As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated unequal access to food across the nation, communities have worked to address this long-term problem. Tompkins and Cortland Counties now host many urban and rural food sharing cabinets, maintained and stocked by locals and coordinated by mutual aid networks. Only a few of those sites are equipped with refrigerators or coolers for perishable food, including one maintained by the social justice organization Ithaca Catholic Worker (ICW) at the Peter De Mott Catholic Worker House in Ithaca’s Southside neighborhood. In April 2021, Sustainable Finger Lakes awarded ICW a Neighborhood Mini-Grant to convert their food sharing site from a set of coolers in a seasonal woodshed to a year-round setup.
Renovated with help from the community, the site now provides larger coolers, which preserve food much longer in all seasons, on a floor of wooden pallets beneath a canopy that shelters visitors from the weather and offers a space for giveaways of items such as clothing and personal care supplies, in an area readily accessed by a wood-chip path. Steadily stocked with donations by individuals and organizations such as the Friendship Donations Network, it gets at least 8-15 visitors daily for food pickup — people of all ages, from neighborhood homes, the “Jungle” homeless encampment nearby, and areas outside Ithaca — and serves as a weekly food source for some families. In the future, ICW aims to further improve the site with a new shed.
The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives building environmental stewardship, economic equity, and social justice in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by Craig Riecke, Beck Equipment, and the Park Foundation. Please donate today and help us support more citizen-driven projects increasing the resilience and well-being of our communities.
The next Neighborhood Mini-Grant application deadline is October 1, 2022. Email sa***@su********************.org to request an application.