The Island Grown Initiative (IGI) is taking fresh gleaned produce from several local farms and turning it into delicious and nutritious food to hand out to those who need it most.
By locating produce that may otherwise be thrown out or composted and creating foods that can easily be frozen and distributed, IGI is simultaneously reducing the amount of food in our wastestream and providing essential access to healthy and fresh meals.
“Our goal hasn’t really changed since we started the program in September, but the amount of people in need now is a whole different ball game,” said Katie Ruppel, food program coordinator for IGI.
Ruppel said some folks on the Island don’t have the ability to make food for themselves, and others have no way to access grocery stores to go shopping or receive the support of free food programs.
Ruppel said IGI’s goal with the soup program is to “get the right food to the right people.”
“People need prepared food in some way or another, and for a variety of reasons,” Ruppel said. “With elders in particular, many have limited mobility and restricted access to fresh produce.”
Through the close-knit network between IGI, elder services, and other community groups, the equity program can identify people who are in need on the Island, and get them the help they desperately require.
“We maintain close contact with health care practitioners, social service agencies, and the Island senior centers and Island Elderly Housing,” Ruppel said.
She said some patients who are leaving the hospital are tagged by social workers as needing additional access to food as they are recovering from a sickness or injury, and IGI is ready to jump in to provide support.
One major problem that Ruppel said is sometimes overlooked is folks having access to a kitchen, or being able to safely use a kitchen.
“A big one is people who don’t have access to kitchen infrastructure or people who simply cannot cook for themselves,” Ruppel said.
According to Ruppel, the soups are mostly distributed through social workers at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, by the Vineyard Nursing Association, and senior outreach coordinators like those at Woodside and Hillside Village.
Ruppel said it is impressive and surprising how much food IGI has been able to glean from local farms, and process all the produce so it can be distributed and enjoyed.
This year alone, Ruppel said IGI has processed almost 1,700 pounds of food from Island farms, and almost 400 pounds of produce from Cronig’s Market that would normally be taken off the shelves. All this food was taken and made into 1,500 yummy and healthy soups.
“We process this food and make it delicious. This reduces the amount of food waste and provides food security, which has always been a big deal on the Island, but is especially important now,” Ruppel said.
“This experience has been pretty gratifying. It’s so essential for people to have regular access to nutritious food all year round,” Ruppel said. “It also connects us to a global situation of reducing food waste. For me, that is something great to be a part of.”
To participate or learn more, contact Food Equity Program Coordinator Katie Ruppel at Katie@igimv.org.