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Hell's Kitchen CSA Lets Veggie Fans Sponsor Shares for Needy Families

By Mathew Katz | May 3, 2013 7:13am
 Donors can sponsor a share of veggies through Paypal on the organization's website.
Hell's Kitchen CSA Lets Veggie Fans Sponsor Shares for Needy Families
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HELL'S KITCHEN — A new farm-share program is giving participants the chance to harvest an entire season's worth of fresh, local veggies for needy families without getting their hands dirty.

The Hell's Kitchen Farm Project, which grows fresh vegetables on the rooftop of Metro Baptist Church on West 40th Street, will launch a revamped vegetable CSA that will allow locals to sponsor shares filled with leafy greens, potatoes, pumpkins and more, for those who can't afford them. The CSA is currently accepting members, both new and old.

A CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture, allows groups to directly support a local farmer by paying upfront for an entire season's worth of produce. Members will pick up a share of veggies each week depending on what's in season and what the farmer's able to harvest.

The group even has a Paypal link where donors can pay for a share that will go to someone in need.

"A CSA is a great value, but it's a harder concept to convince people of," said Shanti Nagel, the director of Community Cultivation at the Clinton Housing Development Company, which is helping to sponsor the program.

The veggies will come from Nolasco Farm in Andover, N.J., just a short drive from the city.

Shares cost $485 for 22 weeks, from June to October, or $243 for 11 weeks. People on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, will only have to pay $132 for 11 weeks. Members can also have fresh-cut flowers delivered from the farm for an additional cost.

Each share also requires a three-hour work commitment at the church's food pantry, doing CSA distribution or helping out on the rooftop farm.

Last year, the HKFP managed to raise enough to subsidize 10 full shares, but wasn't able to convince enough people in need to sign up.

"We weren't able to get as many people into it," said Tiffany Triplett Henkel, pastor at the church and executive director of Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries.

That's largely because of a lack of staffing, she said. But interest in the project has exploded, and it now has more staffers and volunteers.

"We've done 300 times the outreach this season than we did all last year," Triplett Henkel said.

"We really need to make a connection with folks, especially since people wonder if they can manage all this food."

To help, the program plans to host on-site cooking classes on veggie pickup days to encourage more "experimental cooking," as well as a visit to the farm for members.

"People can learn to take new produce and try something different," Triplett Henkel said.