By Himanee Gupta-Carlson
Every Saturday at the end of the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, volunteers collect some of the best of our local bounty: apples, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, and maple syrup, among other items. These donated goods go from the farmers directly to the food pantry at the Franklin Community Center.
I began facilitating this project last fall, after the farmers’ market and food pantry established a partnership, and currently collect 75 to 125 pounds of locally grown or made goods every week.
“This partnership ensures that food is not wasted,” says Julie Slovic, Franklin center’s food program administration. “Our customers are very grateful and excited to have access to these products. It is a great opportunity to introduce produce they may not be familiar with and discuss the health benefits and simple and easy ways to prepare fresh vegetables.”
Farmers see the donations as an opportunity to help those in need. The project also ensures that highly perishable produce will not go to waste. This reduction of food waste is especially valuable at times of year when items such as nutritious salad greens are in plentiful supply at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market but often limited for food pantry clients.
How does the project work? At market’s end, farmers and I chat about their unsold goods and the pantry needs. They donate items if and when they can. I then take these donations to the pantry, where I weigh, sort, and label the items by name, farm, and “use by” dates. I store the items so they will remain fresh for three or four days – refrigerators for greens, apples, and fresh herbs; shelves away from direct sunlight for tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchini.
If the items are unusual – say tatsoi or kohlrabi – I create a cooking tip for volunteers who arrive Monday morning to pass on to customers.
Saratoga Farmers’ Market vendors also provide seedlings in the spring to support the Franklin Community Center’s garden, another source of fresh food for the pantry. The garden through the summer yielded zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, peas, beans, and herbs. Now, as fall approaches, we are harvesting chard and kale, and looking forward to our first baby pumpkins.
The Saratoga Farmers’ Market is 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays at High Rock Park through October. You also can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.