Photo courtesy of Keohane Funeral Home
Quincy’s Interfaith Social Services and Keohane Funeral Home are looking for donations of fresh food again this fall, as more and more families seek assistance from the local food pantry.
A partnership for the past three years, the “Harvest Helpers” program organizes backyard gardeners and community groups to donate fresh produce to food pantries.
From the sunless alley next to Interfaith’s location in Quincy, to a garden planted at a preschool in Wollaston, volunteers have helped grow vegetables and fruits, donating all the harvest.
Yet with more people at need than ever, and with the summer months long gone, the organizations are asking for help from individuals throughout the South Shore.
“It’s a unique program because we’re encouraging people to bring fresh produce. People are always good about canned goods, but wouldn’t it be great for people who don’t usually get fresh produce to have it right from gardens,” said Joseph Reardon, vice president of Keohane Funeral Homes.
While fall is the typical time of year that canned-food drives occur, organizers hope their initiative shifts the focus to fresh food.
“If a school or a church group is collecting food one morning that they plan on delivering to our food pantry that afternoon, we hope that people will donate apples and oranges, and broccoli;” said Rick Doane, Interfaith’s executive director. “Those are the types of healthy food that our clients need.”
Furthermore, the food pantry served 19,000 people last year, and is well on its way to breaking that record this year, and when clients are asked what they want from the food pantry, their answer is continually more produce.
"It's something they cannot afford to buy. So we’re able to establish a relationship with BJs in quincy where they are donating produce," Doane said. "It’s a huge deal for us. We have relationships with many supermakets throughout the South Shore, but BJs is the only one who will donate produce…and our clients are so happy to get produce. It makes a huge difference in their lives, with their kids, seniors. It’s a big deal."
The organization also provides education for those waiting in line about nutrition.
“People are learning about the value of fresh fruits and vegetables and contributing to those in need, and we’re helping those who nee it most. So it’s a great program,” Reardon said.
While the Harvest Helpers program isn't robust enough to support produce for the hundreds of families served weekly at the pantry, it has been massively successful, Doane said.
"It's about awareness. It's letting people know food pantries need fresh produce. We ask people to grow it, but it gives us opportunities to talk about it, and that’s one of the biggest successes," Doane said. "While we can't say we have received more food from backyard gardners, but we do get bags from people who are coming in. We’re able to pick tomatoes in our garden and give them to clients, and that little bit makes a difference."
Next year, Interfaith is also organizing to have the senior center operate a garden to grow more produce.
In the meantime, any local farmers or backyard gardeners who may have extra produce, or even shoppers with some cash to spare, are encouraged to donate produce to the organization.
Donations are accepted at Interfaith Social Services, 105 Adams St. in Quincy and Keohane Funeral Home,785 Hancock St.
For more information or to schedule a drop off time for a donation, please contact Interfaith Social Services at 617-773-6203 or the funeral home at 617-773-3551.