Two doctors join our board

We are proud to welcome two new members onto our Board of Directors. Amber Sarkar is a Primary Care Physician at the Family Health Center of Worcester, who we partner with for our Farm to Health Initiative. Evan Soderstrom is the Medical Director of the Tri-County Medical Hospitalist Program in Milford. Even after just a few minutes with either of them, you can tell how passionate they are about health and making a healthy lifestyle accessible to all.

Both of them took the time to answer a few questions about joining the board, so they can tell you more about why there are here in their own words.

amber.jpgAmber Sarkar

Why did you want to join the CHP board?

Practicing primary care at the Family Health Center of Worcester, I work with food insecure individuals every day.  Much of the care that I provide involves dietary changes and advice to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed foods. It is easy for me to tell a patient with diabetes, single working mother or new immigrant to eat more vegetables, but infinitely harder for them to obtain affordable produce. I was inspired by mission of CHP and eager to see more produce ending up on the plates of my patients and similar communities in the area.

How do you think your background and experience can further CHP’s mission?

I have a front row seat to the struggles of families trying to scrape by on un-livable working wages, food stamps and public assistance, and bear witness to the short and long term health consequences of the dependency upon highly processed foods that these conditions create. 

What do you hope to accomplish as a board member?

I hope to be able to provide insight into the populations that CHP is serving, serve as a liaison to some of the medical and public health communities in Worcester and help to inform best practices around produce utilization and distribution. 

What is your favorite vegetable and how do you like to eat it? 

Just one?  I crave spice, and in the vegetable kingdom satiate my craving with daikon.  It is delicious sliced raw with some black salt, shredded and cooked down with some ginger and turmeric or stewed in an Asian soup. 

DSC_5648Evan Soderstrom

Why did you want to join the CHP board?

Since I first set foot on Brigham Hill Community Farm, Community Harvest Project captured my heart.  It is a special place made up of a dedicated staff and volunteers who are passionate about CHP’s mission.  Exposing people to the agricultural environment who would not otherwise have that experience is life-changing for many people.  I am a strong believer in the effects of outdoor activities on our psychological well-being and, in turn, how that has a positive influence on our physical health.  Combining that with education, hunger relief, and the promotion of a diet with adequate healthy fruits and vegetables fills such a need in today’s society.  My family and I will always be supporters of Community Harvest Project and I am honored to be able to support the organization through the volunteer Board of Directors.

How do you think your background and experience can further CHP’s mission?

My hope is to grow the connection between Community Harvest Project and health professionals to educate and promote a healthy lifestyle beginning early on in our youth.  We need to expose our youth to habits that will promote a lifetime of health so that they can make changes in their own lives and promote those changes in their families and friends.  As a health care professional, I hope to steer my efforts towards intervening early in the lives of our community members in preventing many of the disease epidemics that our society faces today. 

What is your favorite vegetable and how do you like to eat it?

The benefits of a plant-based diet are well known.  There is not an upper limit to how many vegetables you can eat before it negatively effects your health.  I have many favorite vegetables.  If I had to pick one it would be a big pile of raw baby leaf spinach with an olive oil and balsamic dressing.  Second to that favorite is lightly steamed broccoli.  My favorite fruits are raw fuji and gala apples and raw tomatoes.

Amber and Evan – we are so excited to have your unique perspective and expertise help to further our mission!

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!

July 2016 Ride with CHP!

the rideThis year Community Harvest Project is thrilled to be one of the organizations participating in the Ride for Food! This bike ride serves as a fundraiser for small, local non-profit organizations working in the hunger relief food system within Central and Eastern Massachusetts. The Ride for Food is the morning of Sunday, September 25 and has 10, 25, or 50 mile staffed route options beginning and ending at Noble and Greenough School campus in Dedham, MA. This is a family friendly event for many abilities. Community Harvest Projects hopes to recruit 10 people to the CHP Team and raise over $10,000 for the organization.

Robb Ahlquist, Volunteer Board Member at Community Harvest Project, initiated CHP’s involvement in this event and has taken the lead role in coordinating the CHP team. Robb dedicates a lot of his time to financial development at CHP and recognized The Ride for Food a perfect opportunity for him to help out further volunteer his time. “Fundraising is always challenging so the chance to combine two of my passions (supporting CHP and riding my bike) is a great opportunity to accomplish two things at one event.”

