distributing as much food as we can so that clients have the food security they need as they minimize their activities.”

Heidi Nortonsmith, the center's director said in an email, “At this point we remain open and we’re seeing a surge in client demand. Food is flying off the shelves.”

The Survival Center is welcoming monetary donations (look for the orange “donate now” button at the top right of their page). 

More info can be found on their website

Watch a video about the Northampton Survival Center on our website.


The Amherst Survival Center: 

As of 3/19, the Amherst Survival Center’s website said, “We continue to adapt our operations to ensure continued food delivery in as safe a manner as possible and within the confines of our more limited volunteer capacity. We are open. We have food. We are here to help.”

In an email, Executive Director, Lev Ben-Ezra, shared the following:

  • We are open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, 11-3. 
  • We are offering To-Go Meals (along with a bag of produce, snacks, and bread to take home), which is distributed outside. 
  • We are also offering boxes of groceries, including produce, canned goods, dairy, meat, cereal, and grains, along with hygiene and toiletry items. This Food Pantry distribution has been moved to our main dining area to allow for adequate space during shopping. First-time shoppers are welcome and we have been seeing many new families. 
  • Details of our adjusted services can be found here: www.amherstsurvival.org/COVID19 


A statement on their website said, “We have extensive sanitation processes in place. All volunteers wash their hands upon entry of the building. Safe food handling practices are being strictly adhered to. Volunteers are working with appropriate 6 foot distances between volunteers. The above changes in our operations help ensure all guests and volunteers maintain the minimum 6 feet of separation.”   

Please donate directly to the Amherst Survival Center.


CISA:

Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) has been working to strengthen farms and engage the community to build the local food economy for 25 years. 

According to their COVID-19 response, “We’ve been hearing from farmers and other local business owners about how the coronavirus epidemic is interrupting sales, bringing worry about how that will affect their businesses, and causing concern about how to keep customers and employees healthy and supported.”

CISA has been a vital part of the local agricultural and food economy and are still working on way to support the food industries that sustain us all.

“This is a crisis that invites us to consider the needs of our neighbors and our communities as a whole. Social distancing, the cancellation of public events, and institutions and workplaces going remote are acts of community solidarity that protect the most vulnerable members of society, many of whom are not able to take self-protective measures themselves. In that spirit, and if you are able, consider how you can approach this crisis with a spirit of generosity and community benefit.”

CISA published a list of things you can do to help:

            • If you’re running errands and buying groceries and goods, prioritize supporting local farms and businesses more than ever. They need your support.
        • We are keeping a list of new sales outlets for local food (including online ordering and new delivery sites) and closures.
        • You can find general information about local farms and food in CISA’s online guide, including winter farmers’ markets, year-round farm stands, and more.
        • Looking for HIP outlets? Find an up-to-date list of places to earn your HIP benefit on the HIP—Pioneer Valley Facebook page.
            • Tip service workers generously.
            • Cash flow is an issue for local businesses when sales are interrupted. Are you in a position to help? If you’re thinking of signing up for a summer farm share, now is the time. Consider buying gift cards at restaurants, farm stands, and other local businesses to provide them with needed income now, and use them when things have normalized.
            • The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Survival Centers, and other agencies that serve hungry people need support now too. If you are able, donate and volunteer your time.  

You can support CISA by donating to them right now. Find more info on their website.


Just Roots Farm:

Just Roots is a nonprofit community organization located in Greenfield that started in 2008 with the goal of growing food on municipal land. Today they have a beautiful farm on Leyden Road and grow food that supports the community. 

They outlined their action plan in an email earlier this week saying, “Just Roots is doing what we can to look ahead at the impact all of this will have on our neighbors who may need food, resources and support now and in the coming days, weeks, or months.  As always, we strive to do our best to care for each other through the work we do; connecting you to food and resources.”

In the email, Just Roots said the farm and staff are implementing the following responses to the current situation:

  • Regarding our Vegetable Box Share on Tuesday, March 17:
  • We are suspending our “market style” pick up at the Community Health Center. Shares will be boxed and available at the farm (on the porch) between 2pm-6pm. Or, if you have requested, we will deliver boxes to your doorstep. Our Address: 34 Glenbrook Drive, Greenfield, MA
  • For Leyden Woods and Oak Courts residents, we will be delivering as usual, but will leave boxes on your doorstep.
  • All members have been contacted by phone. If you haven’t heard from us, please call the office 413-325-8969 or reach out to Alden at alden@justroots.org
  • Volunteer drop-in hours, which begin in April, will be temporarily canceled, until further notice.  If you were scheduled to come on your own or with a group, please confirm with meryl@justroots.org before you come to the farm.
  • We are suspending all food demos at our pick ups and at any outreach events that we attend.

Just Roots staff is being meticulous in following all hygienic guidelines as suggested by the CDC.  Many of us are working from home. And all of us are washing hands and wearing gloves (and masks as needed) when handling any of your produce.

Donate to Just Roots.

Find out more about Just Roots Farm on their website.






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