The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of November 14 to November 21, 2019
What makes Winchendon what it is...How we're making Winchendon even better

Healthy Eating CIRCL group meetings begin

Twenty-two Winchendon residents filled the Clark Memorial YMCA Community Room to capacity on Tuesday, November 12 for the first Winchendon Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) CIRCL group meeting, led by staff from the non-profit Growing Places in Leominster. Present were local food producers and retailers, representatives from the Town of Winchendon and town agencies, and citizen volunteers.

The meeting included a presentation, structured discussion time and wrap-up.

The main topic of discussion was the developing Winchendon Food Project which will help make healthy food available to Winchendon residents.

The presentation recapped the seriousness of Winchendon's status as an identified "food desert" since the closing of the IGA market in 2014. Our community suffers from one of the highest levels of chronic nutrition-linked diseases--such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer--in the state. Fifty percent of Winchendon residents do not have cars. A third identify as "food insecure," meaning they are unable to access enough food on a regular and consistent basis. Two thirds report eating only 1-2 servings per day of fruits and vegetables, and fifteen percent do all their food shopping at convenience and dollar stores.

Many Winchendon residents wonder why another grocery store can't move into the former IGA building or another location in town. Two local supermarket chains, Market Basket and Donelan's, evaluated Winchendon as a possible site. Both chains said that Winchendon is simply not economically viable, based on the amount of traffic, the size of the town, and the proximity to multiple large supermarkets in Rindge and Gardner. As Growing Places said in their presentation, "The IGA went out of business for a reason."

The idea of a food co-op like the Monadnock Co-op in Keene, NH has been floated. But again, Winchendon doesn't have the population needed to support such an enterprise.

The solution HEAL hopes will work for Winchendon is community centered food distribution which will begin with CSA (community supported agriculture) Meal Kits. Unlike the boxes of "this week's harvest" members get from their CSA subscription, these "meal kits" will include healthy, locally produced food, nutritional information, tips and recipes for preparing the food, and additional supplies like seasonings, cooking oil, and so on. They will be a cross between expensive gourmet "dinner kits" and a CSA box of fresh produce. Meal kits will be affordably priced and distributed via pick-up or delivery from a central location in town (still to be determined).

The Winchendon Food Project is being designed as a "hub and spoke" model with the "hub" being a center that will essentially be a grocery store. It will sell CSA meal kits and fresh food, and will offer classes, information, locally made products of all kinds, workshops, and the visiting Mobile Food Market. It will contribute to Winchendon's micro-economy by giving food dollars directly to local farmers and producers, and paying local taxes. It will be immediately responsive to the unique needs of Winchendon residents.

After the presentation, the group had a facilitated discussion about the Project. Participants spoke about the need to place food in a larger context of healthy lifestyles and life skills all around. Many of the people most in need of healthier food options don't have access to fully equipped kitchens to cook, or reliable ways to safely store food. Local producers and farmers' markets need to be certified for the Massachusetts Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), which allows people on SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance) to use their cards to purchase fresh produce affordably.

Participants noted that for the Winchendon Food Project to be successful, it must engage the entire community, and not be seen as only for lower-income families. The Hub will offer high quality, locally produced food and products that everyone will want. It should also be an active community space--unlike a mere store, it will include common areas, classrooms, meeting spaces, a place to eat, and other community assets.

Participants agreed that they would take advantage of community garden plots if they were available. Murdock Farm is creating a community garden for the Murdock High School students--but school isn't in session for the most important part of the growing season. Volunteers who can help with the garden, mentor kids over the summer and provide transportation will help make the garden a success. The students will be able to take some of the produce home.

A project with this much depth takes time to develop.

From now through next May, the project will be in assessment and planning phases. Surveys of consumers, food producers and anchor institutions are underway. Concrete decisions will be made about the location of the hub, who will do the work of harvesting, prepping, packing and distributing food, and how to organize all the various elements--producers, volunteers, recipients and "spokes" radiating out from the hub.

As of next May, the project will be organizing and training volunteers and will begin delivering CSA Meal Kits and holding community events and cooking classes.

Everyone in Winchendon is urged to complete the new Market Survey about food options. HEAL needs at least 350 responses. The survey can be taken online here: Digital survey (Google form). If you prefer to download a paper copy, you can click on this link: Downloadable survey (PDF). Paper surveys are also available at the Senior Center.

CIRCL groups will meet each month to work on this critical phase. Volunteers are welcome to join! The date and time of the next CIRCL meeting are still being determined. The Courier will list the meeting when it's announced.

HEAL Winchendon is co-sponsored by Heywood Hospital, Tufts Health Plan, the Winchendon School, and the Clark Memorial YMCA, and is part of the the larger CHNA 9 initiative for North Central Massachusetts. More information about the Winchendon HEAL project can be found here:

Pilgrims of Woodstock with Author John Kane to be Presented at Beals Library

The Beals Memorial Library in Winchendon will be hosting a book discussion on Pilgrims of Woodstock: A 50 Year Retrospective with author John Kane on Wednesday, November 20 at 6:00 PM.

Pilgrims of Woodstock offers a unique look at the famous festival in honor of its 50th anniversary. With newly-revealed photographs by Richard Bellak and phenomenal new interviews by John Kane, the book shares the experiences of the everyday people who attended Woodstock. Providing an intimate window into the authentic and unabridged festival, these photographs and interviews allow a new generation to see Woodstock through the eyes of the unsung stars who helped cement its place in history.

The Beals Memorial Library is located at 50 Pleasant Street in Winchendon. Please call the library at 978-297-0300 for more information.

Pilgrims of Woodstock cover
The front cover of Pilgrims of Woodstock: A 50 Year Retrospective, by John Kane.

Food for Fines at the Beals Library

Food for Fines at the Beals
Manuel King, Director of the Beals Memorial Library, invites patrons to participate in their annual Food for Fines holiday season food drive.

Have you returned a few library books or DVDs late? Are you looking for an alternative way to get rid of your fines? Well, the Beals Memorial Library in Winchendon is offering the perfect solution.

For one week only, from Saturday, November 9th through Saturday, November 16th, the Beals Memorial Library is accepting donations of non-perishable food items in exchange for removing patrons’ fines. For every item donated, the library will take 50 cents off, to a maximum of $5.00 per patron, on materials owned by the Beals Library.

All food items will be donated to the Winchendon Community Action Committee, a local human services agency committed to helping families and individuals in need of emergency services and support.

So, if you’d like to help out your community and take care of some of your library fines at the same time, share some of your food with those who need it most.

The Beals Memorial Library is located at 50 Pleasant Street in Winchendon. For more information about the Food for Fines program, please call the library at 978-297-0300. For more information about the Winchendon Community Action Committee, call 978-297-1667.

Village School Open House

Stone-Ladeau Funeral Home

Winchendon Subway

Toy Town FYIs

Tuesday, October 15: The annual draw-down of Lake Monomomac will begin and will continue until it reaches the new winter draw down level of 3 feet on or around December 1st. The drop in the water level during the winter months allows property owners to do maintenance to their waterfront, including docks, walls, and beaches. It also helps with the weed control.

Be aware that the lower level increases the danger of hitting submerged rocks, trees or other hidden obstacles. Extreme caution should be taken by boat owners if you are planning to get in some late fall boating or fishing.

Enjoying the new Winchendon Courier Online? We're just getting started! But wow, is this a lot of work. The best work in the world, but still a lot of it! Please consider supporting us with a small donation. We'd so appreciate it. Thanks!