By Virginia Dean, Standard Correspondent
A local project spurred by two recent Woodstock Union High School alumni has gone national.
The January 2015 issue of “Woman’s Day” magazine features Alexandra “Finn” McFarland and Anna Ramsey for their efforts at fighting hunger in their communities by creating a root cellar to address the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the colder months.
“We’ve launched a new partnership with Feeding America with our January issue,” said Editor-in-Chief Susan Spencer. “Throughout this upcoming year, we’re encouraging our readers to fight hunger which is so pervasive in this country. We felt that this was a good way to engage our army of readers. The article is about our hunger heroes and people on the front line fighting this issue.”
As such, McFarland and Ramsey began their project as sophomores and members of Change the World Kids in 2012. With a volunteer contractor, structural engineer, and an excavator, the crew began building a root cellar on the Woodstock Elementary School property to keep food fresh for months and eventually into the arms of Woodstock’s local food pantry.
Officially opening on October 6, 2013, the community donated produce throughout October, and some local farmers set aside plots specifically for the food bank or gave the cellar their leftovers that included apples, potatoes, onions, and other vegetables. “We ended up with enough to sustain the food bank all winter!” McFarland said. Recent recipients of a $5,000 scholarship through the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes last fall, the young women are now freshmen in college and still brainstorm with the students who now run the cellar about ways to expand. “I can’t wait to visit during vacations and see it stocked with vegetables,” said Ramsey. “That’s a huge feeling of accomplishment.”
As for their recent celebrity, both displayed modest appreciation.“It’s an honor to be in such a big publication and to be recognized for the work we’re doing here,” said McFarland. “It’s great, too, because there are three other stories in the article that tie in so nicely about hunger. It also sheds light on the idea that a root cellar has a provision for food and that others may be interested in doing the same kind of project.”
Ramsey expressed her excitement that she and McFarland are beginning to be contacted by others who are interested in doing something similar in their communities.
“Hopefully, we’ll keep hearing from more interested people,” said Ramsey.
This year, the project has taken on two new leaders, Kristen Ramsey (Anna’s sister) and Jack Greene, both WUHS students and Change the World Kids members. Trained last summer, the newcomers have been taught to stock up for the late fall and winter and distribute the food to the local food shelf in the spring, to be replenished again in the fall.
“It’s up to the whole group to keep the cellar going,” said McFarland.
It is this kind of grassroots movement that Spencer feels is an effective means to connect her publication with an important national issue.
“The article is inspirational,” said Spencer. “People need to dig deeper into their wallets to support hunger relief. We’re asking our readers to donate money. They’re the power behind the throne, so to speak, and are making a difference on a local level. We’ll be doing a lot of things throughout the year to get our readers out there. We have an army. Let’s use it.”
This article first appeared in the December 31, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.