This past fall was the second year of the Red Bag Family Share food access program. We continued at Jackson Street School and launched a new Share at Ryan Road School. The program is open to families with children in the local public schools that qualified for free or reduced lunch program and to people who qualify for SNAP benefits. This year, we also integrated the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) into the Share, which allowed participants to pay with their SNAP benefits and receive additional incentives. Due to a successful first year at Jackson Street and increased funding, we were able to expand the program to be available to more families. We almost doubled the amount of budgeted Shares from 25 to 45.
The CSA pickup lasts for 10 weeks and participants pick up a bag of fresh produce grown by Crimson & Clover Farm each Thursday afternoon at Jackson Street School. At Ryan Road, the students of the participating families are given the share to bring home with them.
The cost of the program to participants is $10 for the 10 weeks: only $1 per week for fresh local vegetables! We pay $125 per share to the farmer and use funds from a variety of sponsors to subsidize the difference.
The survey results for this year were once again very positive. Almost all respondents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the quality, quantity, and variety of produce. Here are a few results: over 90% of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the program overall and with the quantity, quality, and variety of products (see chart below); 82% of respondents said they tried new vegetables, 70% said they ate more vegetables due to the share, and 81% said they had a healthier diet due to the share. Almost all respondents found the enrollment, pickup location, and day of pickup to be easy and convenient.
It has been great to have Red Bag veggies. It meant I could buy less veggies at the store freeing up money for other things (like fruit). It is much higher quality and freshness than grocery store veggies.
We are very grateful to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Western MA for supporting this project. We are also indebted to the volunteers who helped deliver and distribute the food. Finally, this program would also not have been possible with out the generous help from the teachers and administrators at both of the schools. Teacher Mary Cowhey and members of Families With Power at Jackson Street School, and Principal Sarah Madden and retired administrative assistant Sharon Matrishon at Ryan Road, helped to made the program more successful because of their relationships and knowledge of the community. Thank you, one and all, for making it easy and affordable for low-income families in our community to eat food that is fresh, local, and healthy!