Howard group supporting local farms donates its goods to needy families

They give food for Thanksgiving to 15 families

November 24, 2010|By Joe Burris, The Baltimore Sun

Howard County members of a national group that promotes buying locally grown produce gathered this week at Burleigh Manor Middle School in Ellicott City and bagged fruits, vegetables and nonperishable items to ensure that 15 needy families could prepare Thanksgiving meals.

The Howard residents comprise the Centennial Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), one of several local branches of an organization that enables consumers to buy food by purchasing shares of fruits and vegetables from a local farmer.

Centennial CSA members include PTA members from Centennial Lane Elementary School, Burleigh Manor Middle and Centennial High School.

They purchased shares from Baltimore-based Martin Herb Farms and received loads of seasonal produce for 26 weeks beginning in the summer. In return, the farm donated shares to the group.

With those donated shares, the group was able to provide food for needy families in the county for 26 weeks. This week, the Centennial Lane PTA donated $25 gift cards so each of the 15 families could purchase a turkey.

"It started last year to try to get families and kids to try to eat more fresh fruit, and with the local food movement, we tried to capture some of that," said Bonnie Sorak, a chair of the CSA for all three schools. "Knowing we were going to have [donated] shares every week prompted the whole program."

She added that the donations will continue through next week.

Centennial Lane Elementary School counselor Kevin Gillespie led the way in choosing the 15 families, most of whom he said had struggled in the past to pay for school-related activities.

"It starts off with maybe the family doesn't have the money for a field trip, and I talk to them and I develop a relationship with them on the phone, and I say, 'Is there any other need you might have?' " Gillespie said.

CSA members carried many of the goods to the families' houses on Tuesday evening. Sorak said that any leftover produce would be donated to the Howard Domestic Violence Center.

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