May 23, 2016
by Dick Lindsay
PITTSFIELD — Pittsfield is becoming foodie central, landing a $75,000 grant to ensure proper nutrition and access to fresh, locally produced food by all city residents.
The Kresge Foundation award was one of 26 recently doled out nationwide totaling $2 million and chosen from 500 applications, the most ever in Kresge’s 92-year history, foundation officials said.
It’s the second such agricultural-based grant dished out to Pittsfield this month. Two weeks ago, the Downtown Pittsfield Farmers Market received a $10,000 grant from Seeds of Change, an organic seed and food purveyor, that supports community- and school-based agricultural projects. That grant, in part, will pay to expand the weekly, Saturday outdoor market’s program of helping the city’s less fortunate buy more Berkshire grown fruits, vegetables and other locally made food.
Dubbed “FreshLo” – for “Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization,” Pittsfield plans to devote the Kresge funds to revitalizing the Morningside neighborhood through creative food-oriented activities, according to city officials.
“These funds will help to remove barriers that would prevent members of our community from enjoying healthy and fresh foods, as well as enhance existing partnerships within the neighborhood,” said Mayor Linda M. Tyer.
About one-third of the grant will pay for hiring an organizer to, through community input, come up with ideas and “pull it all together,” according to Diane Marcella, president of the Tyler Street Business Group.
“[Ultimately,] our Morningside area really needs a walkable market — we’re working on it,” Marcella said.
The city’s former cultural development director, Megan Whilden, voluntarily prepared the grant in collaboration with the Tyler Street Business Group, the farmers market, Berkshire Children and Families, Be Well Berkshires, the city’s Community Development and Cultural Development departments, IS 183 Art School, Pittsfield Economic Development Authority and Shire City Sanctuary.
“While there is undoubtedly a great need here, it is this kind of coordinated effort that will prove to be the most successful,” said farmers market manager, Jessica Vecchia. “Being the second agri-grant Pittsfield has received in the last two weeks, it’s clear that the time is now.”
Kresge’s FreshLo grant program seeks out expansive, unique and creative food-oriented solutions to improving the health and well-being of the neediest in cities across the nation, according to the foundation.