By Francie Lin, GFN Writer-in-Residence I think everyone would rather forget the early pandemic days…
River Valley Co-op (RVC) and Grow Food Northampton’s partnership goes all the way back to when our organization was founded. River Valley Co-op was a founding donor that helped us to purchase the Bean and Allard farmland that would become the Grow Food Northampton Community Farm in 2010. Since those early days for both of our organizations, our partnership has continued to grow and flourish. Every aspect of Grow Food Northampton’s work has been strengthened by our partnership with RVC in many ways, big and small.
River Valley Co-op has been a major supporter of our food access work. Pre-pandemic, they were funders and partners in our Neighborhood Markets mobile farm stand and the Grow Food Shares distributions which brought healthy produce to Northampton neighborhoods, schools and the Senior Center. As a produce buying partner, they provided access to their network of local farm suppliers and didn’t charge for doing the buying or storage of produce. This was huge for the success of the program as it enabled us to get a really good variety of fresh local produce without driving all over the Valley. And as the major sponsor, they helped us expand the markets to more sites and offer more variety or produce.
During the pandemic, River Valley Co-op’s support meant building on these previous partnerships to launch the Community Food Distribution Project (CFDP) in March 2020. For over a year the CFDP has brought fresh local produce to Northampton neighborhoods every week and continues to evolve to suit the needs of the community. As we emerge from the pandemic, conversations have already begun about how to best shape our food access work. The folks at River Valley Co-Op are vital to the conversation and the future of this work.
Our Grow Food Kids program has been strengthened as well by our relationship with River Valley Co-Op. In 2019 they sponsored a farm field trip and classroom workshop series for all first grades in the Easthampton Public Schools. All of our Grow Food Kids cooking workshops use produce purchased at the Co-op. Most recently students have enjoyed virtual cooking classes, Grow Food Cooks, where they are delivered the ingredients to prepare a recipe as a group over Zoom.
We’re grateful for all of the examples of support above as well as other fundraising efforts in the past. We have been the recipient of the Green Stamps program and the Strawberry Social proceed throughout the years. As River Valley Co-Op prepares to open their new location in Easthampton, we look forward to being there to celebrate!