World PEAS, and the larger New Entry Sustainable Food Project, are committed to serving under-resourced individuals in the greater Boston and Lowell areas in both the supply and demand side of commercial agriculture. We support the farmers who grow food for our programs, while also working to expand access to these foods in communities in Lowell and East Boston. This presents a common paradox in the world of sustainable agriculture- how do you support agricultural livelihoods, by providing the best price to our farmers for their crops, while also making these foods to be accessible for low-income populations?
This is a challenge that staff at New Entry and our fiscal sponsors, Community Teamwork, Inc. (CTI) and Tufts University, have been working to address with various programming models. This season, after intensive planning and collaboration, World PEAS and CTI developed a pilot project- the SNAP CSA. This program, which allows individuals receiving SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, often referred to as food stamps, to purchase a small CSA share at half price. The remaining half of the cost of the CSA share is subsidized by the support of generous donations by our shareholders and the Farmer’s Market Promotion Program. The SNAP CSA initiative operated every Friday this season at the Lowell Farmers Market, where individuals registered for the program were able to pick up their shares and enjoy lettuce, greens, raspberries and more.
Participants were recruited for the program through various service agencies and through a wide range of multilingual promotional materials. The CSA share the members receive is identical to the share offered to our general World PEAS customers, but SNAP CSA participants have the option to pay weekly for their subsidized shares, rather than needing to make an upfront investment for the entire season, which would be a sizeable financial barrier for participation. While we hope to register more participants in the SNAP CSA program, the current program does serve to address New Entry’s mission to enhance community food security by expanding access to fresh, local food to all populations. We believe that our CSA is particularly appropriate for SNAP recipients given the fact that we include many unique ethnic vegetables in our shares- providing culturally appropriate foods is a key tenant of community food security.
We are excited to develop our SNAP CSA program to reach even more individuals in the Lowell area and to hopefully expand further in coming years. By helping under-resourced individuals develop commercial agricultural businesses that can in turn feed low-income populations in Lowell, we are hoping to develop networks of self-sufficiency and community development.