Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Farm-fresh food for ALL: you can help this Friday

Check out Betty's interview with UVA student, Mark Parlette, and the inspiring work he has done in this community to help lower-income families gain access to fresh, local food called Charlottesville Community Food Project. The fundraising event is on Betty's event page: This Friday, December 5th, 6-8, Enoteca, (silent auction of local artist's work and pie sale!)

Betty: Tell me about your work with providing CSA shares to lower-income families in Charlottesville?

Mark: Well, during the growing season, the CCFP operates kind of like an emergency food bank-- we take calls a couple days a week during a designated hour-long period, and then have a pick-up period later in the day. The difference is, we work with the CSA system, so we don't actually hold or distribute the food ourselves. We coordinate donated shares (when people with CSA shares are out of town) and raise money to purchase shares, and then make these 'community shares' available to low-income members of our community. This past growing season we worked with Roundabout Farm and Ploughshare Community Farm and provided over 180 shares (each a box with a week's worth of produce.) People can read more about the specifics at our website: http://ccfp.wordpress.com/about It's been very moving to hear from people who are so appreciative of a box of vegetables, a food taken for granted and generally undervalued by most people.

Betty: What's going on this Friday, December 5th?

Mark: This Friday, we're holding our 1st annual silent auction, called Paintings and Pies with a Purpose. It's a silent auction of artwork (from local artists) and homemade pies, and the money raised will go towards purchasing community shares for the 09 growing season. It takes place Dec. 5th, from 6 - 8, at Enoteca, on the Downtown Mall. We hope a lot of people will come by, show their support, and enjoy the artwork, the company and the smell of fresh baked pies. And of course we hope for some active bidding, and for a lot of people to take home the beautiful (or tasty) works of art.

Betty: How did you get involved in this Mark?

Mark: I started volunteering as a driver (just 3 hours a month) at the Emergency Food Bank here in Cville, and it just got me thinking how people in need don't really have access to fresh, healthy food, and how that ends up compounding their health and economic problems. The EFB and other food banks and food pantries do a great service in keeping Charlottesville fed, but of course the one thing they can't provide is perishable food. There are some exceptions: for instance the EFB provides milk, and sometimes people bring in some produce from their garden; but in general they don't have the ability to store or distribute much perishable food. So I started trying to think up a way to make fresh produce available to people, to make sure that if they wanted to feed themselves and their families vegetables, they would be able to do it. Now, local produce is usually about the freshest you can get; it's often picked that day, or the day before. And when I started thinking about using local produce, I realized there were a couple other reasons why that would be a good idea.

First of all, when we spend money to buy local produce, we're supporting our local agriculture, our local economy, and the environment because of the sustainable practices of the local farmers we work with. We're also supporting the health of the recipient of the food, since the soil is better taken care of than on a industrial ag. farm, and the food is more recently picked. I think in general we (though Betty is an wonderful exception) don't give enough consideration to how the money we spend impacts the world. When we buy something, we give support, and a means to continue, to the people who made it and the process involved in making it. So I thought, even (or perhaps especially) a charitable organization ought to think about how the money it spends can have a positive impact, and not just how what they get for the money can have a positive impact.

Suffice it say, for these reasons and more, I thought that setting up an organization to make fresh, local produce available to people in need would be a wonderful idea; we could support the health of our community in many ways at once. I then set about getting the word out around UVA, and I found several wonderful people (thank you Lucy, Amanda, Elizabeth, Lynn, Weiwei, Mary, and everyone!) who have been working with me to make it possible. The Emergency Food Bank has also been wonderfully supportive-- we've distributed flyers through them (as well as other local food pantries) and serve many of the same families. Our greatest thanks of course go to Tony at Ploughshare Community Farm, for all the help he's given.

Betty: Great! If someone is interested in helping out more, what can they do and who can they contact?

Mark: They can just contact us at 434-202-0603 or cvillecfp@gmail.com and we'll be happy to work out a way, depending on their interest and the time they have available, for them to help out. And thank you, Betty, for helping get the word out on this event!

Mark Parlette from the CCFP and Better World Betty

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