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Making Fresh, Affordable Produce Available to More New Yorkers

by Joel B.

As the program director for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger, I work with community volunteers in 3 New York City neighborhoods on a Community Supported Agriculture Project.

The CSA project grew out of a direct need expressed by the communities. In each of these neighborhoods, residents experienced a lack of access to fresh, affordable produces and were actively seeking to address the problem. The three main goals of these CSAs are to offer, fresh, quality, local produce that would be affordable to all income levels. With this in mind, all three CSAs are structured towards a mixed income membership and offer a variety of payment options, including the option to pay weekly and with SNAP benefits.

In 2007, NYCCAH worked with residents and a number of community organizations in West Harlem to establish the West Harlem CSA. Now in its third year of operation, there are approximately 20 core group members who actively devote their time to organizing and running the CSA throughout the season. Over the last 2 1/2 years, there have been about 134 members who have volunteered a total of over 10,000 hours of their time to keep the CSA in operation and in community activities. Today there are approximately 98 households receiving vegetable shares at this CSA. Last year a total of 9,020 pounds of fresh, organic vegetables were delivered to families participating in the CSA. So far, this year, approximately 1,600 pounds have been distributed.

One of the key components of these CSAs is the relationship that members of the CSA build with community organizations in the neighborhood. The West Harlem CSAs weekly distribution is done from the Broadway Presbyterian Church, where all leftover produce is donated to the soup kitchen and members can volunteer wherever they are needed.

Last year, the neighborhood of Long Island City became the second location to establish a CSA. The Long Island City CSA distribution center is located in the Jacob Riis Settlement House, where members have the opportunity to volunteer in a wide range of activities. In its second year of operation, there are now approximately 15 core group members who actively devote their time to organizing and running the CSA. Over the last 1 1/2 years, approximately 79 members have volunteered over 8000 hours in this CSA. Today, there are 112 households receiving vegetable shares through this CSA. Last year a total of 11,400 pounds of fresh, organic vegetables was delivered to families participating in the CSA and this year approximately 3,100 pounds have been distributed so far. All left over vegetables are donated to the Jacob Riis senior center, and the CSA members are actively working with the center and other neighborhood organizations to address the food needs of the Long Island City community.

This year, the Flatbush Farm Share was established in Brooklyn. A group of concerned residents who wanted to bring fresh, local, affordable produce to everyone in the neighborhood worked with NYCCAH to make it reality. Six weeks into their first CSA, there are approximately 10 core group members who keep everything running smoothly and already 24 members have volunteered approximately 576 total volunteer hours. There are 133 households receiving vegetable shares at this CSA with a total of approximately 4,000 pounds of fresh, organic vegetables already having been distributed to families participating in the CSA. This CSA has already built strong relationships with community organizations in the neighborhood and are actively working with them to address the food needs in the community.

Joel Berg is the Executive Director of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger. Learn more about NYCCAH’s Farm Fresh Initiative or find a similar service project in your community by searching keyword: “CSA” “community supported agriculture project” “gleaning” “community garden”

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