Print edition: Harvesting food for those in need

October 2, 2009 was a turning point in the life of Mrs. Missy Palmisciano, a lunch parent serving pasta to students at Prospect Hill Elementary School in Pelham. Mrs. Palmisciano realized that there was plenty of left over food that would be thrown away in the trash. She immediately thought, why not give the food to people in need instead of throwing it out? And the noble idea of County Harvest was born on that day.

As a starting point, Mrs. Palmisciano delivered unused pasta from the Prospect Hill school kitchen to a soup kitchen in neighboring Mount Vernon every Wednesday and Friday. She did it by herself.

She said she realized that there were countless numbers of people who had lost their jobs due to the recession and were solely dependent on soup kitchens and food stamps for their nutritional survival. She wished to expand her services to other neighborhoods.

She talked with owners of hotels, restaurants, caterers, supermarkets, wholesale clubs, farms, bagel shops, bakeries, beverage distributors and country clubs. They agreed to help her by donating their unused and leftover food.

As the County Harvest program expanded, family and friends in the community volunteered their support to the cause. There are ten board members including Mrs. Palmisciano who share the responsibilities to keep County Harvest running smoothly.

For example, one person handles the scheduling of pick up and delivery of food and ensures that there’s always a volunteer available to run the service. Others help in marketing, public relations and communication with donors.

“Everybody I met was happy to help,” said Mrs. Palmisciano in an interview. “They think it’s a great idea and they want to help when they can. Sometimes people don’t understand how we would take care of the food or that the food will stay fresh, and not make anybody sick. So, explaining it to them is probably all the problem we have ever faced.”

The County Harvest program distributes food to more than 48 agencies in Westchester County that help those in need of assistance, according to the non-profit’s website. There are at least 46 food donors donating on a regular basis and about 175 volunteers signed up to run the service. Approximately 100 volunteers participate every week in delivering the food to the organizations that pass it out to the needy.

The volunteers pick up excess food seven days a week from the food donors and then immediately deliver it to one of the agencies in need, according to the website.

Mrs. Palmisciano’s message to young people: “If you see a problem, you should definitely try to fix it because even just a little effort can go a long way and help many people.”

“Mrs. Palmisciano has been a great ambassador for the community,” said Mr. Tony Laud, director of the WestHELP shelter in Mount Vernon. “By extending herself, she provides food to the needy and makes sure that no child or family goes to sleep without having a healthy meal.”

“The work Missy does is outstanding and helps many people here in New Rochelle,” said Ms. Carole Troum director of HOPE Community Services in New Rochelle.

County Harvest website said, “Approximately 200,000 people, or 21 percent of Westchester County residents, are hungry or at risk of hunger and 86,900 are receiving SNAP benefits (food stamps).”