A new program at the Wilmington Memorial Library in Massachusetts is feeding patrons’ minds and bodies with fresh picked fruits and vegetables—and titles.
The library created a community supported agriculture pick-up point in June for Wilmington residents who have CSA shares with Farmer Dave’s of Dracut. The goal of the program was to help residents get their produce without having to drive to other towns, said Joanna Breen, the marketing librarian. Boxes of fruits and vegetables are delivered once a week and stored by the library steps. About 50 families use the program, Breen said.
In conjunction with the CSA pick-up point, the library started a librarian-supported reading service, through which residents are provided with a series of books tailored to their taste. Books are borrowed for three weeks at a time and placed alongside the farm produce boxes.
“It’s a matter of convenience, and that’s why we wanted to cosign on this, to provide this community service,” Breen said about the program. The CSA pick-up point has generated friendly discussions among library patrons and staff, Breen said, and the library even held a public talk about healthy eating and farming last May in advance of the CSA program.
Suzanne Schreyer, a CSA member and library patron, said she enjoys the service and “loves the combination of books and healthy eating.”
Schreyer said she learned a lot about the importance of locally-grown food from the program. She’s also read three fiction books she otherwise would not have known about, most notably the Wool science fiction series by Hugh Howley.
Other Wilmington residents have benefited from the CSA program as well.
Fruits and vegetables from farm shares that are not picked up or that CSA members do not want are donated to the local food pantry and senior center on alternating weeks.
Robert DiPalma, manager of the Wilmington community Fund’s food pantry, said it was fantastic to get refrigerator full of fresh produce to distribute to 75 to 80 families twice a month.
“At first we were getting greens people didn’t know how to use, how to cook and what they were,” DiPalma said of the early part of the season. “We got past that and got into produce people knew, melons, cucumbers, corn and carrots. It was great. People loved it.”
Terri Marciello, director of Wilmington Elderly Services, said all of the senior citizens are thrilled to get fresh produce twice a month and there are never any leftovers.
Marciello estimated that about 30 senior citizens benefit from the program. They have taken home a wide variety of food, including beets, herbs, tomatoes, green beans, nectarines, peaches and watermelon.
“We are so appreciative people thought of us,” she said. “People are so very, very happy. There’s nothing like a fresh piece of fruit or vegetables.”
Farmer Dave Dumaresq called the program a “win-win situation” and he said it is great to combine the CSA with a library because both organizations “promote a healthy mind, body, and soul.”
“My food is not full of pizzazz,” Dumaresq said. “But people who go to the library understand the effort that goes into the food, and the value of it. When the two of us come together, it’s a perfect match.”
To prevent theft, Dumaresq told LJ that a farm volunteer watches over the CSA produce. Breen said the program has not been disruptive to other library patrons.
The library will continue to be the CSA pick-up point until farming ends in October, Breen said, and plans to continue the program next year.