December 1, 2005

C.U. Farm Gives Food to Needy

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During the course of this year, Cornell University’s Homer C. Thompson’s Farm in Freeville, N.Y. helped to relieve the hunger of many local citizens by donating 81 tons of produce to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.

The mission of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier is to help feed needy families throughout the Southern Tier of New York by distributing food through innovative programs. Cornell’s farm in Freeville worked with the program to help local citizens in need by donating 163,000 pounds of melons, potatoes, dry beans, green beans, squash, sweet corn, beets, cabbage pumpkins, and plums.

According to Marvin Pritts, chair of Cornell’s horticulture department, many of the vegetables would have been composted or plowed under if it were not for the work of the farm crew and department members. Pritts added that the program not only helped to alleviate hunger but also raised awareness of local problems and health issues by providing nutritious options that are not normally available to shelters.

“This effort has raised our awareness of the tremendous need that exists locally and has identified another way that Cornell can contribute to the health of our community,” Pritts said.

Although Prof. Robin Bellinder, horticulture, began the donation effort in the late 1990s, it was not until 2004 that the Freeville farm joined the efforts of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. Within its first year the farm donated more than 50 tons of produce to the food bank, earning the “Donor of the Year” award. Yet the farm was able to surpass last year’s donations, and hopes to continue to do so in the future.

Steven P. McKay, manager of the Freeville farm, says this year’s success was because of better organization and more cooperation from researchers at the farm. In fact, this year 13 faculty members from six departments contributed to the program.

In addition, rather than delivering the produce to individual organizations such as schools, churches and fire departments, Homer C. Thompson began a program in which the produce is placed into special bins and then picked up by the Food Bank of the Southern Tier. After the vegetables have been picked up, the food bank distributes them to local food pantries.

“This has increased our efficiency tremendously, and helps a greater number of people in the long run,” Pritts said.

Besty Ingall, research technician for the horticulture department, believes that the truck pick-up system not only helped organization but also unified the team of researchers.

“It’s a good way for us get together and do community service on the job,” Ingall said. “When we know the truck is coming, everyone has a lot of things that need to be packed up so we all get together. I think our whole department is enjoying donating food to folks.”

Ultimately, from January to September this year, the food bank was able to feed 22,565 households, equaling approximately 1,900 households per month.

Archived article by Blair Robin
Sun Staff Writer