Can this Massachusetts food desert eat its way to jobs & neighborhood revitalization?

The word “restaurant” comes from “restore”: the world’s first restaurant (in Paris, of course) offered “restorative” soups, which is how restaurants got their name.

The Morningside neighborhood of Pittsfield, Massachusetts is considered a “food desert”: residents without transportation have almost no readily-accessible source of food: certainly not healthful, restorative fresh food.

Now, the Morningside Up initiative came out of a $75,000 planning grant from the Kresge Foundation and those involved are now patiently waiting for the fall to see if another round of funding will take their plans and turn them into reality.

We use food as a creative platform to revitalize a neighborhood,” said Jess Vecchia, the director of the Alchemy Initiative, which managed the grant on behalf of the city alongside Morgan Ovitsky from Be Well Berkshires.

At Springside Park, Berkshire Earth Regenerators have crafted out a plan to restore a vacant acre of urban land as a permaculture food forest. Lamb said the plantings include an array of fruit trees, vegetables, berries, root crops, and more. The forest would significantly boost the amount of food available. “It should be producing tons, literally tons, of food,” Allard said.

The initiative will also be a workforce training program. They had conversations with Berkshire Community College to bring in culinary students to run the kitchen, and the servers and waitstaff from the community will be those looking for experience to eventually move into jobs in the hospitality industry.

That part will require a renovation to the downstairs kitchen at the center. Once brought up to code, it will become a commercial kitchen for businesses, Morningside Community School, and community organizations to rent out to make products.

Photo credit: The Alchemy Initiative.

See full article by Andy McKeever.

See Berkshire Earth Regenerators website.

See Be Well Berkshires website.

See Alchemy Initiative website.

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