This fall, we were chosen as one of 20 organizations in the New England region (CT, ME, MA, NH) to receive the Healthy Food Fund Grant from The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. With this funding, we will implement a subsidized CSA program, in partnership with Apponagansett Farm and Round the Bend Farm, at two New Bedford Housing sites next spring.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, and is a way for people to purchase a share of the harvest at the beginning of the season; participants then pick up a box of freshly picked fruits and vegetables each week. This program, however, is designed to help low-income residents participate by 1. requiring a monthly payment instead of one lump sum up front, and 2. delivering the food directly to the housing site instead of requiring participants to drive to pick it up.
This program was modeled after a program between the Mass Department of Transitional Assistance, the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, and Project Bread. Much of the grant funding will be used to subsidize a portion of the CSA share, while the recipient pays for the other portion, either with SNAP benefits or cash.
“This project continues to build upon our work expanding food access,” says our director, Kim Ferreira. “The farmers markets were a huge success this past summer, opening up access to low-income residents who could use their SNAP benefits for the first time; 1/3 of purchases made through the debit/credit/SNAP machine, were made by SNAP users, which doesn’t even take into account the use of WIC coupons and senior farmers market coupons that have always been popular.”
We find these statistics show there is a demand for fresh, local foods among low-income/underserved residents, and we have plans to continue working with partners throughout the city to make local vegetables available. Our next steps will be to expand this CSA program to other sites and work toward a mobile market that can reach residents in many of the other neighborhoods where transportation is a challenge.
Each week, the farmers will deliver the CSA shares to participating families and individuals living at Ben Rose and Presidential Heights. In addition to food delivery, MiM NB will coordinate healthy cooking demonstrations and other educational workshops to encourage residents and community members in general, to eat more fresh and local fruits and vegetables.
Through this project with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, we built in funding to take participating families on a visit to each farm sometime next summer, so participants can see, one-on-one, exactly where their food is coming from. Ultimately, the goal will be to create a CSA share that is the right size and price so residents will purchase the full share without the need for a subsidy, and still allow the farmer to make a profit.