Chester Housing Authority

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Delaware County Daily Times: Bennett farm provides lifeline to city in crisis

 Residents were filing in to the Ruth Bennett Community Farm Thursday ahead of its usual June farm stand opening. Staffers are taking time out of tending to their own crops to distribute food boxes of produce sourced from other area farms to combat food shortages from the coronavirus economic fallout.

 “We’re doing emergency food box distribution to fill in the gap for people having a hard time accessing food right now. We wanted to make sure people are able to get fresh produce in their diets,” said Natania Schaumburg, manager. Bennett Farm management, under the auspices of the Chester Housing Authority, purchased the outside produce with emergency funds from the Foundation for Delaware County.


The April 23 distribution was the second of four biweekly openings from noon-2 p.m. The stand moved all 120 produce boxes its first week, and were on pace to distribute another 120 at the midpoint Thursday. Organizers are giving priority to Ruth L. Bennett Homes residents and local senior citizens. “Some individual volunteers are picking up 10 or 20 boxes to drop to seniors that they know are in need,” said Schaumburg.


While Schaumburg and assistant farm manager Malik Savage led a crew in preparing crops for the usual summer sale season, the farm’s youth cohort led customers through the stand’s physical distance protocol.


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“We’re getting slowed down by a bunch of obstacles with this coronavirus, but we’re overcoming them. We’re finding ways to get fresh produce to the community,” said Joseph “Joe Joe” Dukes, farm youth coordinator. “One lady said that she’s out of work right now; it’s hard to get her family food.”


The farm, located along Carla’s Lane in CHA’s Bennett Homes, began as a community gardening project roughly a decade ago. It evolved into the current 2-acre farm site with weekly Thursday sale hours from June through October.


Schaumburg said crops are on pace and the team is planning for the usual June opening date, though service procedures for the farm stand are still in question. “We might have to do the boxes throughout the summer,” said Dukes, as opposed to customers choosing individual vegetables for sale.