SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Rachel’s Table, a local food rescue and distribution program, has received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The funds will be allocated over a three year period and used to help support two of the organization’s initiatives through 2025: Growing Gardens and Bea’s Harvest.

Cara Silverberg from Rachel’s Table told 22News the problem with food insecurity is that people are still hungry and the number of people affected is not decreasing. She says over 16 percent of households in western Massachusetts are hungry and 21 percent of children do not know where their next meal is coming from.

“Really the program is designed to support people who are impacted by food insecurity and having a voice and a choice in what they eat and feed their families,” said Silverberg.

According to Silverberg, the gardens are not providing massive amounts of food but they are providing fresh produce that children and families can grow and pick together. Silverberg says the goal is to grow fresh food that is culturally relevant and fits into families pallets and experiences.

Bea’s Harvest is the organization’s 15-year-old gleaning program. The funds will help develop and launch county-wide “glean teams,” the volunteers who harvest produce from local farms and deliver it to partner agencies every week.

Growing Gardens is a program that helps local organizations build gardens to grow culturally appropriate food. It provides materials such as kits to create raised beds, especially for agencies serving persons in wheelchairs, and offering gardening mentoring. The funding will support development of a sustainability plan for the future of the program and provide seed funds to participating agencies to maintain their garden projects after they graduate from this initiative. The award will also allow Rachel’s Table to collaborate with other local organizations, agencies, and training programs to provide Growing Gardens alumni with more opportunities to expand their food independence efforts, such as working with other local programs to access business planning courses or participate in culinary education programs.

“We are grateful to the USDA for this grant, which will allow us to infuse more fresh produce into food insecure communities in Western Massachusetts through our Growing Gardens and Bea’s Harvest initiatives,” said Jodi Falk, director of Rachel’s Table. “This grant will also help us to contribute and collaborate with local leaders on food system resiliency experiments and explore economic incentives for farmers that encourage regenerative and equitable farming practices that benefit the land and community.”

Rachel’s Table, a program of the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts, has been working to alleviate hunger and reduce food waste in the region since 1992. The grant was made possible through the USDA’s Regional Food System Partnerships (RFSP) program.