2017 was our seventh year of the Red Bag Senior Share program. The program, funded and operated by Grow Food Northampton in partnership with the Northampton Senior Center, provides low-income seniors access to sustainably-grown, local vegetables from Crimson & Clover Farm. Over this last year, the program went through some exciting changes. We increased the number of shares available, expanded our outreach and delivery network, and integrated the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) as a payment option that allowed for a longer season.
In 2016, we provided 70 shares to Northampton seniors; in 2017, 90 participants originally enrolled and with some cancellations, we ended with 85 participants for the full season. Another exciting change was our outreach to residents of senior housing in Northampton and our addition of 10 shares for residents of other communities. Thirty-four residents of senior housing facilities (Forsander and Tobin in Florence, and Cahill and Salvo in Northampton) joined the program. We also coordinated deliveries to Florence to save the 18 residents of Forsander and Tobin a trip into downtown Northampton.
The integration of the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) into the Red Bag Senior Share allowed SNAP participants to be reimbursed at 100% cost. There were two options for payments: $10 in cash for a 10-week share or $16/month in SNAP for a 15-week share. The SNAP participants, who are automatically eligible for the HIP benefit and who all have at least $16 per month in SNAP benefits, paid $64 total in monthly installments. Because this amount was fully reimbursed to the participant’s SNAP account, it was effectively free to the participant, but the additional funds allowed us to offer a 15-week share instead of a 10-week share.
This year’s survey responses were very positive. Here are a some of the results: almost all respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the quality, quantity, and the variety of vegetables; 97% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the program overall (see chart below); 68% tried new vegetables; 73% ate more vegetables due to the share; 83% said that the share helped them with a special diet; and 94% said that they had a healthier diet due to the share.
“I loved the fresh vegetables, so much better than the store.”
“It was very important to my health”
“This program is excellent. I was pleased with volunteers and the social interaction each week. Made great soups!”
We are very grateful to the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, and the Community Foundation of Western MA for supporting this project. We are also very grateful to our wonderful volunteers who helped deliver and distribute the food and to the Northampton Senior Center for their outreach, logistical support, wonderful volunteersand pick up location. Thank you, one and all, for making it easy and affordable for low-income seniors in our community to eat food that is fresh, local, and healthy! We look forward to the 2018 Red Bag Senior Share!