A vacant lot on Sackett Avenue in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood will soon be a haven for fresh produce for local residents. The new distribution center is a program of Baba Neem Karoli Satsang (BNKS), a non-profit church corporation doing business as Baba’s Yard, that brings awareness to the issue of hunger in America and manages free food distribution programs for the economically disadvantaged. BNKS recently purchased the land from the Cuyahoga Land Bank.
Working with community partners, BNKS plans to develop the land this spring and begin monthly food distribution in early summer. Produce will be supplied by the Cleveland Food Bank. Efforts to raise funds are underway to add fencing and a needed driveway, as well as for installation of an irrigation system. The remaining property will be used as a community green space.
John Visnauskas, BNKS’s Executive Director, is spearheading the effort. Visnauskas has served as the Executive Director of All Faiths Pantry serving seniors and home-bound individuals in Parma and adjoining neighborhoods for more than 12 years. He has helped start 13 self-sustaining produce programs in the area, that distribute nearly two million pounds of fruits and vegetables annually to clients in Greater Cleveland.
Eligibility for the program will be self-certifying, meaning clients need only declare with their signature that their income is beneath the poverty line. Visnauskas will work with local healthcare providers and physicians’ groups to do outreach for the program. “Clark-Fulton is the ideal location for this endeavor,” says Visnauskas. “There is a lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables for the residents of this neighborhood. The purpose of this program is to improve the nutritional intake of those in need.”
BNKS is seeking community partners in this venture. If you are interested in collaborating, donating or volunteering for the program, contact Visnauskas at Jv10008@gmail.com.