By Francie Lin, GFN Writer-in-Residence I think everyone would rather forget the early pandemic days…
Grow Food Northampton is devoted to bringing healthy local food to local people. In addition to donating thousands of pounds of vegetables, we run market-based food access programs that make locally grown, nutritious produce affordable for low-income members of our community. It’s been a busy spring as we have worked to integrate the new statewide Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) into our offerings, and we’re pleased to kick off the Red Bag Senior Share and SNAP Share seasons with full enrollment, and to embark on an expansion of the Red Bag Family Share program to a second public school distribution site in September.
The Red Bag Senior Share, a collaboration with the Northampton Senior Center, provides farm-fresh local produce for low-income senior citizens. This summer, the vegetables, grown at Crimson & Clover Farm, will be available for pickup every Wednesday, 3-4pm, starting July 5th. Thanks to the new, statewide HIP program, participants can now pay with their SNAP benefits and get 100% of their share of the purchase rebated through HIP. The program will run for a total of 10 weeks for depending on the type of share, and we have filled the program with 90 participants! For more information on eligibility and pricing, please view this post.
Our Double SNAP Share program makes farm shares at Crimson & Clover Farm affordable for SNAP recipients. With the implementation of HIP, customers can use their SNAP benefits to pay for the share automatically in monthly increments and receive a rebate between $40 and $80 per month depending on household size. Grow Food Northampton further subsidizes the shares so that no participant pays more than half the cost out of their SNAP benefits. We also do the bulk of the outreach and administrative tasks for this program, so that the farmers can focus on producing delicious food! So far, we have over 35 participants signed up, and there are only a few more slots available. To learn more about the Double SNAP shares, view our recent blog post.
The Red Bag Family Share provides a weekly bag of vegetables to low-income families for the first 10 weeks of the school year, starting on September 7th. Last year we ran the program in collaboration with Jackson Street School in Northampton, and are expanding this year to include Ryan Road Elementary in Florence. There are 30 shares available for pickup at Jackson St. and 20 for pickup at Ryan Rd. The shares will be distributed weekly on Thursdays, timed to coincide with the end of the school day, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm. The cost is $20 for 10 weeks, or only $10 for families with children at Jackson St. or Ryan Rd. schools, thanks to the generosity of the Jackson Street PTO and Ryan Road PTO. This year, customers also have the option to pay with SNAP and get 100% of their purchase immediately rebated through HIP, making it essentially free and further lowering the financial barriers to accessing healthy food. For more information on eligibility for this program, visit the Red Bag Family Share page.
Our Food Access Programs are an essential part of our mission to promote food security and improve the lives of hundreds of local residents who would otherwise not have access to such healthy, nutritious produce. These programs are possible in large part thanks to a grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation. We were also pleased to receive a small grant from Cooley Dickinson Health Care to expand the Red Bag Family Share program to Ryan Road School. We are very happy that our programs are growing and that we are able to reach out to more and more community members every year.