In Second Year, Healthy Food Initiative Offers Seafood Club, Cooking Classes and More

In Second Year, Healthy Food Initiative Offers Seafood Club, Cooking Classes and More


One in 10 of Columbia County’s residents live in poverty. Approximately 13 percent of the population lacks sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food, and nearly 15 percent cannot get to a supermarket due to store closures and a lack of transportation. One-third of those struggling to avoid hunger are seniors and children.

To combat this food inequality and bring fresh and healthy options to Columbia County residents, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation launched Fresh and Healthy Food for All in July 2016. The five-year, $750,000 project is funded by two anonymous donors and was developed after consulting with more than 80 local community members involved in food-related industries across the county — including farms, food pantries, distributors, food retailers, community-based organizations and county agencies.

For the initiative’s second year, which is currently underway, a total of $150,000 has been awarded to fund projects and classes designed to transform the food system for all residents, especially low-income families and seniors.

Hawthorne Valley Association in Ghent, N.Y., received $90,000 this year. The farm aims to connect children and adults with the land and the food that nourishes them, and to provide agricultural products of the highest quality. Hawthorne Valley is focused on many projects this year with its grant funds. It is expanding the gleaning program with Long Table Harvest in Hudson, N.Y, to distribute fresh fruit and vegetables to local food pantries and after-school programs; developing a business plan for a mobile food market; researching how and where federal SNAP benefits are being accessed in Columbia County; and continuing projects that were started during the first year of grantmaking for this initiative.

In July, HVA launched a Seafood Buying Club in Hudson — one of the first outcomes of the Fresh and Healthy Food for All initiative. Customers can order fresh seafood and pick it up outside of Bruno’s on Warren Street in Hudson on the first and third Thursdays of each month. A tiered pricing system allows customers to choose what they can pay for the fish based on their income, and the program accepts EBT/SNAP, making it affordable for low-income families. In the future, the project leaders hope to add more varieties of fish.

The Sylvia Center received $60,000 this year to expand healthy cooking classes for young people and their families in Columbia County. The program provides free shares of fresh, local produce and wholesome ingredients for participants to take home each week. 

The Sylvia Center conducts cooking classes in public housing community centers throughout New York City as part of its mission to inspire students to establish healthy cooking and eating habits that will last a lifetime. From April through November, it works with youth and their families on Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, N.Y., and in local schools and community centers, as featured in Hudson Valley Eats.

After an assessment showed that many of the county’s food pantries lacked reliable equipment to store fresh food, the initiative supplied additional grants to change that. Grant funds supported the purchase of refrigerators, shelving and computers for ordering food. The Ghent Food Pantry purchased a new freezer with its grant money.

“With your generous grant, we were able to replace our more than 25-year-old ailing freezer with a much larger frost-free model. We were also able to purchase a five-year warranty, ensuring that the result of your grant will serve those in need in our community for the long term,” said Director Annie Scibienski. “As volunteers, we see the needs in the community firsthand, and your grant enables us to stand in the front row and serve the needs of those who are food insecure.”


Hawthorne Valley Association launched a Seafood Buying Club in Hudson that sells affordable fish to residents.