‘Giving back is paramount’: Greenfield mayor, staff help with community meal program

  • Stone Soup Cafe volunteers Whitney Robbins, from left, Marjorie Morgan and Maegan Boutot pack up takeout meals Saturday afternoon at All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Regina Osciak, left, talks with Mayor Roxann Wedegartner on Saturday afternoon outside of the Stone Soup Cafe at All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Stone Soup Cafe volunteers Maegan Boutot, from right, Marjorie Morgan and Whitney Robbins pack up a meal for Jay Goldspinner on Saturday afternoon at All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Stone Soup Cafe volunteer Josh Ruder packs up a bag of free groceries Saturday afternoon at All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Stone Soup Cafe volunteers Josh Ruder, left, and Casey Kin pack up a bag of free groceries Saturday afternoon at All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Takeout meals prepared by Stone Soup Cafe at All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Rob Peck serenades the Stone Soup Cafe crowd with music from his chromatic harmonica Saturday afternoon outside of All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

  • Stone Soup Cafe at All Souls Church in Greenfield. FOR THE RECORDER/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/9/2021 5:43:37 PM

GREENFIELD — The city’s mayor stood on the upper end of Hope Street Saturday morning, ready to hand out peanut butter, fresh produce, meat, dairy and more to those who were there for some help.

Nearby in the basement of All Souls Church, volunteers were filling to-go containers with salad, vegan potato dill soup or corned beef and cabbage stew, a western tofu scramble for vegans or a turkey sausage dish with goat cheese, both with mixed vegetables, and some pear crisp.

“I used to volunteer at least two Saturdays a month, setting up tables and/or serving,” Mayor Roxann Wedegartner said. “I got so busy with the campaign and then becoming mayor — with a pandemic hitting shortly after — that I couldn’t do it.”

The mayor said now that she’s finding a little more time, she’d like to get back to volunteering at least one Saturday every other month.

“I love the idea of Stone Soup Cafe,” she said. “People pay what they can for a really high-quality, nutritious meal that’s always good. This is a stalwart organization taking care of people. There’s a lot of food insecurity here and this helps.”

Wedgartner’s staff helped, too, with her Chief of Staff Danielle Letourneau-Therrien and Administrative Assistant Caitlin von Schmidt helping to prepare on Friday evening and her Communications Director Keith Barnicle joining her on Saturday.

“Serving the community is so important,” said Barnicle. “Feeding the hungry and addressing food insecurity is really a political issue, as well as a moral one, and giving back is paramount. Stone Soup Cafe has always been ahead of the curve on that issue.”

Stone Soup Cafe Executive Director and Chef Kirsten Levitt said it was great to see the mayor and her staff.

“Stone Soup provided breakfast and lunch to everyone at the Emergency Command Center during the pandemic,” Levitt said. “We got to see these wonderful people every day. It’s like ‘old home days’ today. We got to know them well and missed them when we stopped delivering as the city transitioned from a command center to a vaccination site.”

Levitt said it’s a good sign to see city officials coming to the cafe to participate and get to know the pubic.

“That’s what I love about this area,” she said. “Everyone steps up to participate, even the mayor, so they know what’s really going on in their communities. It’s not just what they hear in their offices.”

Stone Soup Cafe has consistently been serving 400 to 500 meals every Saturday throughout the pandemic, Levitt said, though currently it is not a sit-down meal like it used to be, but a grab-and-go.

“We’ve been doing this for six months now,” she said. “It has grown and grown.”

Along with curbside pickup, the cafe delivers meals to 18 of the county’s 26 towns — there are a total of about 60 volunteers who deliver meals to people’s doors, about 15 at a time. She said the cafe has a total of about 80 to 100 volunteers who also prepare and hand out meals, like City Council President Penny Ricketts, and who every Saturday prepare and staff the free community market — more than a year old now — where people can get some groceries for the week.

“There’s no age requirement and people pay what they can,” Levitt said. “The food goes fast.”

Stone Soup Cafe partners with organizations like the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Rachel’s Table, the Franklin County Community Development Corporation and Just Roots farm in Greenfield to provide the freshest local products.

“We’re the little engine that could,” she said.

Levitt said the cafe celebrates “something” every Saturday. This week, it was Mother’s Day.

She said there are a couple of “exciting” things happening because of a grant the cafe received from the state, and another from Baystate Franklin Medical Center.

“We’re going to be able to increase the number of meals we serve, if we have to,” she said. “That not only means putting out more food, but serving more people.”

Levitt said the cafe will be able to serve between 800 and 1,000 meals every Saturday, if there is a need.

“We’ll see what the economic recovery of the valley looks like,” she said.

The grant from the local hospital will allow Stone Soup Cafe to hold “town hall” discussions and one-on-one discussions about the barriers and access points to food.

“We’ll be asking people what their needs are and how they’ve changed,” she said. “It’s an exciting time for the cafe. We’re so much more than just a meal and every person is a valued treasure. I always tell people, ‘Every ingredient counts, especially you.’”

Ricketts said she loves spending her Saturday mornings volunteering at the cafe and afternoons at the John Zon Community Center, where the city is administering vaccines through Saturday.

“I saw Amy McMahan posted photos of what she was doing when volunteering here and I decided I wanted to do it, too,” Ricketts said. “I signed up immediately. There’s great people here and great music. This is a place I needed to be.

“It’s sad that we have to do this work, but at the same time it’s really great,” she added. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.




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