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As Fair Teardown Begins, Food Rescue Project Ramps Up, Collecting 700 Pounds of Leftovers

August 28, 2023 by Andrew Checchia in The Daily Catch

As the Dutchess County Fair teardown of rides, booths and farm barns launched Sunday night, another team was ramping up at the bustling fairgrounds. Their goal: to save as many food leftovers as possible for distribution around the area to people in need.

A team of volunteers organized by Red Hook Responds and FeedHV, two organizations that work on food-security issues in the area, collected more than 700 pounds of food from dozens of fair vendors in the second year of a program with a secondary objective of preventing food waste.

“We were pleased to have the support of the fairgrounds team,” said Bianca Verrilli, the executive director of Red Hook Responds, who added that the total food poundage collected this year was up substantially from a year ago. “They were kind enough to distribute materials about the program to food vendors in advance.”

A team of 11 “food rescuers” worked Sunday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

at the fairgrounds. Other volunteers had canvassed the fairgrounds on Thursday to ask vendors if they would be willing to donate. The vendors were “very receptive,” said Verrilli, who also helped with the canvassing project.

So Sunday night, the team, 10 of whom came from Red Hook Responds, went to the vendors who expressed interest. In total, 16 vendors donated food, including Foster’s Coach House, Butcher Boys, and Billie’s Baked Potatoes. The volunteers, the majority of whom also participated in last year’s collection, received a smorgasbord of fair classics – things like sausages, corn, coleslaw, macaroni salad, potatoes and six dozen cinnamon buns.

Red Hook Community Center program director Jeung-Il Tsumagari stepped in to head up the food canvassing effort Sunday night (photo by Emily Sachar).

“It’s just wonderful to be a part of the community doing something so important,” said Tim Curry, who volunteered with his wife, Madison, who is the volunteer coordinator for Red Hook Responds. The couple moved to Red Hook in spring 2022 and Curry said the food rescue project is precisely the sort of volunteer event they most appreciate.

At 6:30 p.m., following instructions by Jeung-Il Tsumagari, program director at the Red Hook Community Center, the Currys departed a staging spot set up behind the Taste Budd’s Cafe vending location near the First Aid tent at the fairgrounds. d a dozen foil food trays to vendors along the midway, essentially knocking door-to-door and collecting leftover food to be stored later on ice in plastic bins for eventual distribution to food pantries.

That food will first be used by Red Hook Eats, Red Hook Responds’ initiative to fight food insecurity in the area. Their team will prepare the food and offer it to any Red Hook and Rhinebeck residents who request a meal. Any food left over will then be distributed among the 100 Hudson Valley food pantries and other agencies that have a relationship with FeedHV.

Left: The food collection team included, from left, Tim and Madison Curry; members of the Kevin Beck family of Milton, New York; Jeung-il Tsumagari of the Red Hook Community Center; and Nevill Smythe, a member of the board of directors of Red Hook Responds (photo by Emily Sachar).

Right: Tim and Madison Curry worked as volunteers Sunday evening gathering leftovers from food vendors at the Dutchess County Fair (photo by Emily Sachar).


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