State Officials Get a Taste of Local Produce at Tuesday Market in Northampton

The Daily Hampshire Gazette, October 7th, 2015, by Stephanie McFeeters

Donning a white apron and plastic gloves, Alice Bonner — the state’s Secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs — chopped apples for a spicy fruit salad at this week’s Tuesday Market.

Bonner was one of a number of state officials to tour the market Tuesday afternoon. The visit highlighted efforts Massachusetts is making to connect vulnerable populations — particularly seniors — with local produce. She was joined by Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux and Department of Transitional Assistance Commissioner Jeff McCue, as well Mayor David Narkewicz, Ward 4 City Councilor Gina-Louise Sciarra and other local officials.

“Food access is a priority for all of us,” Lebeaux said, highlighting work done by Highland Valley Elder Services and other area organizations to provide at-risk seniors with nutrition resources.

Through one program, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s Senior FarmShare, around 400 low-income seniors received produce from local farms this year, said CISA program director Kelly Coleman.

Lebeaux said of about 250 seasonal and 46 winter farmers markets in the state, 146 accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits and 230 accept benefits from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
Through the SNAP & Save program, four local farmers markets — in Amherst, Florence and Northampton — double the first $5 of SNAP benefits to provide customers with $10 worth of produce.

Such initiatives, Bonner said, help provide seniors with fresh, high-quality food, and also to combat social isolation.

The Northampton stop is the second in a series, which began with a visit to a market in Truro and concludes in December with a session at the Boston Public Market, Lebeaux said. As a parting gift, the visiting officials were given bags filled with apples from Apex Orchards in Shelburne Falls, local flowers and bok choy.