When I first met Doug DeCandia, he was everything I wanted him to be, introducing himself by offering a hand, covered in small cuts, a little bit of dirt still under his fingernails, matched with friendly eyes. In just a few minutes of casual conversation—before the Fork This mic went live—I knew how genuinely passionate and invested he is about his job.
As Food Bank for Westchester’s Food Growing Program Expert and New York Times featured farmer, Doug is an integral part of the future of food banks—while these organizations are still open to collecting canned and packaged goods, they are shifting their efforts to sourcing and producing fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need.
BY THE NUMBERS
200,000+: The number of residents in Westchester County are hungry or qualify as “food insecure”
300: Partners Food Bank for Westchester teams up with to provide food and resources
12,000: Pounds of food the Food Growing Program produced last year
8.4 million: Pounds of food the Food Bank for Westchester has distributed in total
I, like I imagine most of you reading this, only thought helping those in need involved donating money, boxed mac’n’cheese, and canned vegetables. But Food Bank for Westchester’s commitment to sourcing fresh options is a prime example of how our community must come together to offer healthy foods to combat hunger and the clear link to obesity in our county (and country). The average SNAP (formerly food stamps) budget per meal is $1.40 per person. And you can’t get a banana off most fast food dollar menus. The fact this organization is making efforts to provide locally grown produce—greens, red beans, garlic, peppers, and more—is nothing short of one of the most amazing things happening in our community. And Doug is doing it all, driving from farm to farm, tending vegetable gardens spread out over 5 acres of land.
PASSIONATE! Listen to Doug DeCandia, Food Bank for Westchester’s Food Growing Expert, talk about the Food Growing program happening on 5 acres of land in Westchester County.
While I sit and write this, I’m itching to see Doug in action. I got a quick glimpse during a segment of his ‘Gardening 101″ Series, a collection of classes offering his expertise to local gardeners who are interested in cultivating a little green space of their own. The classes are two fold—not only can you polish your green thumb, but you can also get a behind the scenes look at how the Growing Program helps feed area neighbors who are experiencing hunger. Bonus? Each participant leaves with watermelon seeds to plant on their own.
I’m currently in the process of tracking him down (he’s bustling from one farm to the next) but, like Doug, I’m ready to get my hands dirty. In the process of moving, I’m losing my garden, and in the process of being moved, I’m extremely wowed by all they are doing. I’m hoping to volunteer to help weed/primp/harvest the garden to help Doug, Food Bank for Westchester, and the 200,000 people in our community who are food insecure in out community. I’m asking you to join me. And if you aren’t into enjoying some outdoor green space, there’s plenty of ways YOU can help.
Doug DeCandia, Food Bank for Westchester’s Food Growing Expert, chats about the Gardening 101 series, happening Thursdays in July, where you can learn gardening tips from a New York Times featured farmer.
The ‘Gardening 101’ Details
The “Gardening 101” classes, sponsored by Stop & Shop, will take place on Thursdays, July 13, 20 and 27 with two sessions each day, one from 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and the other from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 20 Hammond House Road in Valhalla. Admission for each class is $25, which will directly benefit the efforts of Food Bank for Westchester. Participants of all ages and abilities are welcome. To register for classes, visit foodbankforwestchester.org/events/gardening101.
Photo provided by Food Bank for Westchester.