Harvest Home Foods: Adults with Developmental Disabilities Serving their Community

December 14, 2017

Harvest Home Foods is one of the diverse day habilitation options offered by SCARC.  Since 1999, Harvest Home Foods has been providing participants with the opportunity to serve their community by addressing the food insecurity experienced by some of their Sussex County neighbors. Food insecurity is defined as “A household’s uncertainty of having, or being unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because of insufficient money or other resources for food.” One in eight United States households was food insecure at some point in 2016.

Working in partnership with the NORWESCAP Food Bank, Harvest Home Foods volunteers run food pantries in two locations in Sussex County, Hamburg and Hampton.  Harvest Home Foods purchases food in bulk from NORWESCAP at a reduced cost in order to stock their shelves.  NORWESCAP – which stands for Northwest Community Action Program – is part of a network of locally-focused agencies serving low-income populations and providing programs geared to meet the specific needs of the community that they serve.  Community Action Programs grew out of President Johnson’s War on Poverty and from the advocacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of a plan to improve the circumstances of all Americans.

Harvest Home Foods volunteers pick up the primarily, non-perishable food each week from NORWESCAP, sort, and then shelve the items at the two food pantries.  The pantries also accept food donations from community members.  Eligible individuals experiencing food insecurity may pick up food at one of the pantries or Harvest Home Food volunteers deliver to identified recipients.

Harvest Home Foods provides a meaningful volunteer opportunity for adults with developmental disabilities while providing a valuable service to the community.  This type of volunteer activity allows for ongoing, active interaction with community members.  Individuals with developmental disabilities often experience social isolation even if they are living in the community.  They may be present – going to a movie, shopping, or eating out – but their actual interaction with community members is limited.  They may live in a house in a neighborhood and visit local businesses and events, but they rarely play the vital and engaged role in the day to day life of their community that volunteering at Harvest Home Foods provides.

The role of serving their fellow man that is offered by the Harvest Home Foods program allows participants to know that they, personally, made a difference in someone’s life.  Knowing that we are needed is important to everyone’s happiness and self-esteem, but is a feeling often missing from the lives of adults with developmental disabilities.  The direct support staff, which assist the individuals to complete their tasks as volunteers, are adept at facilitating the interactions of volunteers so that they have every opportunity to be acknowledged and appreciated for their efforts, and gain the resulting satisfaction of feeling needed.

In addition, the experience and learning involved in operating a food pantry provides participants with the opportunity to gain job skills that could translate to future employment opportunities.  Harvest Home Foods offers the experience of participating in the same range of tasks that non-disabled volunteers and workers perform.  These marketable skills are learned while interacting with a broad range of community members.

Harvest Home Foods not only provides a unique and worthwhile option in day habilitation supports for adults with developmental disabilities, but it also fulfills a critical need in the community in which these individuals live.