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Locally grown lettuce finds new destination

By Staff | Apr 1, 2020

CAROL SHETLER/The Luminary Volunteers hustle to load pre-boxed food essentials into vehicles as clients remain in their vehicles during the March food distribution sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in partnership with the Friends Church at Hughesville.

HUGHESVILLE – A portion of lettuces which should have been on their way to the Bronx Terminal Center, went instead to ‘Friends Feeding Friends’ in Hughesville.

Sales of the greens are to ‘high end’ restaurants in New York City while some are air-shipped, that is until the invasion of the coronavirus halted dining room service throughout the city’s boroughs and nationwide.

The halt left Lakeville Specialties, a hydroponic greenhouse near Washingtonville, with what to do with their product normally shipped twice a week.

Added to the company’s usual donations to the Watsontown Food Pantry, current circumstances caused Lakeville to seek other outlets instead of dumping the product. The additions include Christ Wesleyan Church at Milton, the Bloomsburg and Lewisburg Food Pantries and last Thursday in Hughesville.

According to Youth Pastor Matt McGovern of the Friends Church, “About three or four years ago, we partnered with the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank to support some basic needs of the local population. We distribute to about 275 families monthly with a volunteer support staff of 25 – 40 volunteers.”

McGovern also said, “Usually clients come into the building and choose what they can use. They are also invited to the Fireside Room for snacks which can be granola bars and juice. Since the virus and the social distancing requirement, we set up a drive-thru for March.”

As a precaution against the spread of the virus, the youth pastor screened all volunteers before admittance to the building. Questions included if they’d been ill during the past week or if they’d traveled.

Cars, trucks, and vans gathered in the parking lot and one by one drove by the front entrance where occupants remained inside as volunteer teams loaded vehicles with boxed food.

Among the staples were frozen corn, meat, pollock filet portions; potatoes, eggs, apples, tangerines, grapefruit, juice, and milk.

Each of the 400 bags of lettuce provided by Lakeville Specialities comprised of two each of four varieties. As the greens are harvested with their soil-less grow cubes in tack, they remain fresh longer compared to cut lettuce.

The product was delivered by Penelope Shetler, vice president of operations and harvest supervisor at Lakeville. She said, “Of our 26 employees the harvest crew has been fully furloughed with maintenance on emergency call only. Otherwise, only a few workers arrive a couple of days a week to bag for food pantries. Growers, however, continue to seed in hopes by the time the 30-day cycle to harvest arrives, orders will come in. Due to the unknown future, growers are seeding two-thirds of our usual crop.”

At the recent delivery to Hughesville, both Pastor McGovern and food distribution coordinator Nick Frycklund expressed their appreciation to Lakeville and employees for the donation of lettuce.

In addition to those who came from food, McGovern said, “We deliver to shut-ins to seniors at Boyer apartments and Muncy’s Park Place apartments.”

Pastor Dan Cale was also grateful for the lettuce saying, “Usually two trucks from the Food Pantry come, however, there was only one this month due to our time schedule for prep-time and truck dispatch availability.”

In addition to distributing food for the body, food for the soul is available by live-streaming music and messages accessed by going to hughesvillefriends.org and click on its homepage.