Around Town

Our House teens to benefit from new partnership

WESTFIELD – Reducing food waste and relieving hunger has been the mission of Rachel’s Table since 1992, and a new partnership with Westfield Farmers’ Market organizers will ensure that one local program will enjoy a bounty of freshly grown food each Thursday night through the fall market season.

“We are coordinating with a nonprofit organization, Rachel’s Table, to donate food from the market to local residents in need,” said Debbie Randzio, market manager. “This is a project we had wanted to start several years ago, but did not have the volunteers to dedicate to the planning and organization of its logistics, so we are grateful to Rachel’s Table for helping us further our mission of providing access to healthy, locally grown food to the people in our communities.”

Rachel’s Table volunteer, Carol Geoffrey, center, collects food donations from Westfield Farmers’ Market vendors and customers for delivery to Our House, a shelter for homeless teens in Westfield. From left, on the evening of Aug. 13, Lisa Zlody, Victoria Kot, Carol Geoffrey, Debbie Randzio and Marie Clifford. (RACHEL BURKE PHOTO)

Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, will have volunteers each Thursday night at the end of the market pick up and deliver donated produce to Our House, a Domus Inc. property, located on Broad Street.

“This is one of our agencies supported by donations from the community,” said Sarah Maniaci, associate director, Rachel’s Table, who oversees farmers’ market programs at large, adding,  “We are currently expanding our reach outside of Hampden County into Hampshire and Franklin counties.”

Maniaci noted there are currently 53 agencies that benefit from food donated from local farmers’ markets and that number is expanding due to the “tremendous need.”

“Our House was chosen because of its proximity and need,” said Maniaci. “Fresh produce is expensive and young people require the nutritious benefits it provides.”

Maniaci added that fresh produce is in “short supply” for many in the community.

“We are proud to help redistribute and rescue food to the many in our community in need of fresh produce,” said Maniaci. “Support and partnership is provided by PeoplesBank and especially in Westfield, the Chicopee Charitable Savings Foundation.”

Maniaci noted that Rachel’s Table partners with the Food Bank and also picks up produce from the Westfield Big Y’s on Silver Street and Main Street, delivering produce to the Samaritan Inn.

“Our roots in Westfield run deep,” said Maniaci.

Randzio added that area residents who wish to purchase food at the farmers’ market to contribute to Rachel’s Table can do so and leave the items at the exit tent when leaving the market.

For Phyllis Wheeler of Westfield, who has been a volunteer driver for Rachel’s Table for one year, she encourages others to consider supporting or donating time to the organization.

“I’ve always worked in the social service field and I was looking for a volunteer opportunity especially dealing with food insecurity,” said Wheeler, who recently retired from a state position. 

“I attended a training and signed up to be a Rachel’s Table driver,” said Wheeler, adding, “I asked my partner to come with me on my first route and it turned out he loved the experience so much we have continued to do it together every time.”

On a related note, Randzio said 50 market gift certificates were purchased by officials at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield on Aug. 12 to distribute to families at the club.

William Parks, chief executive officer, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield, purchases Westfield Farmers’ Market gift certificates from Debbie Randzio, market manager, that will be distributed to families of club members. (BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB OF GREATER WESTFIELD PHOTO)

“In addition to feeding hungry people, this helps support the other part of our mission to support local agriculture,” said Randzio. “If you know of someone who could use a boost to their food budget, please consider purchasing a gift certificate for them.”

The Westfield Farmers’ Market is conducted Thursdays from 12-6 p.m. on the front lawn of the Episcopal Church of the Atonement at 36 Court St.

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