The Ride for Food was created by the non-profit Three Squares New England in 2012 as a way for smaller non-profit organizations to participate in a large scale fundraising opportunity. Focused on eliminating food insecurity by building the capacity of organizations, the Ride for Food creates an alliance of food relief organizations who have diverse approaches to addressing the problem of food insecurity.  In 2012 the Ride for Food worked with a single organization but this year 18 organizations across Central and Eastern Massachusetts will fundraise and ride together while building awareness of their shared cause.

If you or someone you know is interested in fundraising and riding for the cause with the CHP, we invite you to learn more about the day and join our team! Registration is $75 and each rider is encouraged to raise money for the $10,000 team goal through the online platform where community members can donate towards your individual ride. If you’re more interested in volunteering the day of the event, sign up for one of the many volunteer positions and help CHP support this collaborative event!

Thank you, Robb, for taking the initiative on this event and for getting Community Harvest Project involved in the Ride for Food! We appreciate all that you do for CHP!

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!

July 2016 Online Updates

team leader.PNG

Did you notice….we got a makeover! Well, our website did. We worked with Small Steeple Web Builders, who are based right here in Grafton and work exclusively with small non-profits to create modern, streamlined sites. We began working together in January to update our website to reflect the growth and changes CHP has made since in the last few years. Our primary concerns were to make it easy to navigate, concise, mobile friendly, and showcase our farm, volunteers, and produce with new photos (mostly taken by Norm Eggert Photography).

We spent a lot of time paring down the words, so that it would be quick and easy to see what we are all about for first time visitors, but still familiar for returning friends. We went through thousands of photos taken in the last few years of all our programs to make sure that we fully captured all that CHP encompasses, from volunteer experience on the farm and community partnerships, to education and produce distribution.

volunteer2Our technology updates have kept us especially busy this year. Another dream that became reality was automated volunteer check in, which we could not have done without 501 Partners. We used to keep track of all our volunteers based on paper sign-ins and head counts that were manually tallied. Once we surpassed 11,000 volunteers last year that was really no longer feasible. Now all groups looking to volunteer fill out this handy form to get started. Once they are on the schedule, they receive an email a few weeks out confirming their visit, letting them know what to expect, and asking them to register. Then the day of their volunteering they check in so we know their hours were completed. As with any new technology adaptation we have a few changes to make for next year, but overall we are so happy with this new process which creates a better experience for the volunteers (and, makes our lives easier too).

Have you looked at our new website? Used our new check in system? Let us know about your experience! We are always striving to improve and provide the best possible interaction for our current and prospective volunteers. Feel free to send any thoughts to tori@community-harvest.org.

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!

July 2016 Volunteer of the Month

Sarah Moschini

sarah2

Let us introduce you to Sarah Moschini, our July Volunteer of the Month. Sarah first visited the farm as a 10-year-old with her church. She says that she volunteered for an hour and remembers a lot about that day. She describes the fact that it was a treat to be able to come when usually only the older children came out to volunteer. She also remembers a really friendly Team Leader or Intern working with the group while they harvested cukes.

Fast forward almost seven years and we have had the distinct pleasure of having Sarah as a volunteer again. This time however she has significantly increased her involvement. If you visit the farm you are likely to see her volunteering for almost forty hours a week! While she was looking for something to keep her occupied during the summer her dad suggested CHP and even did her the favor of dropping her off on her first day. Her first impression was that everyone was nice and welcoming and an even bigger impression when our Team Leader Linda worked with her that day. “It was a “super” fun day and Linda taught me a lot” is the way that Sarah describes it.  This sparked an interest in Sarah to learn to become a Team Leader and she quickly mastered that role and has graduated to leading groups on her own!

Sarah is a rising junior at Whitinsville Christian School and if you ask her how it is going she will rave about the fact that she learns something new every day. The skills that she describes developing will all help her as she plots her future. She is proud of the fact that she has been able to apply her naturally outgoing personality to helping others. She has learned through some challenges in communication and organization with groups and come out with stronger skills and a better ability to lead. Then there is that weed whacking…Sarah is hoping her parents don’t find out that she has mastered that skill (just kidding).

So please join us in congratulating Sarah for her volunteer work in support of Community Harvest Project and as our Volunteer of the Month for July. Her drive and determination has put her in the driver’s seat as one of our newest Team Leaders and we are lucky to have her. Congratulations Sarah, we could not do the work we do without great people like you!

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!

July 2016 Veggie of the Month

Zucchini!

