BRISTOL – Cars lined up Middle Street Monday evening to get a hold of fresh produce leaving the city’s Public Works Yard in 25-pound boxes.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families initiative distributed thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables to area residents through the concerted efforts of United Way of West Central Connecticut, the City of Bristol and volunteers.
Community Emergency Response Team members stood on Vincent P. Kelly Road directing traffic as an assembly line packed cars in the Public Works Yard lot.
“Being physically handicapped, this means a lot to me,” Annie Forrest said as she waited in her car for a box of fresh food.
“Because of covid-19 my husband is out of work now too,” the Plainville resident explained. “This is a wonderful program.”
The pandemic and related circumstances have put many local residents out of steady income and in need of public assistance for the first time. The intent of the federal program is to get fresh food in the hands of struggling families, while helping farmers who have lost many regular customers due to the closure of different business sectors.
“There’s no income limits or residency restrictions; anyone who pulls up, we put a box of produce into their vehicle,” United Way of West Central CT President Donna Osuch explained. “Because of what’s going on with covid-19 the famers normally supplying restaurants, dormitories and cafeterias are not able to unload all of the produce they’re growing. This is a way for that produce not to go to waste. Instead, it’s going to people who can’t afford it.”
Non-profit agencies were also invited to pick up boxes of food for people they serve, many of whom are homebound, elderly or couldn’t get out to the event themselves for whatever reason.
Bristol Adult Resource Center, Meals for Neighbors, the Plymouth Community Food Pantry, St. Vincent de Paul Mission and Agape House were just a few organizations who took part.
This was the second of two Farmers to Families events that took place in Bristol this summer.
“Anything we can do to prevent food insecurity over the summer months is great,” Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said as she helped to direct traffic into the packing station.
Helping fill cars was 17-year-old Izabella Lis, now going into her senior year at St. Paul Catholic High School.
“I’m excited,” Lis said when she arrived with Monday. “My friend’s mom asked me to volunteer. This is my first time doing it.”
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.