New Farm-To-Food-Pantry Program Created by Scarsdale Teen
Zucchinis growing at Z Farms
A new farm-to-food-pantry program, based at the Pawling Resource Center, kicked off last month. The goal of the program is to create a network of local farms supplying fresh produce to nearby pantries through the help of volunteers. Zfarms Organic Food, Harlem Valley Homestead, Dykeman Farm and the Community Action Partnership, in Dover Plains, were among the first wave of farms and food pantries to sign on.
Nicole Zlotnikov, a high school sophomore in Scarsdale, created the program as part of her Gold Award Girl Scout Project. Now, as its volunteer coordinator, Zlotnikov enlists the help of individuals to work on local farms, visit area farmers markets and make deliveries in order to get healthy food to their neighbors in need. She says she hopes the program will grow to connect many potential partners.
“A successful farm-to-food-pantry program would help to establish partnerships between local family farms and small food pantries, which would be tremendously helpful to both parties,” Zlotnikov says. “Food pantries can recruit and organize their volunteers to help farmers harvest the crops, glean the fields after the harvest, cull the recovery bins, glean the farmers markets and deliver the sourced fresh, local products to their distribution locations.”
Small family farms can proactively “grow a row” specifically allocated for donation, relying on the help of volunteers during harvest and transportation, Zlotnikov says. They can also invite volunteers to glean the fields, cull the bins and glean farmers markets.
“This partnership will strengthen communities, make them more resilient and allow them to cultivate a local, high-quality food supply chain,” she says.
The project grew out of Zlotnikov’s belief that good nutrition is critical to everyone’s health, and her advocacy for local, organic agriculture that restores ecology and is environmentally friendly.
“I believe that underserved people have the right to have access to fresh, healthy seasonal produce that will help their physical and mental well-being,” she says. “I love gardening and farming, and I go to local nonprofit farms each year during my free time to help them grow and harvest their crops. I have my own small garden at home where I grow fresh herbs and tomatoes each season. In winter I take care of my plants in the small greenhouse at our porch.”
Three years ago, Zlotnikov volunteered to help a local farmer display and sell products at area farmers markets. Last year, as a part of her Silver Award project, she helped establish a nutritional education program, with classes, presentations and cooking workshops, at a local organic farm.
“I felt an immense sense of accomplishment and joy when I witnessed how much attendees were interested and excited to learn the healthy cooking methods that I was teaching them,” she says. “Farming and gardening activity gives me a feeling of connection to the land and to its beauty and bounty. It also gives me hope and a sense of optimism about the future of the planet.”