By Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Coordinator

During the health pandemic that we are all currently facing, the need to procure healthy, nutritious food has become more apparent than ever.  An even more immediate need that communities and families have uncovered is the ability to determine and control the quality of food that our families consume.  For many of us in the Mason Square area of Springfield, this can be difficult due to the shortages of food in stores nearby.

With the challenge faced by the unavailability of fresh food and the difficulties of traveling, especially when the household does not have access to a car, more and more people are looking to bring the “store” to their homes.

This week I had the great pleasure of working with a small family (two adults – Justin, my personal trainer from Our Journey, a Black-owned wellness and fitness center in Springfield, and his girlfriend, Noelle) who had requested a basic class on creating a garden.

During our first lesson, we concentrated on identifying their favorite homemade meals and snacks, adhering to their plant-based diet.  These included vegan lasagna, vegan stuffed peppers, salsa and kale chips.  We used the tools from my Planting Your Favorite Meal workshop to plan three new garden plots.  Justin and Noelle look forward to recording our future lessons for others in the community to learn from later, particularly for elders and families with children.

“Everyone should be able to grow some of what they eat in their homes; especially in an emergency situation like we are in now”, stated Justin.

Next week, we will go outside to begin building the beds.

Stay tuned for more stories and events from The Food Access Program.  If you have any questions concerning Food Access, please contact Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Food Access Coordinator and Equity Director at