Harvesting Hope with the Food Project
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Harvesting Hope with the Food Project

Grand Circle Associates support a local nonprofit that grows strong leaders and healthy food for the hungry

About a mile past Walden Pond in Lincoln, Massachusetts, The Food Project is cultivating more than just carrots and squash—they're cultivating a new generation of leaders and healthy food for the hungry.

On a recent Saturday in September, Grand Circle associates got their hands dirty for a few hours with The Food Project on Baker Bridge Farm in Lincoln, helping harvest healthy food for our local urban communities and supporting a program that provides leadership opportunities for inner-city youth ages 14-17.

"It's definitely my favorite community service project through Grand Circle," says Joseph Antony, Grand Circle's Senior Compensation, Benefits & HRIS Administrator. He's been with Grand Circle since 2005 and has been participating in The Food Project's harvest for the past three years. "You're getting down and dirty and putting in a good day's worth of work on the farm and supporting the leadership opportunity it provides to inner-city kids."

The Food Project is a nonprofit organization and sustainable food movement that works with urban youth in Massachusetts, placing teens in valuable leadership positions in which they help grow, harvest, and distribute organic produce for people in need.

Each year, The Food Project works with more than 140 teens and thousands of volunteers to farm 43.5 acres of land in Boston, Beverly, Ipswich, Lincoln, and Lynn while "engaging young people in personal and social change through sustainable agriculture," the organization reports. Teens work in crews both on and off the farm, working the land, preparing and serving food in local soup kitchens, and selling produce at local farmers markets in urban communities like Roxbury and Dorchester, where access to healthy, fresh food can be limited. The Food Project donates 40 percent of its harvest each year, according to its website, providing nearly 250,000 meals to people in need.

To help with the fall harvest, 19 Grand Circle associates and their families and friends turned out to help reap and sort crops, and the results were impressive: Associates picked apples, gathered approximately 10,000 pounds of winter squash and pumpkins, dug up 400 pounds of potatoes, and harvested 1,400 pounds of tomatoes. All told, the volunteers harvested the equivalent of nearly 23,000 servings of food, which will be distributed to local schools, hunger relief organizations, and farmers' markets. In addition to coordinating and providing volunteer hours for this effort, Grand Circle Foundation has donated more than $108,000 to The Food Project since 1999.

"It's great fun for my kids," says Director of Business Solutions Tom Whearty, a Grand Circle associate since 2000—and a father of five who brings his children with him each year to the fall harvest. "They get to go out to the farm, dig potatoes with their bare hands, and sort stuff. And they ask every year, 'Are we going back?'"

Featured in our October 2010 E-Newsletter: Read full issue here.