NEWBURY — The owners of House Factory and High Road Farm are working with a Lynn couple to bring subsidized CSA shares to families in need this summer and fall, and they need some help as well.
Nathan Gray, who grew up in Lynn and now resides in Newbury, runs House Factory, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching others about “plastic waste solutions” and how they relate to affordable, sustainable living.
He spends much of his time visiting schools and teaching students how to make “ecobricks,” which are plastic bottles filled so tightly with single-use plastics that they can be used as bricks to build eco-conscious structures.
But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gray has had fewer opportunities to visit schools, so he was looking for other ways to bring attention to local sustainable efforts.
He recently reached out to McDonough “Mac” Scanlon, owner and operator of High Road Farm at 186 High Road, to see if she would be interested in helping to coordinate a subsidized Community Supported Agriculture program to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to families in need in Lynn.
He connected Scanlon with North Shore Families Together, a cooperative effort started in March 2020 by Yamila Ruiz and Nick Coppola.
Through this unlikely partnership, Scanlon will grow the food, Gray will coordinate fundraising, and Ruiz and Coppola will take care of the distribution.
Gray organized a GoFundMe site with a $15,000 goal to help 15 families this summer and fall. As of Sunday, $6,500 had been raised.
Scanlon piloted a subsidized CSA program last year with Nourishing the North Shore, so she felt comfortable using a similar model again.
“Food insecure families don’t typically get fresh produce right from a farm so this is one of those awesome things that complements the hard work that food pantries have done,” she said.
In the offseason, Scanlon, who has a background in psychology and sociology, works at the pediatric inpatient unit at Anna Jaques Hospital.
Through this work, she finds that many of these children who suffer from major anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are eating, predominantly, processed sugar and carbohydrates.
“If I can put something green on those plates, I am all in,” she said.
North Shore Families Together is not an official organization, but a grassroots, neighbors-helping-neighbors effort created by Ruiz and Coppola in response to the pandemic. Donations are kept in the couple’s garage and everything is organized by word of mouth.
In March 2020, just as fear began setting in about COVID-19, Ruiz said there was a lot of anxiety in the immigrant community in Lynn as a majority of people work in different sectors of the service industry and do not have access to paid leave and other benefits.
“They are literally a paycheck away from going hungry and not having enough food to feed their families,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz and Coppola heard about two families in need and quickly looked to their own pantries to gather supplies. They soon learned of others in need and they went from helping two families to 10 to now, an average of 50 each week.
They now have volunteers who collect donations from various communities around them, volunteers who sort and package the donations, and volunteers who work the delivery route.
“We set out to take some stressors off these folks’ plates,” Ruiz said, citing unemployment, fear of eviction and fear of catching COVID-19 as just a few stressors.
There also wasn’t enough food at local food pantries to help all those dealing with food insecurity in Lynn. Social workers and food pantries even reached out to North Shore Families Together to receive help.
“We’re doing this really grassroots,” Ruiz said. “Something that has been really moving is the willingness of the community to step up. As the saying goes, ‘We’re all in different boats.’ Some people are in yachts. Other people are in kayaks. Other people are swimming upstream.”
When Gray reached out about the CSA program, Ruiz was especially excited.
“It’s really important to me to make sure that the most at-risk, marginalized communities that we’re serving have access to fresh, healthy food,” Ruiz said.
While the GoFundMe goal is to provide 15 families with CSA shares, Ruiz said more donations will allow them to help even more families.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/28klxh20w0.
To learn more about High Road Farm, go to www.highroad.farm or for more on House Factory, go to https://homefactory.us.