SPENCERTOWN—In the wake of the pandemic a new organization dedicated to the challenge of combating food insecurity in the area has taken root. Called the Columbia County Recovery Kitchen, it is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization started in April, 2020. A fundraising event that attracted about 50 people was held on Saturday, July 10 to help this organization expand its work.
According to founder Carole Clark, The Columbia County Recovery Kitchen is dedicated to providing fresh nutrition-rich, balanced meals, cooked from scratch, packaged and delivered.
Ms. Clark was chef proprietor of Charleston Restaurant in Hudson for over 19 years. She sold the restaurant in 2006 and began working with children in Hudson with the Department of Youth, teaching them gardening, cooking, baking, etc.
At the end of each class she would sit down with the children and share a meal. She learned from the children about their lives and the degree to which food insecurity was part of their reality. When the pandemic set in, she wondered how she could use her knowledge and experience to help the situation.
There are food assistance programs in the county, but Ms. Clark wondered if a food assistance program could provide nutrient rich protein rich meals prepared by a professional chef and using fresh and—as much as possible—local ingredients.
In that first week the volunteer team prepared 200 meals and by the summer over 900 meals. Since the beginning over 48,000 have been prepared and delivered, Ms. Clark said. Currently the program delivers 900 meals each week to 26 area towns.
In the beginning, referrals for food assistance were made by the Columbia County Department of Social Services, as well as churches and schools, sources traditionally used by community food pantries. Ms. Clark plans for the referral procedure to expand so that people can refer family members or even themselves.
“Farms in the area came to us; Harold Hilton was the first farmer to support us,” she said.
Earth Tapestry Farm is a forest garden in Kinderhook, a regenerative agriculture program, in which edible plants grow in a multicultural natural circumstance and require very little tending.
She emphasized that the organization functions because of its volunteers. Chef Jamie Perry is the only paid employee. The Columbia County Board of Health requires a sponsor for certification for The Recovery Kitchen. Pam Kline helped with Ms. Clark’s network of contacts to find backers. The First Presbyterian Church and Reverend Kathryn Beilke provided fiscal sponsorship and Christ Church Episcopal loaned the use of its kitchen.
“What we’d like to do is expand to three to five paid employees,” Ms. Clark said. “We need grant writers and fund raisers, and we are looking for someone to do a database— and of course volunteers; it happened because of all these volunteers.”
Noting that many poor people suffer from diseases related to poor diet, Ms. Clark said that in the coming year the Recovery Kitchen would like to initiate a program with the community to educate people—especially children—about nutrition.