Category Archives: underserved

It’s a SNAP: Expanding Food Access in Lowell

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.

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Pest management workshop for refugees at Lutheran Social Services

On Wednesday, Farmland Coordinator Becca Weaver left the office to venture out to New Lands Farm, run by Lutheran Social Services (LSS), to teach their program participants about pest management.  The workshop participants were refugees and two translators were present to interpret the lesson into Nepalese and Swahili.  The program at New Lands Farm has expanded in recent years and on Wednesday there were over 30 participants who came to learn to identify common New England vegetable pests and about the best control methods to protect their delicious vegetables.  These talented growers, now armed with row cover and Surround, are more prepared for the challenges of agriculture in Massachusetts.

(See more pictures on our Facebook page)

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Food for thought

Working in this office and with those involved in the New Entry community, it is easy to feel optimistic about the future of our food supply with people becoming more aware of the benefits of community supported agriculture. However, while walking down a city street or riding the T, I realize that there are many people that this food system can’t reach. What will it take to bring local foods to everyday people? Will the increase in popularity of CSA’s trickle down and make local, fresh foods a more affordable option than the grocery store alternative?

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