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'Farm To Food Pantry' Aims To Deliver Healthy Meals To Rockland County Residents In Need

HAVERSTRAW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) - You've probably eaten at a "farm to table" restaurant, where the focus is on fresh, local ingredients.

But for those who struggle to put food on the table, fresh and local can be out of reach.

That's where the "farm to food pantry" concept comes in.

Jars of peanut butter, cans of corn, bags of rice and lots of pasta are all staples at the Catholic Charities Food Pantry in Haverstraw.

But workers and volunteers wanted to offer more.

"Canned vegetables are certainly a good supplement, but there's nothing like fresh vegetables," said food pantry manager Peter Moore.

In the northeast, there's nothing like what's been cultivated in the pantry's backyard.

Alex Guarino and Martha Robles tend tomatoes, lettuce, eggplant and other greens.

"These become really literally our babies," said Guarino. "We nurture them and we take good care of them and we check on them every day."

A brand new greenhouse and the garden it sits next to are part of an effort to improve food pantry clients' access to fresh, local and organic produce.

"We got this vision, or this idea, 'Wait, why don't we grow our own produce?'" said Martha Robles, executive director of Catholic Charities Rockland. "So by growing our own produce, we're able to give that to the clients to help supplement their meals and also to make healthy eating a staple in their lives."

Starting the plants in the greenhouse and rotating them through the garden, the food pantry hopes to grow and give away 4,000 pounds of produce, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

"This will move from [the greenhouse] to the garden, from the garden to the client," said Robles. "We give it out the day that they come, so it's fresh!"

Timothy Cardinal Dolan will stop by on Saturday to pray for a bountiful harvest and bless the soil in a plot of land the call "the garden of love."

The pantry will also involve local school children in the effort, and offer cooking lessons to help clients prepare the bounty from the garden in healthy ways.

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