By Francie Lin, GFN Writer-in-Residence I think everyone would rather forget the early pandemic days…
Grow Food Shares encompases several strategies to provide access to locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables where people live, work, and visit. 2019 was all about consistency, growth and community connections. Read on for facts, photos and stories from the year.
Farmers Market Dollars Doubled– Tuesday Market’s SNAP Match Program served over 200 households and distributed over $30,000 in SNAP eligible local food.
Our Giving Garden provided over 7,500 pounds of produce grown and delivered to local food pantries and meal sites.
$102,730 total in local food distributed throughout all of our Grow Food Shares programs!
We couldn’t do it without strong support! Thank you to our generous sponsors: River Valley Coop ~Valley Solar ~ Valley Home Improvement ~ Crimson & Clover Farm and Shareholders ~Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation
A little more to the story:
Our Grow Food Shares programs are dedicated to building a more equitable and connected local food system. This year, we were able to support over 350 households in purchasing $102,000 of locally-produced food. This happens at Tuesday Market with our SNAP Match of up to $10 per week; at our Neighborhood Markets, which bring an affordable farm stand to three neighborhoods, the Northampton Senior Center, and two schools (plus a new pilot program at Bridge Street School!); and at Crimson & Clover Farm with our SNAP Share.
In addition to improving access to locally-grown food, Grow Food Shares has the potential to provide something more. As Neighborhood Market customer, Jennifer, put it: “When you don’t have enough food, it’s a very lonely place to be. When you’re in community and you do have enough food, there is community healing.” And healing as a whole community can’t take place unless everyone is at the table, with enough food to eat. Our programs try to set that table as best we can and, at this time of year, we reflect back to some of the examples of how it has happened.
On a recent Wednesday night, Jennifer and a group of neighbors gathered for a weekly potluck dinner. Alia walked down from her apartment with freshly made tabbouleh featuring multiple ingredients that had been harvested that morning from Crimson & Clover Farm. They all were farm share customers at our Neighborhood Markets, and most, despite living within view of each other, hadn’t met until they started picking up their farm share. “Can we do this forever?” said one resident.
At Tuesday Market an average of 60 families and individuals stop by the purple market tent each week from April to November, to buy tokens using SNAP and head out to shop from our 22 or so vendors. These tokens are good for anything SNAP eligible, lowering the barrier to local food significantly, while still paying the farmer the full cost of their goods. For our SNAP customers, the extra $10 per week is what allows them to afford to shop at the market, which then becomes a beloved weekly ritual. For most everyone, shopping at the market is a chance to get a dose of human connection that we crave, nevermind the chance to bring home the freshest food available.
And we couldn’t do it alone. Crimson & Clover Farm is an incredible partner, supplying most of the produce for the Neighborhood Markets and the SNAP Share at the farm. River Valley Coop helps by aggregating other items for the Markets at no cost so that we can offer more variety to customers. And Tuesday Market wouldn’t be much without it’s amazing vendors. River Valley Coop, Valley Home Improvement, and Valley Solar turn their values into action as major sponsors of the Neighborhood Markets and SNAP Match at Tuesday Market. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care’s grant funding supports renewed efforts in community building and volunteer participation in the Giving Garden.
What participants are saying:
“HIP and SNAP at farmers markets means that they are no longer too expensive. This turns feelings of stress (about shopping and meeting food needs) into feelings of elation.”
“When you don’t have enough food, it’s a very lonely place to be. When you’re in community and you do have enough food, there is community healing.”
“I am so thankful for access to this CSA by way of SNAP. It’s hard when ethics and income don’t match up. I want to support local and eat locally… unfortunately it’s often quite expensive. So thank you.”
“We feel glad when seniors have opportunities to choose GOOD FOOD. The connections with others and the carefully chosen food items for us to choose from has been a real joy!”