Story and photography by Erica Houskeeper. Original version appears at Happy Vermont's website.
All it takes is flour, butter, salt, and water to make a pie crust. But it takes a community to make a difference.
Pies for People, now in its eleventh year, is a community-building initiative that brings together volunteers, gleaned local produce, and the spirit of giving.
More than 110 pumpkin pies will be delivered this week to the local food pantry, schools, and nursing homes in time for Thanksgiving in Hardwick, Craftsbury, and Greensboro. Last Thursday, more than 20 volunteers gathered at the Sterling College dining hall to roll pie crusts and prepare pies for baking.
“This seems like a good way to reach out to the community,” says volunteer Jen Skorstad, of Wolcott, as she delicately edged a pie crust with her fingers. “It’s important and fun at the same time.”
A Pies for People Partnership
Eloise Girard of Craftsbury and her daughter, Beatrice roll pie crusts at Sterling College in Craftsbury.
Pies for People is a collaborative effort between The Center for an Agricultural Economy, Sterling College, and the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. High Mowing Organic Seeds provides the program with about 300 pounds of gleaned butternut squash in October. It’s then processed at the Vermont Food Venture Center, and the puree is frozen into two-gallon buckets before it’s thawed and delivered to Sterling College for the volunteer event.
Meanwhile, Cabot Cheese donates butter, Buffalo Mountain Co-op provides the spices, Black Dirt Farm gives the eggs, and Positive Pie serves up pizza boxes for the pies to be delivered.Pies for People is a collaborative effort between The Center for an Agricultural Economy, Sterling College, and the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. High Mowing Organic Seeds provides the program with about 300 pounds of gleaned butternut squash in October. It’s then processed at the Vermont Food Venture Center, and the puree is frozen into two-gallon buckets before it’s thawed and delivered to Sterling College for the volunteer event.
Bethany Dunbar, community programs manager for The Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, says two things that make Pies for People so important are the community-building aspect of the program and the need to address food insecurity.
“It brings people together in our community around food. I am pretty sure people met over pie crust rolling that might not have ever met in their usual day-to-day circumstances,” Dunbar says. “It’s important to actually provide the pies also. There is still a high rate of food insecurity in our area, and this is one little step in the right direction.”
The Pies for People volunteer event also gives people the chance to practice the old-fashioned skill of rolling out pie crusts. It also offers the opportunity for people who are experienced at making pie crusts a chance to show others how it’s done, she says.
The Center for an Agricultural Economy encourages the concept that people can have some measure of food independence if they can take advantage of a few of the traditional ways of growing and preparing food. Dunbar explains that for $2.50 worth of local flour and butter, individuals can make a pie crust on their own instead of buying a processed item made in a factory in another part of the country.
“A homemade pie has all local, natural ingredients, and it just tastes so much better,” she says.
Volunteers who came out to the pie crust rolling event at Sterling College ranged in age from 5 to 75. Some were experienced bakers while others were beginners. What they shared in common was a sense of community spirit and a joy for helping others.
For Dunbar, that’s what makes Pies for People so rewarding.
“I do enjoy all the coordination and prep work that goes into getting ready for the culminating event. But mostly I enjoy the event itself. People really appreciate the chance to get together this time of year and share a work task like this,” she says. “I really like the pies, but the part I like the best is the people.”