Regional Notebook: April 22, 2023

Published: 04-21-2023 6:50 PM

$300K grant helps Rachel’s Table expand food access

SPRINGFIELD — The food rescue nonprofit Rachel’s Table recently received a grant of more than $300,000 over three years from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help expand its Bea’s Harvest and Growing Gardens initiatives.

The grant is part of the USDA’s Regional Food System Partnerships program and will also enable Rachel’s Table to explore economic incentives for farmers and employment pathways for people impacted by food insecurity.

“We are grateful to the USDA for this grant, which will allow us to infuse more fresh produce into food insecure communities in western Massachusetts through our Growing Gardens and Bea’s Harvest initiatives,” Jodi Falk, director of Rachel’s Table, said in a statement. “This grant will also help us to contribute and collaborate with local leaders on food system resiliency experiments and explore economic incentives for farmers that encourage regenerative and equitable farming practices that benefit the land and community.”

This summer, Bea’s Harvest, Rachel’s Table’s 15-year-old gleaning initiative, will develop and launch countywide “glean teams” made up of volunteers who will harvest produce from local farms and deliver it to partner agencies. These new “glean teams” will help Rachel’s Table increase the number of pounds gleaned from approximately 10,000 to 54,000 pounds per year.

For Growing Gardens, the grant will support development of a sustainability plan for the initiative moving forward and provide seed funds that participating agencies can use to maintain their garden projects after they graduate from the initiative. Additionally, Rachel’s Table will collaborate with other local organizations to provide Growing Gardens alumni with more opportunities to expand their food independence efforts. For example, Growing Gardens alumni could work with other local programs to access business planning courses or participate in culinary education.

To learn more about Rachel’s Table, visit rachelstablepv.org.

League of WomenVoters hosting trivia night fundraiser

GREENFIELD — The League of Women Voters of Franklin County will host its annual Civics Trivia Night fundraiser on Saturday, April 29, at the Greenfield Elks Lodge on Church Street.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the trivia game starting at 7 p.m. Questions will feature a variety of civics-related topics, from political movies to current affairs, and more.

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Emily Brewster, a Franklin County resident since 1996, will be the event’s quizmaster. Brewster served as a Montague Town Meeting member for five years, and now lives in Greenfield. She is one of three owners of The Rendezvous in Turners Falls, and is also an editor and lexicographer at Merriam-Webster.

“Our trivia night fundraisers are fun exercises in community-building, with a competitive edge,” Marie Gauthier, president of the League of Women Voters of Franklin County, said in a statement. “They also help fund league educational events as well as our voter registration and outreach efforts. We haven’t held this in person since the pandemic began, so we’re hoping for a great turnout.”

There will be cash prizes, complimentary snacks and the evening will close with a gift basket raffle. Admission is $10 per person, with teams of up to eight people allowed. A cash bar will be available.

Director appointed for Safe Environment and Victim Assistance Office

SPRINGFIELD — Bishop William Byrne of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has appointed Michael Collins, a licensed social worker with 26 years of experience working in the foster care system, as the new director of the Office of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance. Collins will fill the vacancy left by Jeffrey Trant, who is now executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County.

“Recognizing the critical importance of this position and the need to hire a person who will carry on the reorganization begun under Dr. Jeffrey Trant’s tenure,” Byrne said in a statement, “I believe we have been successful in finding just the right candidate with the commitment and skills to continue these efforts.”

Collins, a graduate of Cathedral High School in Springfield, served as area director for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. The Springfield office is one of the largest in the state, serving more than 2,700 children. Collins earned a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Western New England University and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in psychology from Westfield State University.

Baystate Health to hold second annual Faces of Faith event

SPRINGFIELD — The public is invited to virtually attend Faces of Faith: A Community Conversation About Cancer Prevention and Survivorship. The photographic display and storytelling event, featuring local cancer survivors, will be held on Wednesday, April 26, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Faces of Faith supports Baystate Health’s ongoing efforts to prevent health disparities and reduce the burden of diseases such as cancer, which disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The event recognizes cancer survivors, celebrates the gift of life, and provides a platform for everyone to engage, inform and learn through community conversation about cancer prevention and survivorship.

Panelists will include Baystate Health providers Dr. Tashanna Myers, chief of gynecologic oncology; Dr. Eduardo Nunez, pulmonary and critical care medicine; and Dr. Prarthna Bhardwaj, a medical oncologist/breast specialist; as well as storytellers Darlene Francis, breast cancer survivor, and Archie Emmanuel, prostate cancer survivor.

In addition to Emmanuel and Francis, other 2023 Faces of Faith honorees who are living vibrant lives and can offer hope to others are the Rev. Willard Cofield, the Rev. Dr. Karen Rucks-Walker, Lamont Scott, Sherline Scott, Stephanie Burgess, Paulette Henderson-Small and John “Skip” Miller.

For more information, visit bit.ly/3V14XtG.

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