GOVERNOR PATRICK JOINS FARMERS TO LAUNCH MASSACHUSETTS GLEANING NETWORK TO ASSIST EMERGENCY FOOD PROVIDERS
At Food Project Farm in Lincoln, Governor proclaims Oct. 24 as Massachusetts Food Day
Governor Patrick joins farmers and agriculture officials to promote Massachusetts Food Day and assist emergency food providers. (Photo: Matthew Bennett/Governor's Office)
LINCOLN – Monday, October 24, 2011 – Governor Deval Patrick today visited Food Project Farm in Lincoln to celebrate Massachusetts Food Day and participate in the launch of the Massachusetts Gleaning Network, a new project that will help collect leftover crops for emergency food providers.
“Massachusetts is working hard to increase access to healthier foods and encourage healthier lifestyles,” said Governor Patrick. “As part of our efforts, I am pleased to support the Massachusetts Gleaning Network, which will direct resources to our most vulnerable residents as winter approaches.”
Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been commercially harvested or from fields where it is not profitable to harvest, and providing this food to emergency food providers. The network will include farms, volunteers, service agencies, food banks and other organizations. Dozens of gleaning projects will be taking place across Massachusetts through early November by community groups that have recently joined the Massachusetts Gleaning Network.
The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) will serve as a clearinghouse for the network and members will utilize this vetted information to help them participate in gleaning projects in their own communities.
During the event, Governor Patrick also proclaimed October 24th as Massachusetts Food Day, as part of the national effort to promote access to healthier locally-grown food. State agricultural officials are hosting Massachusetts Food Day events across the state, focusing on issues such as improving diets, developing state and local food policies and celebrating a diverse food system comprising Massachusetts local vegetable, fruit and livestock farms.
“Food Day is a unique opportunity – nation-wide and locally – to bring residents, farming community leaders and state officials together to focus on key initiatives that support bringing nutritious, fresh and locally-grown products to our communities,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr.
On Saturday, October 22, DAR Commissioner Scott J. Soares participated with Congressman James McGovern and the Northborough Small Animal 4-H Club in a gleaning event at a Northborough farm.
“Massachusetts has long been a leader in sensible food policy and I commend the Patrick-Murray Administration for their continued commitment to this issue,” said Congressman McGovern. “Gleaning can and should be an important part of our efforts to reduce hunger and improve health in our communities.”
“Many farms in several counties have expressed interest in gleaning but don’t have the time to organize it,” said DAR Commissioner Soares. “Building a strong gleaning network within the state will provide yet another important component to the state’s efforts to ensure that all residents have access to locally-grown and nutritious food.”
The network’s membership is growing across the state with partners such as Project Bread, Boston Area Gleaners, Rachel’s Table of Springfield, Island Growers of Martha’s Vineyard, USDA, Farm Service Bureau, the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and SEMAP among others.
“Project Bread is delighted to support Commissioner Soares and Governor Patrick in promoting the values of Food Day,” said Ellen Parker, executive director of Project Bread. “We strongly believe that locally-grown fresh food is the right way to feed those who are struggling to put food on the table. Making smart use of local farms is a win-win for the farmer and the hungry person. Today’s harvest of freshly picked produce will be used to benefit those who need it most.”
The Commonwealth also marked the recent creation of a Massachusetts Food Policy Council. The council is charged with promoting locally-grown foods, developing programs that enhance access to healthy local food, protecting resources needed for sustained local food production and training farmers. Massachusetts also boasts a strong Farm-to-School program, with greater than two-thirds of the state’s 300 public school districts preferentially purchasing local agricultural products. The state ranks seventh in the nation for number of farmers’ markets.