IGI keeps bellies full this summer

Food equity programs reduce food waste and increase accessibility for all.


The Island Grown Initiative (IGI) is continuing its mission to keep farm-fresh food flowing this summer with a number of great programs that increase accessibility and reduce waste.

IGI’s community lunch program will start its fourth year on July 6, and will run through August 14. The program is planning on producing 500 meals per day, and distributing conveniently packaged “to go” style meals made in both the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School kitchens. Families with school-age children were asked to pre-enroll in the program, which will serve Vineyard public schoolchildren, Martha’s Vineyard Community Services (MVCS) Early Childhood center kids, and kids from the Boys & Girls Club.

Pre-enrolled families will be able to pick up their food Monday through Friday at either the high school or the West Tisbury School, regardless of what town that family lives in.

IGI community food education director Noli Taylor told The Times IGI knew that the demand among families, especially families with young children, has been growing steadily throughout the pandemic.

She said IGI had to create solutions to get people who might be homebound the food they need, so they are working with school bus drivers on the Island to do home deliveries this summer. The deliveries will consist of both prepackaged meals, along with groceries for families who cannot go shopping, in collaboration with the Island Food Pantry, which recently merged with IGI.

The gleaning program is also up and running, which means gleaners are busy working with farmers to collect nutritious produce and deliver it all over the Island. Recipients of the program include Council on Aging sites (COA), the Island Food Pantry, Serving Hands, school cafeterias, affordable housing areas, and more.

June brought 660 pounds of fresh gleans from the IGI regenerative fields, and those who collect this food will continue to look for opportunities for local farm-grown food.

Taylor said the gleaning program is operating similarly to how it has in past years, with some added safety precautions. “We have mobile hand-washing stations, and have just been really good with hygiene practices,” Taylor said.

Volunteers for the gleaning program can decide to work as much as they feel comfortable — some give their time every week, while others glean for a day. Volunteers can keep a share of the harvest for themselves and their families.

Folks can volunteer to glean food at local farms, process it in the commercial kitchens, or distribute it among hungry Islanders, and every bit helps support the strength of the Island-wide Food Equity Network. Growers with home gardens or farms can donate food to the initiative at any point.

Right in line with combating food waste on Martha’s Vineyard is the grocery store food rescue initiative, which IGI created in order to ensure that perfectly good food headed for the trash bin can be utilized to its fullest potential.

Taylor said both Stop & Shops on-Island are constantly in touch with IGI to let them know if there is food they can’t sell that might be useful to the community. IGI is averaging two pickups from Stop & Shop stores per week, and have been redistributing through the Food Pantry, Serving Hands, Family Planning, and the M.V. Family Center.

Volunteers from Serving Hands are also currently picking up rescued food from Cronig’s Market.

Taylor said it is especially important now to make sure grocery stores, farms, and even home growers have a way to donate food that they might not use. “Access to fresh produce has always been important, but right now it is playing a big part in supporting the Island,” Taylor said.

According to Taylor, Sophie Jones of Slough Farm in Edgartown is preparing a comprehensive food-processing program that is evolving into a “truly collaborative” program that operates through the Food Equity Network.

Normally, IGI works with food processing in the winter, but now Slough Farm is picking up the summer processing program to continue providing that essential service.

Through August, volunteers and folks from Slough Farm will work at Camp Jabberwocky, which was forced to close its grounds because of the pandemic. They will be preparing about 500 pints of soup per week, and distributing through the MVCS Core program, Councils on Aging, Island Elderly Housing, Hospice, and M.V. Hospital. “It’s so unfortunate that Jabberwocky couldn’t have its camp open this year, but I think it’s a great way to utilize that space,” Taylor said.

IGI staff is working with food processors to identify outlets for distribution, and buying and distributing soups produced by the Scottish Bakehouse and Jaime Hamlin Catering as a way to support local businesses.

And let’s not forget about the IGI mobile market, which returns this summer to provide delicious, locally sourced food to everyone on the Island. Beginning July 6, the market, disguised as a colorful van with a bright yellow awning, is on a roll to various locations around Martha’s Vineyard.

The summer schedule includes stops at the Oak Bluffs library, the Wampanoag Tribal Housing Administration Building, St Augustine’s Church, M.V. Hospital, and a new delivery-only program to Woodside Village that will reach residents from all six buildings on the campus.

Online preordering will be available to reduce the congestion of shoppers at the market, and offer an even lower-contact way to shop.

For Taylor, all the programs offered by IGI this summer will allow for the right type of food to be grown, processed, and distributed in a streamlined manner that will benefit the entire Vineyard population.