Welcome to 2021, friends! May this be the year that we overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and all of the tribulations associated with it. May 2021 be a year of increased efforts to create true and lasting justice for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) in our food system, community, and throughout the United States. Here at Grow Food Northampton, we wish you a happy New Year and hope that you and everyone you love is healthy and safe, eating sufficiently and well, and thriving despite the difficult times.
Over the last year, some words and concepts have taken on new meaning and become emblematic of the pandemic. We now “zoom” to connect with each other and get business done, and practice “social distancing” to keep ourselves and others safe. Others words and concepts have entered our every-day parlance as we work to achieve racial justice. Many are calling for the “defunding” of entities that are particularly complicit in racist acts and “white supremacy” is discussed freely as the underlying structure that built and perpetuates racism.
Here at Grow Food Northampton, the “Word of the Year” has been: pivot. This past year, we were called upon to pivot in all aspects of our work to meet the challenges of the pandemic and dismantle racism in the food system. We have used the term “pivot” to describe our efforts to increase the impact of our work so many times that the term has become almost cliché in our organization. Yet, these pivots are anything but cliché; they have all been key to our work towards achieving food justice.
In our education programming -- Grow Food Kids and Farm to School -- these pivots include deepening our approach to racial justice and food sovereignty in all of our curricula. We interwove into our teaching more of a focus on the indigenous and other cultural roots of foods and continue to source and create new materials for the older kids on the racist historical realities of North America’s agricultural and food systems. Curricula were redesigned to be taught online and through safely-distanced in-person activities in locations around Northampton, including Hampshire Heights, Meadowbrook, and Florence Heights. Among several other new approaches, we rolled out “Live from the Giving Garden” and constructed hundreds of at-home cooking kits for remote instruction of Northampton Public School students.
The pivots in our food access programming resulted in exponential growth in how community members affected by the pandemic, and by structural and systemic racism, are able to grow their own food and access healthy and delicious foods. We added tens of new plots to the Community Garden, offered over 35 subsidized shares at Crimson and Clover CSA, and expanded SNAP Matching and HIP opportunities to purchase healthy local foods at our new Winter Markets. With the Community Food Distribution Project, launched in the first week of the pandemic with partner Northampton Survival Center, we have distributed to members of the community experiencing food insecurity close to 27,000 packages of food filled with fresh, organic, local produce. More recently, we launched Feeding the Frontlines – Nourishing Our Community, a collaborative effort with the Downtown Northampton Association to deliver restaurant-prepared meals to folks in need. In the fall, we established a Food Access Advisory Committee comprised of community members dealing with food insecurity in their lives so we could work hand in hand with them to develop and roll out thoughtful, equitable, and culturally appropriate food access programming. In the coming growing season, we will welcome onto the Grow Food Northampton Community Farm two immigrant and refugee farmer cooperatives so they can grow food for themselves and their communities.
Happily, it does not take a pandemic or brutal acts of racism to spur and sustain pivots at Grow Food Northampton! The paths onto which we were motivated to pivot this past year continue to compel us. The Grow Food Northampton staff and board are committed to deepening our racial and food justice work in the years ahead. We are attending trainings about food justice and sovereignty, and dismantling racism in the food and agricultural sectors to hone our internal work and our work in the community. Last month, we launched a five-year strategic planning process for the organization with a strong focus on dismantling racism in the food system. That process will take us through May. Later in 2021, we will work with consultants to perform a racial justice audit for our organization and further sharpen our programs' focus on creating a just food environment in the Northampton area.
Please join us in this work as program participants, gardeners, volunteers, and donors. We need you. You are our community!
Wishing you health and well-being,