GENEVA — A nonprofit organization that gleans produce at local farms and distributes it at no cost to people in need has a permanent home.
Last week, City Council approved a $20,134 allocation to the organization, which includes, among other things, funds for a walk-in cooler and rental money for space at the Geneva Enterprise Development Center.
The unanimous approval of funds for Food Justice comes a month after organization founder and co-chair Henry Faro came before Council. At the meeting an emotional Faro criticized an intern-produced food-access report that stated that the city had formed the agency. He also cited what he felt was a lack of understanding and appreciation for the role the agency has played in helping to deliver fresh produce to those in need — in particular, those in the Geneva Foundry contamination zone.
Acting City Manager Sage Gerling apologized for the mistake in the report during the April meeting.
Since then, Food Justice has met with Gerling to discuss a spot at the GEDC, which would allow them a staging area to store fresh produce. The group has been operating out of the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church on Clark Street on the city’s east side for four years. They have been seeking a permanent home for operations, one that would allow them ample cold-storage space so that they can collect and distribute even more produce.
The agency gleans produce for no cost from a number of area farms. It is run entirely by volunteers, including co-chair Teresa Shaffer.
With the blessings of the Geneva Industrial Development Agency, which oversees the GEDC, Food Justice is getting a spot at the cavernous former American Can plant off of Genesee Street that serves as the city’s business incubator.
The unanimous decision at Council’s Wednesday meeting to fund the organization midway through the fiscal year is somewhat unusual. Councilmembers generally ask organizations looking for city funding to come before it during budget discussions, which start later this year.
“I’m not big for adding outside agencies (outside of the budget season),” Ward 3 Councilor Steve Valentino told Faro and Shaffer, who were in attendance.
Nevertheless, Valentino voted in favor of taking money out of the city’s fund balance for Food Justice.
Food Justice said earlier this year that it gleaned 18,535 pounds of produce from local farms in 2017, compared to 9,850 the previous year.
The produce was delivered to a number of agencies — including free lunch programs — in Geneva and spots beyond the city, including Phelps, Canandaigua and Naples.