"Take what you need, leave what you can"
Fareground's Motto for Nourishing a Community
Using mutual aid to create bridges across communities and increasing access to food.
Fareground Food + Community is one of Second Chance Foods’ partners in food justice and a heartwarming example of people seeing a problem in the community and taking action. Fareground manages various programs that use mutual aid principles, making accessing food easy and reducing hunger in the Hudson Valley. Programs like their Free Marketplaces, Tiny Food Pantries, Community Fridges, and more make it easy for neighbors to help neighbors.
"I love that these grassroots efforts help break down barriers to hunger relief. Second Chance Foods is a little more formal and can't use all of the same strategies as mutual aid, but having multiple, diverse, approaches working together means we can collectively recover more food and feed more people." - Martha Elder, Executive Director, Second Chance Foods
What is Mutual Aid?
Many first heard the term mutual aid at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has deep roots in American history, labor unions, and communities providing support. Mutual aid is people coming together to voluntarily meet each other’s needs. “Mutual aid can include the bartering of services or goods; or the free exchange of items, from cooking meals or delivering food to clothing drives, prescription pickups, home repair, or childcare” (NPQ). It’s rooted in solidarity and reciprocity – creating a stronger community in the process.
Fareground and Second Chance Foods
At Second Chance Foods, we love employing multiple approaches to reducing waste and relieving hunger in the community. Working with Fareground helps extend our reach and provides Fareground with regular necessary donations that they can take a step further to feed our neighbors. Bruised apples and browning bananas are frequent donations we receive, usually in large quantities. Our kitchen processes what it can, but with limited space, we love knowing Fareground will take these imperfect, but still good foods and feed the community. Fareground mobilizes a team of volunteer bakers who take these fruits home and make thoughtful treats like banana bread, cookies, applesauce, pickles, and even waffles with some of the produce we supply. These extra steps make the food last longer, but it also brings a level of love to the Tiny Food Pantries and Community Fridges. Second Chance Foods donates an average of 560 pounds of groceries weekly to Fareground to stock pantries and fridges, and across programs as they need.
More about Faregrounds Community Solutions
The largest program Faregrounds organizes is its Free Marketplace Events. These popup marketplaces are like a combination of Farmer’s Markets and Food Pantries. Tables are set up to display food like meats, fruits and vegetables, sometimes dairy and eggs, pantry items, personal care and hygiene goods, and even school supplies when available. Free Marketplaces occur almost weekly and travel to different towns serving upwards of 300 households each! They are offered a little less in the summer because Fareground serves free summer lunches for kids in Wappinger Falls in July and August. Which is another great program for utilizing food that would be better served cooked. Recently, they received about 40 cases of green beans! Volunteers divided fresh beans for the fridges, but when they still had leftovers they were a perfect side for the free lunch program.
But, perhaps the most mutual aid program Fareground runs are its Tiny Food Pantries (TFP) and Community Fridges. Anyone is invited to put items in – take it out. Sometimes people do both! That’s where Fareground’s slogan, “Take what you need, Leave what you can,” is put into action. Jamie Lavato, Fareground Executive Director, says that sometimes people have an abundance from their garden, but they need a loaf of bread. Swapping items at the pantry helps meet everyone’s needs and reduces the stigma that can come with needing help. These pantries and fridges are placed at critical locations, always available, and are a partnership with the organizations who host them – including keeping them clean and supporting electricity. Additional volunteers help sort produce, pack boxes, and get food where it needs to go. View Fareground Volunteer Opportunities here!
Other programs include a partnership with Mutual Aid Beacon that delivers boxes of food to our homebound neighbors in need. Mutual Aid Beacon supplies drivers, and on the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Wednesdays of the month, Fareground volunteers pack 30 boxes with groceries, including pantry stables, meats, dairy, and more. Learn more about Mutual Aid Beacon and get involved here!
"I would love to see more businesses be open to sharing food and for our fridges to be an avenue for reducing food waste." - Jamie Lavato, Executive Director, Fareground Food + Community
The Future of Mutual Aid
Many mutual aid groups that were started during Covid-19 have since disbanded. However, food insecurity has not decreased, meaning “the need for neighbors to help neighbors is not going away” (NPQ). Jamie would like to see more businesses get involved in mutual aid because there is such an opportunity to fill a community’s needs and reduce food waste. Conferences, luncheons, and even catered meetings result in food being thrown away at the end. Jamie says these groups can do more to connect this food with the people who need assistance. They note that only some foods will keep, prepared food left out for long periods should not be donated, and no one should donate food they wouldn’t eat themselves. But, many leftovers can be passed on by planning ahead, practicing good judgment, putting items in labeled foil or freezer bags, and keeping it cold. “Even if you’re not a business but throwing a party or having a bbq, it’s normal to have large amounts of food and leftovers” Jamie recommends that everyone think about their neighbors and create and plan to donate any leftovers they wont use promptly. Too many burgers? Save what you know you will eat but wrap the rest in foil – label it – and take it to a fridge. It’s that easy! But don’t wait too long. Perishable food should be taken to the Community Fridges as soon as possible to ensure it stays safe to eat.
Fareground is happy to receive larger donations, too – but they request that food be brought to them instead of overflowing a box or fridge. Questions about donating? Contact Fareground here!
Interested in getting involved?
Like Second Chance Foods, Fareground relies on volunteers to create impact in our community. Even if you don’t have time to give, consider donating goods to a Tiny Food Pantry or creating your own!
Find a Tiny Food Pantry or Community Fridge
Fareground has a list of Tiny Food Pantries they manage and others in the area. Bring a shelf stable item to the pantry or a perishable to the Community Fridge to help others in your neighborhood.
Volunteering is essential to nonprofits and mutual aid – Sign up today to volunteer with Fareground, Second Chance Foods, or both!