CaptureThis time of year we are always astounded by how quickly the zucchini can grow. We are picking them just about every day, but with really hot nights and the few thunderstorms summer inevitably brings, what was one day a 6” specimen hiding under a leaf morphs into a monster the size of a forearm. Well….good thing they are delicious!

The flower of the zucchini (and summer squash) are edible too! The male flowers grow on just a stem, and the female flowers grow at the base of what will become a squash. It is best to pick the male fruit to ensure a good harvest (and there are more of them to harvest anyhow). For a limited time, you can enjoy the blossoms from our squash plants at VIA Italian Table in Worcester on Shrewsbury Street. Not only will you get to try a delicious and authentic seasonal Italian dish, but all sales are donated to CHP.

Zucchini is made up of mostly water, so it is very low in calories! Zucchini is a good source of fiber (which promotes good digestive health and lowers cholesterol), folate (helps with cell growth and development), Vitamin A (necessary for growth and development/proper immune system function), Vitamin C (antioxidant that fights free radicals), and minerals like potassium and phosphorus (essential for all cell and organ functions). Preference is given to small-sized zucchini because of their tenderness, but larger zucchini are still great for breads and fritters. Stir-fry, soup, stews, bread, salad, and muffins are only a few different ways you can make this vegetable into a tasty treat or meal!

Sources: http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/squash/harvesting-squash-flowers.htm, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zucchini

20150901_194200Roasted Corn, Zucchini, and Black Bean Enchiladas

Serves 4. Recipe from Vegetal Matters.

Enchilada Sauce

Adapted from The Faux Martha

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 jalapeño, stem removed (omit for mild sauce)
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro (fine to leave the stems on)
  • 4 cups of tomato sauce (from 5 large tomatoes deseeded and pureed, a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes pureed, or just straight sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Start running a food processor and then drop in the garlic. Keep it going until you don’t hear any more garlic bouncing around, then drop in the jalapeño and run until the bouncing stops again. Add the onion, chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, and cilantro to the food processor bowl. Pulse a few times so all items are mixed and chopped. Add in the tomato sauce, sour cream, salt, and pepper, and process for a minute so all ingredients are fully integrated.

Without a food processor, finely mince the garlic, jalapeño, onion, and herbs, and whisk with the rest of the items.

Move the contents into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the sauce reduce, uncovered for at least 10 minutes ( I usually let it bubble away while I get everything else ready).

Roasted Corn, Zucchini, and Black Bean Enchiladas

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen. Serves 4.

  • 2 ears of corn
  • 5 cups of chopped summer squash and zucchini (mine was from 2 small summer squash and a zucchini totaling 24 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion or scallion
  • 2 cups black beans (or 1 15 oz can)
  • 10 10″ flour tortillas
  • 1 recipe for enchilada sauce (above), or about 5 cups
  • 6 ounces (about 1.5 cups) shredded monteray or pepperjack cheese

For serving

  • Chopped cilantro, scallions, jalapeño, sour cream

Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the summer squashes with oil, salt, and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Place the ears of corn (still in their husk) on another baking sheet. Put both in the oven for 20 minutes. The squashes should be a bit charred on the edges when done. Let cool for a few minutes. Turn the oven down to 375F.

In the meantime put the onion and black beans (rinsed first if they were canned) in a large bowl. When you can handle the corn remove the husk and silk (which all comes right off with this method!!) and cut the kernels off the cob. I find this is easiest to do with the fewest lost kernels if you lay the cob flat on a cutting board and cut down each side lengthwise. Add the corn and squashes to the bowl with the beans and onion and toss to combine.

To assemble spoon enough enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan to coat it. Put another ladle-full of sauce on a plate or pie plate that is bigger than your tortillas and spread to cover. Place a tortilla on the plate in the sauce to coat one side and then flip. If you’re using the sauce above it will be thicker than canned stuff, so I put another spoonful on the top of the tortilla and spread it around. Add a ½ cup of the filling to the middle and roll it up. Place in the 9″ x 13″ dish and repeat with the rest of the tortillas (mine didn’t quite fit so the last 2 went into a loaf pan). Spoon the remainder of the sauce over the enchiladas and evenly coat with a layer of cheese.

Cook in the oven for 20 minutes so that the cheese is nice and melty and the enchiladas are heated through. Serve with chopped cilantro, scallions, jalapeño, and sour cream.

Read the rest of the July 2016 Sprout!