Valley Bounty: Mass Food Delivery

Published December 30, 2023 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette

Mass Food Delivery: bringing customers of all kinds even closer to local food

Farms are the foundation of our local food system, with farmers’ markets, farm stands, and community markets providing the predominant means of providing food to customers. For some members of our community, the ability to order fresh, local food online and have it delivered to one’s home is not only convenient, but a necessity.  

Jan Rolin (left) and Julia Coffey (right)

Mass Food Delivery was born in March of 2020 as farmers’ markets began closing in response to the pandemic. At that moment, Julia Coffey, owner-operator of Mycoterra Farm, knew that her farm relied on direct sales for about 80% of its revenue. Her organic mushroom farm frequented fifteen farmers’ markets across Massachusetts each week, and maintaining connections between her customers and the other farmers and vendors from those markets became her priority.  

The concept of home delivery seemed the best option, and Mass Food Delivery was born. Coffey’s cousin, Jan Rolin, became the Operations Manager. Rolin notes, “When everything shut down for the pandemic, Julia recognized that if we were in this shape, so was everyone else. Delivery helped save our farm, and we helped save other farms with this service.” 

Beginning with an email, Coffey asked for collaborators, and many local producers responded. Red Fire Farm, Winter Moon Roots, Queen’s Greens, Red Barn Honey, and Grace Hill were some of the early participants. By summer of 2020, many other producers joined, including Joe Czajkowski Farm, Kitchen Garden Farm, Mapleline Farm, Pine Hill Orchard, Reed Farm, Sage Farm, and Ground Up Grain.  

Initially, Mass Food Delivery covered the entire state except the Cape and Islands; that map has reduced to include all of western Mass. and the Berkshires, the North Shore, and Boston. Western Mass. farms and producers offered a balanced diet of local food for the community. The service boomed during the pandemic, revealing both unexpected reasons why customers seek home delivery, and holes to access in our local food system.  

Devon Murphy, weighs and bags Brussels Sprouts which will be included in boxes with fresh vegetables and loaded onto trucks at Mass Food Delivery (Gazette/Carol Lollis photo)

Home delivery allows people to order fresh produce delivered to family members or friends who live independently but require support from others, like parents aging in place or adult children with special needs. Some customers, particularly in Cambridge and Somerville, order for older family members who only speak Russian or Mandarin Chinese, eliminating the language barrier and providing high-quality food for their loved ones. Meanwhile, for some rural clients during the pandemic, lack of transportation meant Mass Food Delivery was their only source of food. “Improving food access has been important to us as a farm and from the start of Mass Food Delivery,” Coffey says. 

Mass Food Delivery also tries to keep financial barriers at a minimum, especially by offering SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps) as a payment option and getting approved as a HIP vendor. HIP (the Healthy Incentives Program) offers all Massachusetts SNAP recipients between $40-80 extra in benefits each month to spend on locally grown produce from approved retailers, helping stretch food spending further and directing more food spending to local businesses.  

Mass Food Delivery staff pack hundreds of pounds of food for home delivery each week (Mass Food Delivery photo)

As buying patterns have shifted since the early days of the pandemic, holding the line on financial accessibility has been an interesting challenge. Initially, SNAP and HIP customers were just 20% of their clientele, and the high total volume of customers subsidized home delivery for SNAP & HIP orders. Yet as the pandemic eased, initial high-revenue orders from households in affluent urban areas dissipated as shoppers returned to in-person shopping at farmers’ markets and farm stands.  

By the end of 2022, SNAP households amounted to 80% of home delivery orders, and they had to begin charging discounted delivery fees to SNAP customers to stay in business. Yet as Rolin shares, “We’ve tried hard to keep our prices the same, even though food prices have gone up very much.” 

While wearing her farmer hat, Coffey was delighted to return to face-to-face sales. At the same time, the pandemic had revealed to her pockets of people with more tenuous food access for myriad reasons: language, mobility, health, and transportation in both urban and rural settings. This awareness reframed Mass Food Delivery’s value as a company who could provide stronger food security for these populations. 

Coffey and Rolin remain passionate about local food access. Says Coffey, “I’ve kept Mass Food Delivery going for the people we serve, because we make a critical impact on their food supply.”  

Cost wise, Mass Food Delivery prices match those of local grocers. Customers shop their preferred frequency of weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Rolin sends a regular newsletter with delivery dates and updates. Unlike major corporate entities, small businesses and farms cannot process online payments for SNAP, and so customers place the order online, then meet the driver to make payment or swipe their SNAP cards.  

Mass Food Delivery Photo

Says Coffey, “Our policy has been to leave food even when we do not receive payment. Mass Food Delivery has subsidized over $38,000 worth of food and waived over $150,000 in delivery fees since our inception in 2020.”  

Making an impact brings joy to the cousins. Rolin adds, “spend their HIP dollars, if they are on that program.”  

Coffey concludes, “I couldn’t be more thrilled with our impact. We have established an impressive network of local growers and producers and a customer base that relies on our services. Yet it has become a labor of love that takes me away from operating Mycoterra Farm. I would love to find a non-profit or organizational partner to adopt Mass Food Delivery and operate this critical service so I can get back to my real passion: farming!”  

Lisa Goodrich is communications coordinator for CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture). To learn more about local food businesses of all kinds, visit