Efforts by UD students, faculty lead to program that links agriculture to work of Food Bank


    The Food Bank of Delaware announced   it has received $300,000 in funding over the next three years from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its new Community Supported Agriculture program.

    The program is the result of more than a year’s work forming partnerships with education, government, nonprofit and agricultural entities.

    “We’re very proud of the strategic partnerships we developed in order to make this program a reality,” said Food Bank of Delaware CEO Patricia Beebe. “Through partnerships with community-based organizations we provide not only immediate food assistance, but the education needed for families to make informed, healthy decisions about eating within a limited budget. This program will allow us provide outreach to households about not only healthy foods, but how local farmers play a key role in our food supply.”

    The new program helps to bridge the gap between Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP – formerly food stamps) recipients and local farmers and provides low-income households access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

    “Community Supported Agriculture programs are an excellent way to increase the availability of fresh, local produce by making it convenient for families,” said Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. “The Food Bank of Delaware’s initiative will help increase access to healthy foods in Wilmington and bring more people to the Cool Spring Farmers’ Market, which has been a great success. We are pleased to be a partner in this project by making funding available for an additional 18 shares available in addition to the 117 already provided by USDA. We look forward to making more people aware of the benefits that come from Delaware agriculture.”

    The process to develop the new program began in the summer of 2011 when University of Delaware service-learning students, Nick Rockwell and Dan Reyes began researching the concept of a CSA program for low-income Delawareans.

    “We designed a program that would bring community partners together under the banner of the Food Bank of Delaware, utilizing the organization’s infrastructure and efficiency to facilitate the development of local food systems, by and for the community,” said Reyes.

    Nancy Cotugna, a Professor of Nutrition at the University of Delaware and a member of the Food Bank of Delaware Board of Directors spent part of her year-long sabbatical helping to write the proposal. She and her graduate students will be conducting the evaluation of the program.

    “Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthful diet,” said Cotugna. “The cost of the fresh varieties is often out of reach in the budget of low-income families, so this grant will provide an opportunity to include more fresh produce in their diets while supporting local farmers in our state. Nutrition education and cooking demonstrations on how to incorporate the less familiar items into menu planning will also be an integral part of the project.”

    Program recipients will pick up their produce shares from the West End Neighborhood House-managed Cool Springs Farmers’ Market in Wilmington. West End Neighborhood House will play a critical role in the operation of the CSA. Two youth workers from West End’s Bright Spot Ventures program will work with Food Bank of Delaware-hired CSA Coordinator, Barbara Brkovich, to promote the program, recruit and retain participants, create weekly produce distribution allotments, conduct weekly distributions and help facilitate the program.

    “The Cool Spring Farmers’ Market provides fresh fruits and vegetables and helps fill the void created by food deserts. Our partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware narrows the gap between local farmers and low-income members of our community by offering high quality local produce in a convenient setting and at affordable prices.”

    Two farmers have been identified to provide fresh produce shares. Highland Orchards in Wilmington and SIW Vegetables in Chadds Ford, Penn. will provide a total of 135 shares to low-income families during an 18-week distribution season starting in 2013. The Food Bank of Delaware will upfront the cost of the shares and participating households will be required to pay $10 per week using their Electronic Benefits Transfer card or other forms of payment.

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