Providing affordable access to farmland was a seedling of an idea that blossomed into the…
This fall, we started a new food access program called the Red Bag Program, a subsidized farm share for low-income families in our community. We had many people volunteer their time to help us with the program, and one who stood out was Jasper Kesin. He is younger than most of our volunteers, but he still showed up every week to help distribute the food.
Jasper is 17 years old and a senior at Northampton High School. He grew up in Florence, MA, and attended Jackson Street School when he was younger. Mary Cowhey, a teacher at Jackson Street School, was his second-grade teacher and she was the one who told him about Grow Food Northampton and the Red Bag Program. She mentioned that we needed volunteers and Jasper signed up. In addition to recruiting volunteers, Ms. Cowhey served as our main contact at Jackson Street School and was a huge part of making the Red Bag Program a success.
When asked why he decided to volunteer for the program, Jasper said “One night I randomly started a conversation with my mom about food availability. I was saying how it bothered me the way fresh, quality food is often not a choice for lower income communities, and how this has to do with not only affordability, but proximity and accessibility. Grow Food Northampton’s approach, bringing the Red Bag Program to Jackson Street, was one that was straightforward and effective. As the volunteering started I realized that this was what I signed up for; a streamlined way to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to members of the community in the form of a subsidized farm share.”
When he isn’t volunteering with us, Jasper plays lacrosse and is very focused on visual art. He likes to paint, draw, write, exercise, and spend time with friends. One day when he was volunteering, we had an early snowstorm, and Jasper drew a figure on the ground in the snow. People started noticing it and were delighted with it! Someone even took a picture and posted in on social media within half an hour of his creating it. He is currently applying to colleges and hopes to study art and design.
We were so grateful to have Jasper with us during the 10 weeks of the Red Bag Program. His commitment, sense of humor, and energy added so much to the program, and made standing outside on rainy and snowy afternoons a treat. Thank you Jasper!