Woodstock Library program gets kids cooking for the soup kitchen

Anthony Heaney prepares the chickens. (photo by Dion Ogust)

One of the Woodstock Library’s most popular workshops for children this summer was the cooking class led by Emily Sherry and Anthony Heaney, who run Provisions, the Tinker Street sandwich shop. On August 29, 14 kids, aged eight through 15, gathered in the kitchen of the Woodstock Reformed Church to make chicken soup, which was served the next day at the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, held at Christ’s Lutheran Church down the road.

Dawn Meola, the library’s Coordinator of Children’s Services, still has a waiting list of interested kids and plans to schedule a second class. “We’re really happy about the collaboration among the two churches, Provisions, and the library,” said Meola. “We want to do more of that kind of thing.”

Sherry and Heaney (business partners, not a couple as is sometimes assumed) are pleased both to pass on their skills to children and to educate kids about the problem of food insecurity in our community. Provisions is among the local restaurants that make a meal once every six weeks or donate other food, enabling the soup kitchen to offer a free hot meal to 40 to 60 people every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Volunteers from local houses of worship and community service organizations take turns setting the tables, serving, and cleaning up.

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As Sherry explained to the students, “We make food and donate it to people who can’t cook for themselves, either because they don’t have enough money to buy food or because they don’t have a kitchen to cook in — some people are homeless.” Two of the kids had already volunteered to help serve at Wednesday’s meal.

Tyler, a 13-year-old from Saugerties, described her reasons for taking the class. “I’m into the culinary arts and want to have a career in that some day.”

Landry, 10, attends Bennett Elemetary School in Boiceville. She explained, “My mom said, ‘Okay, you’re taking a cooking class, and I said, ‘Good! I like to cook.’ I like to make quesadillas. They’re easy to make.”

Alex, who also goes to Bennett, is Sherry’s 11-year-old son. “As I get older,” he said, with an ironic smile, “I want to learn how to cook so I can fend for myself in the dark, harsh world.”

Sherry handed out recipes for roast chicken and chicken soup and gave strict instructions on how to handle the meat. “Don’t touch your mouth or nose after touching the raw chicken. And never wash the uncooked chicken. It sprays salmonella bacteria all over the kitchen.”

Soon kids were paired up and measuring out herbs, then donning plastic gloves and squishing the herbs into softened butter. They learned to separate the skin from the breast and smear the herbed butter inside and all around the surface of the bird. Sherry’s careful direction soon had them slicing zucchini and peeling carrots, with respect for sharp instruments.

At the same time, church volunteer Judy Fox was receiving a load of vegetables from UlsterCorps, an organization that works with Family of Woodstock and area farmers to provide fresh produce to those in need. Splendid little striped eggplants, fat tomatoes, Swiss chard, and other vegetables had been gleaned from local farms — that is, gathered from what was left behind after the farmer’s pickers had finished harvesting a field.

Gleaning is a directive of the Bible, which instructs farmers, “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you.” (Leviticus 23:22, New Living Translation)

The UlsterCorps website states, “Approximately 20,000 people in Ulster County are food insecure, including 6500 children. Food waste in the United States is estimated at roughly 30 to 40 percent of the food supply.”

Volunteers glean produce from fields, with the farmers’ permission, and their gleanings are trucked to the municipal parking lot just off the corner of Rock City Road and Mill Hill Road every Tuesday morning throughout the summer. Food pantries pick up boxes of vegetables, and then individuals are permitted to take supplies for their own use, no questions asked, although they are asked to sign in so the program has documentation for grant applications.

The remaining produce is delivered to Woodstock Reformed to distribute at its Good Neighbor Food Pantry, which gets about 120 clients picking up fresh vegetables, canned goods, and other supplies, each Wednesday, and another 60 clients on Thursdays.

Fox noted that the food pantry will be receiving $5000 from Hannaford Supermarket in West Hurley at its opening celebration, Saturday, September 2, with another $5000 going to Onteora Central School District. At a 6:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, Hannaford will hand out free gift cards (randomly valued between $5 and $250) to the first 200 customers.

Sherry said Provisions is moving from its tiny shop to a much bigger space, with parking available, at the Woodstock Golf Club on Mill Hill Road at Route 375. “We will be assuming the lease as of 12/1/17 at the golf course,” she stated, “and are hoping to host holiday parties in that space. However, Provisions on Tinker Street won’t close until after 1/1/18.” Provisions’ pay-it-forward board will no longer be available, but Sherry will be addressing the needs of the hungry by joining the board of directors at the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen. She looks forward to helping the organization expand its services.

The Good Neighbor Food Pantry offers a three-day supply of free food Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. It is located in the Woodstock Reformed Church, 16 Tinker Street, on the Village Green. To arrange deliveries to the housebound or to volunteer, call 845-417-5535. The Daily Bread Soup Kitchen serves meals Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., at Christ’s Lutheran Church, 26 Mill Hill Road, Woodstock. For more information, or to volunteer, call 845-679-2336. To learn more about UlsterCorps, or to help with gleaning or distribution, visit http://www.ulstercorps.org.

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