Produce the Produce

A new county-wide initiative to get more fresh vegetables & fruits on tables of those in need

Photo 1Social services agency Catholic Community Services of Rockland today announced a new county-wide initiative to provide more fresh fruits and vegetables to those most in need. The Haverstraw-based nonprofit unveiled “Produce the Produce” to a crowd of participants and supporters gathered Saturday afternoon outside its “Garden of Love” vegetable garden located behind its offices at 78 Hudson Avenue.

Martha Robles, Executive Director of Catholic Community Services of Rockland (CCSR), explained that “Produce the Produce” is a far reaching collaborative effort to get as many people as possible to grow, donate and make fruits and vegetables an everyday staple in people’s diets.

“CCSR is serving as a catalyst to engage other community and parish gardens to participate in ‘Produce the Produce’ as well as local farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores and common citizens to grow and donate their excess fresh produce to the initiative,” Ms. Robles said.

Ms. Robles cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study that found only 25 percent of adults, and even fewer children, eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day.

“Because of the high cost of fresh produce that number is probably less than 10 percent for low-income families in Rockland,” she said. “The lack of the proper amounts of fruits and vegetables in our diets contribute to many health issues such as obesity, diabetes and other serious illness and diseases.”

Ms. Robles said “Produce the Produce” is part of its “Feed the Need” program in Rockland and was “cultivated” from CCSR’s expanded garden in Haverstraw, which produced more than 6,000 lbs. of vegetables in 2012 and distributed to participants enrolled in CCSR’s Food Pantry. Ms. Robles said arrangements could be made to pick up or drop off fresh produce. To learn more and participate in “Produce the Produce” call CCSR offices at 845-942-5791.

“We doubled the size of our own vegetable garden and thought why not inspire others to ‘produce’ more produce and help us serve more people in need,” said Ms. Robles. “CCSR will act as the distribution center for the produce to ensure that it gets to the people most in need.”

To ensure CCSR’s “Garden of Love” garden produces the maximum of vegetables this growing season Rev. Fr. Arthur Mastrolia of St. Paul’s in Congers and Chairman of the Board Catholic Community Services, and Rev. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, Liaison to Archdiocese of New York Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York Chief Executive Officer, presided over a special blessing of the garden soil and the “Produce the Produce” initiative.

Ms. Robles said she was pleased with the enthusiastic response from organizations who have already signed up to be a part of the “Produce the Produce” initiative. This includes Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York , Anne Meore, MA, LMSW, Horticultural Therapist; Garden Project Coordinator, Bon Secours Charity Health System, Inc.; Judy Kydon, executive director of Saint Dominic’s Home, for its St. Dominic’s School fruit and vegetable garden in Blauvelt; Maryann Hand, West Haverstraw Farmer’s Market; Marion Breland, Executive Director, Haverstraw Community Center; Mary Lukens, Master Gardener, Cornell Cooperative Extension, David Martinez and Paulo Feitera, owners of Union Restaurant in Haverstraw, Inserra ShopRite in Garnerville; Fedelis Health Care, Scott Curti, owner of Curti’s Landscaping in Valley Cottage; George Hoehmann, Clarkstown councilman and CEO/executive director of Rockland Independent Living Center; Peter Warren, owner of Homestead Fence in West Haverstraw; John Guggino, owner of Perfect Cut Tree Service in Pomona, and Jim Cropsey.

In addition, Evelyn Lopez made a donation of $1,000 in honor of her son Nathaniel Lopez, and several Rockland residents with home gardens have signed up for “Produce the Produce.” Chandra and Shawn Kapusinsky of Stony Point have a large home garden and said they are delighted to contribute. Both are school teachers in Rockland and Shawn heads up Environmental Sciences at Spring Valley High School and Chandra grew up in farm country in Lancaster, Penn., so they are prepare to put their skills and knowledge to work.

Michelle S. Kleinman, RD, CDN, CLC, Public Health Nutritionist Rockland County Department of Health, was on hand for the “Produce the Produce” kickoff and said she applauds Catholic Community Services of Rockland for taking the lead in this important initiative.

“It is so critical that people eat a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables,” said Ms. Kleinman. “I think ‘Produce the Produce’ is a terrific initiative and I’m happy to support the program.”