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Franklin County CDC ‘pivots’ with new outlet for frozen produce

  • Evan Manning preps packets of flash-frozen green pepper pieces at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s Food Processing Center in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • preps packets of flash-frozen green pepper pieces at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s Food Processing Center in Greenfield. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Packets of flash-frozen green pepper pieces at the Franklin County Community Development Corporation’s Food Processing Center in Greenfield that were originally heading to local schools are being rerouted. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 3/30/2020 5:40:35 PM

GREENFIELD — John Waite has been hearing the word “pivot” a lot lately.

Restaurants that normally concentrate on dine-in service have had to pivot and focus on delivery and takeout orders in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, breweries and distilleries have pivoted to use their alcohol to make hand sanitizer.

So Waite, the executive director of the Franklin County Community Development Corporation, and others decided pivoting was also the proper move for the non-profit organization. Frozen produce stored at 324 Wells St. and intended for area schools will instead go to retailers due to the closure of educational institutions until May 4, per order of Gov. Charlie Baker.

Waite explained his organization provides area schools with eight varieties of quality vegetables in the winter by buying them at harvest time from regional farmers. He said the development corporation washes the food, chops it, blanches it and flash-freezes it before putting it away in 25-pound boxes.

The organization has for six of seven years sold vegetables to schools — kindergarten through college — in December through April.

“The schools like it, and the farmers, of course, like it because we buy it from them,” Waite said.

Waite said 80,000 pounds of produce was purchased in the fall and 15,000 pounds remain. He said the food is being repackaged into 1-pound bags and sent to stores so it doesn’t go to waste. The development corporation typically sells produce to retailers, but never in this volume.

“We said, ‘Let’s try to do this,’” Waite recounted.

Staff members started repackaging the food on Friday morning. Waite said the process is expected to continue for about the next two weeks. Marty’s Local of Pittsfield and Arnold’s Meats of Chicopee are the distributors.

Waite explained a rotation of three staff members are practicing social distancing while repackaging the food. He said each staff member is working on a stainless steel table separated from their colleagues.

Produce will be sent to Bardwell Farm, which operates a farm stand in Hatfield, and more will go to small country stores in Vermont and New Hampshire through a distributor called Food Connects. Waite also mentioned the development corporation last month donated 600 pounds of frozen spinach and broccoli to the Supper for Six project sponsored by the United Way of Franklin County to get healthy food to families during the February school vacation.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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