‘It takes a village to feed a village’

A lot is happening at IGI these days in preparation for the off-season.

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There’s a whole lot happening at Island Grown Initiative (IGI) these days, both on the farm and behind the scenes.

After the pandemic hit, and IGI and the Island Food Pantry merged, the goal of the organizations’ combined efforts was to provide the right food, to the right people, at the right time. And the people who grow, process, and distribute that food are right in line with that ambition. 

Right now, there are some things that are changing at IGI, but the level of service to the community will remain the same, and clients can expect to be supported with consistent access to nutritious food all year long.

Executive director for IGI Rebecca Haag told The Times that in many ways, IGI has always acted as a social justice agency, advocating for the right to healthy food for all on-Island.

“We believe everyone has a right and deserves housing, good healthcare, and good food. We decided to focus on the food part of things, and that has remained our central goal, although the way we achieve it has changed, and will continue to adapt as we move forward,” Haag said.

Haag said IGI’s three strategic goals are to produce more food, salvage as much food waste as possible, and make sure everyone on Martha’s Vineyard has healthy food to eat.

As the programs and services of the two food equity organizations, IGI and the Island Food Pantry, begin to become integrated with each other, Haag said, food access will begin to expand, as a more comprehensive food hub is established.

“All of these elements are made to work interconnectedly. So now that we are merged, we can produce food, process food, glean food, and have direct access to the people who really need food here,” Haag said.

Haag said the ultimate vision of IGI down the road is to create a Food Equity Hub where food could be grown, processed, stored in refrigerators, and distributed, all from one centralized location.

And with a more efficient process of getting fresh produce from the farm to the dinner table, Haag said, the infrastructure and support system created by the Food Equity Network on Martha’s Vineyard will grow and flourish.

Although the merger will not be effective until Jan. 1, Haag said the food equity organizations on-Island will continue to work on combining programming and services to meet the constantly changing needs of the community. 

Once the fall rolls around, IGI will have a combined budget with the pantry, and over time, Haag said, it will allow them to better serve the Island and provide a greater variety of services.

“What we are trying to do, both in the long and short term, is align the needs of the people we serve with the food we offer, and make sure that everything is getting to its proper place,” Haag said.

She said at IGI, one example of fitting the right food to the right people would be medically tailoring meals for people who are coming out of the hospital with chronic health conditions like heart disease or diabetes. Although IGI doesn’t do this yet, Haag said it is one possibility in the future.

She also said IGI will continue to highlight food education as a central element in overall health and wellness.

“The educational component has always been huge for us, and we are looking at continuing that into the fall and winter,” Haag said. “It takes a village to feed a village, but I know that together, we will be stronger and better at adapting to the changes that are inevitably ahead.”