Eastmont churches partner to offer fresh local produce

Patrick Varine
| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Churches in the Eastmont area, which straddles Penn Hills, Wilkins Township and Monroeville, have been working with one another on interfaith initiatives for nearly three decades.

The latest initiative promises to bring locally grown produce to the east suburbs.

Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eastmont and the Parkway Jewish Center have partnered with Penn's Corner Farm Alliance to offer the Eastmont Community-Supported Agriculture Farm Share.

Residents can sign up to have a box of fresh fruits, vegetables and produce delivered weekly, and can pick it up at the Emmanuel church, on Jefferson Heights Road.

“We've had a longstanding and good relationship, so it seemed like a good mutual project,” said cantor Henry Shapiro from the Parkway Jewish Center.

Pastor Linda Theophilus from Emmanuel said she jumped at the idea when Shapiro suggested it.

“In both congregations, we have members who very much want to support local farmers and who recognize the value of locally produced food,” Theophilus said.

“Having a pickup site that's so convenient is really cool. Doing it jointly allows us to have it here locally to benefit the congregations and the communities we serve.”

Coincidentally, as Theophilus and Shapiro were planning the farm share, one of Penn's Corner's regular pickup sites in Monroeville stopped receiving deliveries. This allowed Emmanuel to step in as the new site.

“It was pretty perfect timing,” said Penn's Corner CSA Manager Karlin Lamberto.

Penn's Corner offers multiple options for its summer CSA program, which begins June 11 and runs through Nov. 19.

Subscribers can opt for 24 weekly ($610) or 12 biweekly ($320) pickups.

There also is a vegan option that does not include offerings like fresh cheese.

In recent weeks, Theophilus said, pickup boxes have included tomatoes, apples, bib lettuce, honey, eggs, potatoes, cheese, watercress and watermelon radishes.

Shapiro said the CSA program, which Penn's Corner has run for about a decade, benefits local residents and area farmers.

“Let's say you're a local farmer with a few acres,” he said.

“To go to a farmers market basically takes the whole day. You pick in the morning, take it by truck to the market and sit around … this is more time-effective for the farmer. And for consumers, you could go to a farmers market regularly, but just to have a time each week when you go and pick up your food is certainly an effective way to do it.”

Roughly 70 to 80 percent of produce offered in the CSA program is fully organic, Shapiro said, and comes from more than 30 Western Pennsylvania farms.

“People are thinking more in terms of eating healthy, so for myself and others, this is just generally good food that we can share in,” Shapiro said. “And you're not sure what's going to come in the boxes every week, so it's almost like a treasure hunt.”

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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