Grow Food Northampton Will Use $50,000 Grant to Help Low-Income People Get More Local Produce

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, October 15th, 2015, by Stephanie McFeeters.

With a $50,000 grant from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, Grow Food Northampton plans to bolster its efforts to provide the region’s low-income population with fresh, local food.

“We’re really excited,” said Grow Food Northampton executive director Clem Clay, noting that the grant application was a competitive process. “This will give us the opportunity to expand food-access programs and try out several new ideas.”

Grow Food Northampton was one of 20 not-for-profit community food initiatives awarded such a grant last week by Harvard Pilgrim, which gave a total of $969,276 to programs in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The grants — which range from $28,175 to $100,000 — are renewable for two years.

“Our goal for the Harvard Pilgrim Healthy Food Fund is to make fresh, local food easily accessible and affordable for more low- and middle-income families in our region,” Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation president Karen Voci said in a statement. “We have been inspired by the many not-for-profit organizations in New England — farmers’ markets, community gardens, urban farms, food co-ops — that are making fresh and local food easier to find and buy.”

This is the second grant Grow Food Northampton has received from the foundation. The Northampton organization received a $5,000 grant from Harvard Pilgrim in April for its Giving Garden, where volunteers grow food for local soup kitchens and food pantries.
And the Giving Garden is one of a number of initiatives the organization plans to expand with the additional funding. Others include farm-share programs for low-income seniors and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients and coordinating donations of surplus produce from local farms to the Northampton Survival Center.

“This grant can help bridge the gap so the local emergency food network is increasingly able to offer locally grown produce,” Clay said.

He added that a new project in the works is partnering with area schools to distribute produce, similar to Grow Food Northampton’s current arrangement with the Northampton Senior Center.

“Lots of low-income families have a connection to schools but not necessarily to a local farm,” he explained.

While plans for the project are still in preliminary stages, Clay cautioned, the organization is hoping to partner with a school in a pilot program next fall and then grow from there.

“For us the goal is really to maximize the amount of locally grown food that is available to low-income residents,” Clay said.