Rachel’s Table Quarterly Newsletter January 2024: New Year, New Perspective – Youth Involvement in Rachel’s Table Now and in the Future
By Jodi Falk and Sarah Bate
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – FDR
You can be any age to join Rachel’s Table of Western Massachusetts’s mission to reduce waste and alleviate hunger. Youth that join our Teen Board or participate in our other programs are the agents of change for the future creating a world where there is no need for a Rachel’s Table. Rachel’s Table of Western Massachusetts has four main programs, see below how youth are and can be involved in each! And youth can get community service credit if they need it for graduation!
Granddaughter, Taylor, of volunteer Bobi helps deliver 120lbs of food!
Rescue – RTWM rescues food six days a week in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties and delivers through our volunteers to over 65 partner recipient agencies. These include soup kitchens, pantries, senior housing communities, after-school programs and recovery centers. Some examples of youth-led food rescue include:
- Eaglebrook School students in their school van weekly distributed healthy produce from Atlas Farm in Deerfield to Stone Soup in Greenfield.
- Teen School Break Volunteer Program – teens are encouraged (with parental permission) over school break to ride along with a van or car crew and help deliver food to our many agencies. Coming soon this February Break!
Teen Board Members help deliver boxes of shelf stable milk to women and children across Springfield
Purchase – RTWM purchases food desired by our agencies and also helps deliver food purchased by community food drives. Examples of youth involvement in purchase programs include:
- The Longmeadow High School Music Program, Cross-Country, and Ski Teams have all collected or purchased food to be donated by Rachel’s Table. The LHS Ski Team, in their pie-selling fundraiser, allowed their donors to also purchase pies to be donated to Rachels Table’s agencies for the holidays!
- The Teen Board participates annually in the Holyoke Backpack program, packing a weekend’s worth of food into brand new backpacks for Holyoke youth facing food insecurity. This year they packed over 250 backpacks, we even had to use a truck to move them all!
- Five times per year RTWM purchases kosher, holiday-appropriate food through our ESSEN-tials Program. This year during thanksgiving Rachel’s Table Teen Board stepped in to help pack these bags which included kosher turkeys, sweet potatoes, holiday cards and more! 35 bags were packed and distributed for kosher-observant families in partnership with Jewish Family Service of Western Massachusetts. Honoring cultural traditions is an important part of food justice.
- The Bernice and Joseph Kalicka Milk Project is a purchase program where RTWM delivers shelf stable milk to agencies who serve women and children. Rachel’s Table Teen Board helps deliver this milk!
- For the past two years the West Springfield High School Women’s Track Team has conducted a food drive at their largest regional meet.
- Personally, some of our teen leaders have created their own food drives either at their school, or instead of presents for their own birthdays!
Girls Inc. of the valley gleaning
Glean – RTWM works with all ages of volunteers to glean (harvest) from local farms in our Bea’s Harvest Gleaning Program. Examples of youth gleaning include:
- Throughout the season Deerfield Academy gleaned from Franklin County farms weekly!
- Amherst Regional High School students in their Anti-Semitism Awareness Project (ASAP) gleaned together while talking about Jewish values and the cultural traditions of food justice.
- Girl’s Inc of the Pioneer Valley gleaned over 316 pounds of sweet potatoes and donated them, with RTWM, to Kate’s Kitchen!
- Community gleans throughout the season are open to all ages if younger children are accompanied by a parent!
A young child helps water plants and spends time in the garden at Christina’s House
Growing Gardens – RTWM collaborates with several agencies and their clients to help build and maintain gardens. People most affected by food insecurity plan, plant and harvest their own culturally relevant and desired food.
- Youth from Chicopee Boys and Girls Club learned about nutrition, preparation, and gardening. At RTWM’s August garden training they taught other youth to make pico de gallo.
- Children from Christina’s House made smoothies from kale they harvested and created a kid’s cookbook.
- Springfield Renaissance students helped construct a garden for Seniority House, an RTWM partner agency. They learned new skills like installing an irrigation system.
- At the beginning of the previous season youth from RTWM Teen Board delivered starter plants to over 6 agency gardens and helped get the planting started!
Youth are our natural resource to making a lasting difference in our world. With their energy, dedication, and intelligence, they have the staying power to advocate and educate for change.
“This experience is important because people need to help each other more. Through this program I’ve found it is very simple and accessible to help people and learn new things. Doing this also gives people a wider perspective on issues like food insecurity.” – A Deerfield Academy student on their experience of gleaning.
Additionally, last year the Western Mass Charity Dance-A-Thon raised money for Rachel’s Table and RTWM has been selected again for this year’s Danca-A-Thon. To learn more about this amazing Westfield based teen initiative check out their website here.
Lastly, we invite everyone, all ages, to join our fight against hunger and create a team or walk or run in our Outrun Hunger 5k and 1-mile fun walk at Forest Park on May 19th!!
One way to sustain interest in RTWM’s mission is to join the Teen Board. You can do this by reaching out to the Teen Board Coordinator, Sarah Bate, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the article written by the President and Vice-President of RTWM’s Teen Board, Franza and Melina, in this quarterly newsletter. Reach out to us via our website (feedwma.org) and we will make sure you get involved!
Teen Board President Franza and Vice President of Membership Mia hand out healthy snacks at a back-to-school event in Springfield
The Rachel’s Table Teen Board is graciously funded by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. Without their generous support RTWM could not support youth in their mission to educate youth about food insecurity and alleviate childhood hunger in Western Mass.