Food / Health

An oasis in the food desert

Shanice Carr

Corbin Hill Farm chef Rosalind Francis offered a cooking demonstration.

Fresh fish and just-picked produce tickle Hunts Point’s palate

Local residents bustled about The Point Community Development Corp. on a recent Tuesday night, reaping the harvests of two separate community food share programs focused on bringing healthy and fresh options to Hunts Point, a community starved for alternatives to fast food.

There were leafy green bunches of kale; green, orange and pale brown squashes; red Macintosh apples splashed with pale green;  deep orange and pale yellow carrots, along with cabbage, brussel sprouts, turnips, potatoes and knobby celery root.

On a separate table, bright-eyed whole porgies were lined up in a tray in front of glistening pieces of fileted tiburón, next to a container filled with squid.

“It’s fresh, straight from the farm, everything is still crunchy. Nothing is wilted or rotten,” said Merceda Young, who was picking up her order.

Young, looked at the produce and the fish and exclaimed, “That’s the beauty of it all–the freshness”.

The new community supported fishery project has joined two-year-old Corbin Hill Farm to provide pickups of just-caught and just-picked food to subscribers.

Non-profit S.A.V.E. Farms in partnership with fish distributor Gabe the Fish Babe, offers a weekly community fishery share with a wide selection of fresh seafood from Rhode Island. Squid, porgies, eel, whiting, ling, sea robin, snapper, flounder and crab are among the species that shareholders can expect to receive.

Corbin Hill Farm, an association of farms from upstate New York, provides an array of fruit and vegetable in a  monthly winter farm share to Bronx and Harlem “neighborhoods where, the organization says, “there is limited access to fresh food.”

Beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions and garlic are among the other offerings in the winter season. Corbin Hill also offers add-ons, which can be ordered separately, including lamb, raw honey combs and liquid honey, a variety of cheeses and brown eggs free from antibiotics and hormones.

Corbin Hill Farm chef Rosalind Francis fixed a salad and distributed samples made with ingredients from the December share to demonstrate how to make use of the ingredients, many of which were unfamiliar to the people picking up their boxes of food.

Francis, who works at the non-profit Harlem Seeds, which organizes cooking and gardening classes for kids, stressed the importance of food that provides good nutrition.

“People can see the demonstration, taste it and learn that there are delicious ways to use these healthy ingredients,” she said.

Rachelle Fernandez, The Point’s fiscal officer, spoke to people interested in taking part in the farm share in both English and Spanish as she handed out applications to order next month’s delivery of produce. Each shareholder picks up a box of fruit and vegetables delivered from the farm weighing 15-25 pounds. Shareholders pay $10 a month if they are eligible for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or $35 a month without the SNAP discount.

When asked about the difference buying food at a supermarket, and being a part of the community farm share, Fernandez explained, “The difference is that it’s cost effective. Pound for pound, the food is better. Even if you get these things at the local supermarket, it isn’t the same quality.”

S.A.V.E. Farms offered free samples of smoked dogfish, one of the many fish in season available to buyers. Gabe the Fish Babe is committed to selling “sustainable” species which are available in abundance, and “underutilized” species, which are  less in demand than their more popular counterparts.

On offer at The Point were squid, porgies and fileted tiburón, better known as shark, sold in two sizes.

Shanice Carr

From Rhode Island to the frying pan.

A small share—enough to feed two people—costs $7. A $15 share will feed five, S.A.V.E. Farms says. All the fish were caught no more than a few days before being delivered to The Point

S.A.V.E Farms is the brainchild of Chris Toole, who has been raising Tilapia from small fry to big fish in garbage cans at The Point to show that urban agriculture needn’t be limited to plants. A third of his shareholders, he said, are customers of his aquaponics business who have purchased fingerling fish to raise at home.

Toole attributes one third of his fish share shareholders to previous customers in his aquaponic business of selling fingerling fish, a third to customers who have found his flyer online and a third to word of mouth.

Word of mouth from participants in The Point’s other programs and flyers advertising them, have grown the customer base, said Fernandez.

Raven Walker, a mother of two and a local resident, explained that a friend in Brooklyn and encouraged her to take part in a farm share because the types of produce varied but was always of good quality.

“I can’t understand why more people aren’t participating in this community share,” Walker said.  “The food is a lot fresher than any you can get at a grocery store. They have more flavor, and the prices are fair for the quality.”

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