Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pies for People, Soup for Supper- One door closes, but another one opens

Hardwick, VT, November 15, 2011 -With just hours left before our first of two bake nights for our annual Pies for People/Soup for Supper event, I find myself with a rare and quiet hour to reflect. Not on recipes, nor logistics or even hunger, but to reflect on kitchens.

Since its inception in 2009, when Julia Shipley organized the first pie bake, the kitchen at Sterling College, with its u-shaped counter sitting squarely beneath the hanging pot racks, has welcomed a cadre of volunteers to roll dough, simmer soup and bake pies. The ancient stoves and ovens never failed to fire up, every imaginable pot and gadget was within arm’s reach and we blasted the music from the beat up speakers that sat high above the stainless steel sinks. This year, sadly, is our last year to bake in this wonderful little kitchen on the Common.

The hours of work, coordination and stress that lead up to this event - the dozens of phone calls and emails, juggling requests and schedules, checking list after list and then checking again – fade away the moment I walk into this kitchen that I once thought of as my own. Years after leaving, I still feel at home in this space, everything familiar and welcoming. Even under the fluorescent lighting, there is something warm and comforting, about this “institutional” kitchen.

Next year, we will be moving this event to the newly built Vermont Food Venture Center in Hardwick, where we can take this event to the next level within our Food Access Program at the CAE. In a state of the art facility, with efficient, professional equipment, a large space and easily accessed storage, our goal is to produce enough food for the local pantries to stock their freezers for months. It is exciting to imagine the possibilities and deeply gratifying to know that our work will continue to not only feed our community, but to bring a new awareness to hunger and need in our State.

According to the USDA, 14.6% of our population was food insecure in 2008. That represents over 49 million people, of whom 16 million are children. Those are staggering numbers.

On a local level, we directly impact hundreds of people when they eat the pies or soup at community dinners, school lunch, as a snack at one of the senior centers or as a client of the local Food Pantries. On a regional level, we hope to inspire others to work with food security organizations towards a solution for hunger from a local perspective using fresh, healthy ingredients. Neighbors helping neighbors. A community feeding their community.

We know that we cannot end hunger with a slice of pie or a bowl of soup, but if our Pies for People, Soup for Supper event gets people talking, involved and working towards a solution, then we are supporting those who take on hunger every day. That said, I will work with joy tonight and tomorrow, savoring the last few hours I will spend in this wonderfully funky kitchen that embraces community in every aspect of its internal architecture. When I turn out the lights and lock the doors tomorrow night though, it will be bittersweet.

Elena Gustavson
Program Director
Education and Outreach
Center for an Agricultural Economy, Hardwick, Vermont

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