Harvest Dinners Benefit Healthy Food For All

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Tompkins Weekly     7-4-16

By Elizabeth Karabinakis

Fingerling salt potatoes in lavender butter, field greens with smoke-dried sungold tomatoes drizzled with aged balsamic and herb-infused truffle oil, spit roasted Piggery porchetta stuffed with rosemary, black pepper and garlic served with fennel jus, handmade gnocchi in pesto cream sauce, peach cobbler with vanilla bean creme anglaise—this is a sampling of just a few dishes featuring local foods made to taste extraordinary by the best chefs to support a great cause.

Every growing season, from June through November, Healthy Food For All partners with select restaurants, wineries and breweries to offer harvest dinners on farms, each with a unique menu. Guests dine amongst the fields, savoring food harvested from just steps away, paired with award winning Finger Lakes wine and handcrafted ciders and beers.

All of the proceeds go to make fresh produce accessible to community members with limited income. Each year these fine dining benefits raise enough to help over 100 families afford local, organic produce. “The menus are outstanding and every bite tastes that much better knowing it’s going to such a great cause,” says Gail Stein, a regular guest since the dinners began in 2008.

The next event will be Sunday, July 31, at Sweet Land Farm in Trumansburg with chefs Christina and Jonah McKeough of Graft, founders of Hazelnut Kitchen. The menu will feature The Piggery, Atwater Estate Vineyards and Redbyrd Orchard Cider.The Hors d’oeuvre reception begins in the barn with live music at 5 p.m., followed by a farm tour then dinner in the fields overlooking the sunset. Reservations are required and seating is limited.

For more information and tickets, go to www.HealthyFoodForAll.org or call 607-272-2292, ext. 242.

An exciting lineup of events is planned for this season in addition to our signature harvest dinners. Join our mailing list, follow us on Facebook and visit www.HealthyFoodForAll.org for more on this season’s family-friendly events.

While the growing season is in full swing, local farms feed many in our community. Sweet juicy fruits and succulent veggies are bountiful, but despite our agricultural assets, the abundance is not available to many community members struggling to afford healthy food.

“Although the Finger Lakes is revered as an agriculturally rich region, we’re not immune to the hunger that plagues our world. Unemployment, underemployment and low wages, combined with rising food and other basic living costs, is increasing the number of families who cannot afford an adequate amount or variety of fresh produce to support a nutritionally sound diet,” says Liz Karabinakis, director of Healthy Food For All, a non-profit partnership of local farms and Cornell Cooperative Extension in Tompkins County. “Concurrently, our local, family-owned farms are struggling to remain viable in a globalized, profit-driven food industry that favors large farms using mono-culture practices to grow commodity crops that can be turned into ‘cheap’ food.”

As a result of these combined pressures on our local food industry, mass-produced crops shipped across the globe cost less at the register than produce grown right down the road, and processed foods that turn corn into sweeteners and fillers found packaged in grocery store aisles are cheaper than raw carrots.

This conundrum causes the paradox of both obesity and malnutrition, with people restricted by limited food budgets disproportionately affected. Diet related illnesses are on the rise and diversified farms are disappearing. This flawed model is failing local farms and our community members. Fortunately, a group of local farmers banded together and partnered with CCE Tompkins to find a local solution.

Healthy Food For All began in 2006 to make fresh produce accessible to households with limited income by subsidizing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.

The difference between what farmers need for a fair price for their food, and what low-income community members can afford to pay is made up with proceeds from Healthy Food For All harvest dinners—delicious farm-to-fork fundraisers that provides guests with a great way to dine out to help end food insecurity in their community.

Elizabeth Karabinakis is the Director of Healthy Food For All. 

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