HCCSA reaches cost-share goal

Story Submitted (mtfrontdesk@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: May. 10, 2012 | Modified: May. 10, 2012

More than 30 low-income Boone-area families will receive weekly allotments of sustainably grown, local food under a new cost-share program launched by High Country Community Supported Agriculture, in partnership with the Appalachian District Health Department, the Children’s Council and the Community Care Clinic.

“We are committed to making the local food system work for everyone in the community, not just those with economic resources,” Maverick Farms director Hillary Wilson said. “Increasing access creates more resilience in the market, and the cost-share CSA is an innovative model that works for both farmers and consumers.”

The families, which include 13 teen parents working with the Children’s Council and 15 community members with diet-related disease enrolled in health programs at the Community Care Clinic, will have reduced-cost “garden shares” in the CSA, valued at $300.

The families themselves will pay $100 with their EBT/SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps). The rest will be paid for with grant funding and community donations.

A minimum of $5,600 was needed to subsidize the shares, and that target has already been exceeded, according to organizers of the effort. More than 20 community members donated in quantities from $4 up to $500, raising more than $2,000, with more donations still coming in. Grant funding supplied $4,900. The project partners will reach more needy families with surplus funds.

HC-CSA Coordinator Michal Duffy said, “The community support for the program has been overwhelmingly positive. We were delighted to surpass the fundraising goal, and it really shows how much the High Country values farmers and cares for all members of the community.”

High Country Community Supported Agriculture is a project of Valle Crucis-based Maverick Farms, an educational farm, and all donations are tax deductible.

The Cost Share Fund program to offset the cost of HCCSA garden shares was born out of a meeting of local individuals and organizations committed to increasing the accessibility of less-privileged community members to fair, local and organic food.

Kaitlyn Jongkind of the Appalachian District Health Department, Michal Duffy of the High Country Community Supported Agriculture, Robin Triplett of the Children’s Council, Hillary Wilson of Maverick Farms, Bill Moretz of the Watauga County Farmers’ Market and Moretz’s Mountain Orchard, and Laurie Wilson of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture came together in February to brainstorm ideas for long-term strategies to increase access to healthy local food in the area.

The Cost Share Fund was created as an immediate step to reach families this season, and also to serve as an example of how a Cost Share Fund can work on a larger, more regional scale.

The Children’s Council and Community Care Clinic not only helped to identify recipients, but also will provide support through cooking and nutrition classes during the course of the season for these new HCCSA members. The classes will help guide the recipients as they prepare foods with which they may not have previous experience.

Each HCCSA Garden Share is $300. Two-thirds of the cost, or $200 each, will be paid for with grant funding and community donations. The other one-third of each share ($100) will be paid for by the recipients of the shares with their EBT/SNAP benefits (formerly food stamps).

The HCCSA received federal approval to accept these benefits in 2010, making it the first rural multi-farm CSA in the country to accept EBT.

The expense will be spread during the course of the season and breaks down to $5 a week for a food value of about $15 a week. The HCCSA garden share features between four to six seasonal produce items every week from June 5 through Oct. 16 for the 20-week season.

“In communities across the country, people are looking for ways to broaden the movement against industrial agriculture and low-quality food, to make it accessible to everyone and not just for people with lots of money,” said Tom Philpott, a Maverick Farms co-founder and food-politics writer for Mother Jones magazine. “I’m proud that our community has come up with this cost-sharing scheme, and I’m confident it will inspire people in other areas to do similar things.”

“Traditionally food assistance programs have been all about quantity with little focus on nutritional value,” said Kaitlyn Jongkind, health educator at the Appalachian District Health Department. “But programs like the cost share CSA, community gardens and tokens program at the farmers market are changing that.”

All products sold through the HCCSA are local and organic. HCCSA products are typically harvested the morning of pickup, which provides more flavor and better quality, as well as higher nutritional content.

To find out more about the High Country Community Supported Agriculture and to sign up, visit http://www.highcountrycsa.org or email (highcountrycsa@gmail.com)

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