RUTLAND – Now that spring has sprung, the gardening and gleaning seasons are right around the corner. As Vermonters in Rutland County consider donating extra vegetables to local food shelves, they can now take advantage of new Community Kitchen locations to lightly process excess fruits and vegetables, extending their shelf life.
Community Kitchens across Rutland County have teamed up with Rutland’s Nutrition Coalition to make their spaces available for light community use.
Gleaning is the process of collecting excess fruits and vegetables from farm fields and other community sources and then redistributing the food to Vermonters at risk of hunger. Vegetables donated to charitable organizations and food shelves are frequently past their prime, but simply freezing or preparing sauces and soups can make the difference between feeding our neighbors and feeding the compost pile.
Last summer, members of the Vermont Farmers’ Food Center Farmacy Project minimally processed and froze over 400 pounds of gleaned foods, which were then distributed during this past winter’s Farmacy Season.
“Infrastructure resources, like Community Kitchens, paired with trained volunteer groups can play a crucial role in diverting food waste from landfills and into the region’s food security network,” said VFFC’s Heidi Lynch.
The new resource also supports human services organizations trying to identify kitchen spaces for cooking classes in Rutland County. “
Building this resource became a priority project for Rutland’s Nutrition Coalition when a local survey revealed cooking classes were lacking in the county. Access to healthy food choices is a key factor in reducing instances of chronic disease.
“Three behaviors – lack of physical activity, poor diet, and tobacco use, lead to four chronic diseases which cause more than 50 percent of all deaths in Vermont each year,” said Bethany Yon, with the Vermont Department of Health. “The goal of our 3-4-50 initiative is to reduce the factors that lead to chronic diseases and bend the curve toward better health. Working with our communities to improve access to local, healthy food will do just that!”