CSA programs are one of the best ways to connect customers with the local food system and ensure a consistent weekly supply of healthy and seasonal produce.
In June 2015, Community Foodworks launched an aggregated CSA (the “Market Share”) at the Columbia Heights Farmers Market to support sales and traffic for the new Wednesday market.
In addition to supporting our farmers, the goal of the Market Share program was to create a CSA that would be accessible for people who depend on Federal SNAP benefits to purchase food.
Historically, CSAs have typically required large initial payments at the start of a season and have been too expensive for low-income customers. Community members who receive Federal benefits have thus been excluded from participation in almost all CSA programs. Our program afforded SNAP recipients a reduced price as well as week-to-week flexibility to address these traditional barriers. SNAP customers received a 75% subsidy on the cost of food—they paid $8 for a family-sized bag of produce that was priced at $33 for retail CSA customers.
We have observed and heard from our customers that taking home fresh food on a regular basis has helped them build the foundation for healthy eating habits. They described consistently preparing and eating fresh food at home.
Similarly, the CSA still served as a useful budgeting tool for SNAP-receiving participants. With the option to pay up to two weeks in advance, customers could “budget” their monthly SNAP allowance and ensure that they would have fresh food available all month log. Customers reported that they found it useful and relieving to know that come the end of the month, they could rely on having fresh fruits and vegetables without having to closely monitor their spending.