Gardens produce aid for food bank

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Sheila Baummer of the Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Ecumenical Food Bank checks Sunday on a box garden at the food bank recently built by an Eagle Scout in Naugatuck. The food bank wants to give out more fresh produce to people in need. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Sheila Baummer of the Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Ecumenical Food Bank checks Sunday on a box garden at the food bank recently built by an Eagle Scout in Naugatuck. The food bank wants to give out more fresh produce to people in need. -REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

NAUGATUCK — The idea is simple and the impact on people who need fresh food to feed their families can be immense.

The Naugatuck and Beacon Falls Ecumenical Food Bank is now one of 7,416 food pantries around the United States that is participating in a national effort to put fresh produce into the hands of people who are hungry. The food bank recently registered with the website for Ample Harvest, a nonprofit organization that has a mission to supply produce that is usually wasted to the more than 50 million Americans who live in food insecure homes, according to the organization’s website, at www.ampleharvest.org.

Sheila Baummer, treasurer for the local food bank, said this is an effort to increase the variety of foods it provides to families in the two towns. She describes Ample Harvest as a clearing house for home gardeners and farmers who have extra produce and might like to donate their surplus but aren’t sure where and/or when to donate. Gardeners and farmers can log onto the website, enter their ZIP code and be shown a list of nearby food pantries.

“Supplying a healthy and balanced variety of food to our families is one of our goals,” Baummer said. “Typical food drives only accept nonperishable foods and fresh items are a wonderful complement to the canned goods we distribute.”

While food bank volunteers hope Ample Harvest enhances their ability to give out fresh fruits and vegetables, they say many locals have been doing their part for years to put fresh produce into the hands of those in need. For example, a local Eagle Scout candidate, Nick Ryan, recently made three wooden boxes, filled them with soil and planted beans, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers inside. The boxes are now located in back of the food bank headquarters at 75 Spring St. and produce crops for those who use the food bank.

Additionally, congregants at Grace Lutheran Church in Naugatuck recently staged large rows of green beans in an effort to provide enough to give to people at the food bank for a substantial amount of time, Baummer said.

Just last week, Gazy Brothers Farm in Oxford donated five grocery carriages full of cucumbers and green and yellow squash to the food bank.

“People in this area are incredibly generous,” Baummer said. “We see on the news a lot where food banks will literally have nothing on their shelves. There are occasions where donations are slower and we’re a little bit lacking. But we have such generous residents and people who support us, so we haven’t gotten to a point where the shelves are bare and we have to put out a ‘we have to close our doors’ appeal.”

Last year, the food bank was able to distribute 17,708 bags of food to provide 127,692 meals to families in the two towns. The numbers of those in need has remained steady over the past three years.

Donations of all kinds are welcome year-round and can be dropped off at the food bank on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 4 p.m. and on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to noon. The food bank is open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 10 a.m. to noon on Fridays. Monetary donations can be mailed to P.O. Box 796, Naugatuck 06770. Call the food bank at (203) 723-1922 with questions.