On Thursday afternoons at the Sagan Kotturan CHamoru Center at Ypao Point, Michelle Crisostomo can be found sorting and packing a roomful of produce alongside other members and volunteers of the nonprofit Guåhan Sustainable Culture.
“Our mission is to promote food security on the island," said Crisostomo, president and co-founder of GSC. "We do that through partnering with other organizations that have a similar mission, through education, teaching workshops, teaching people how to farm and grow their own food.”
Now in its second year, the group has stepped up to help prop up those in need during economic hardship brought by the pandemic through the Sustaining Farmers, Supporting Families program.
“Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have focused a lot of our efforts on supporting the farmers who couldn’t sell their produce and getting that fresh produce out to the local community to families and individuals who might be in need of free produce. So we are able to donate to them,” Crisostomo said.
Each week GSC partners with a different organization to distribute the food to those who need it most, she said.
One of those organizations is Inadahen I Lina’la'/Kotturan CHamoru, which also manages the 9 acres of SKC center Chamorro Land Trust property overlooking Tumon Bay.
“Agriculture is one of the arts that we would like to capitalize on. It is part of nature. Farming is very difficult to do if you don’t have a green thumb,” said Raphael Unpingco, president of the group whose name translates in English to “Guardians of the life and culture of CHamoru.”
With funding from a National Farm to School grant and a Humanities Guåhan CARES Act grant, the organization was able donate 900 bags of produce and expand and continue the program into the year, Crisostomo said.
“The farmers are very grateful. A lot of the produce when we first started was going to go to waste," she said. "So they were thankful to able to sell that because the restaurants had stopped purchasing from them. They feel blessed that we are able to do this so it’s nice to help the farmers and then to also help the community in need.”
And for those who would like to buy the produce, GSC also offers a Fresh Farm Bags program on Thursdays at SKC. Fruits and vegetables can also be purchased separately or by the bundle on their website.