Summer food means fun, right? Barbeques, picnics, leisurely dinners in the outdoors. But for many in our community — those struggling with food insecurity issues — summer can mean a long spell with little or no support. Fortunately, a network of vital local community programs helps to fill the need.
One innovative program puts the community in community gardens.
“At our Youth Farm, we have two produce stands in North Springfield (one at the farm on Flamingo Avenue, and the other at the Riverbend hospital) where we accept SNAP [Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program] benefits and match up to $10, and we accept Farm Direct Nutrition Program Vouchers for seniors and WIC [Women, Infants and Children] families and match up to $4,” says Jen Anonia, FOOD for Lane County’s Gardens program manager.
“New this year, PeaceHealth is sponsoring our matching programs,” Anonia says. “And we also partner with the statewide Double-Up Food Bucks Program, through the Farmers Market Fund, to offer the $10 match to SNAP customers.”
What this means is that people can use their food benefits to buy healthy, farm-grown local produce.
Anonia also oversees a leadership program at the Youth Farm for low-income youth, who gain on-site leadership and job skills while learning how to farm and garden.
“They learn about nutrition and how to assist in running the produce stands and our 100-member Community Supported Agriculture [CSA] program,” Anonia says. “And the youth access fresh produce from the farm for their households.”
The Youth Farm prides itself on its organically grown vegetables, flowers and herbs, including many varieties of tomatoes (heirlooms, slicers, cherries and Romas), peppers (sweet, hot, frying, stuffing), basil, sunflowers, eggplant, cucumbers and more.
“The CSA has a sliding scale to make it more affordable and also accepts SNAP benefits,” Anonia says. “A partnership with the Portland Area CSA Project also enables FOOD for Lane County to offer a matching program for up to $200 off, for CSA members who are new to CSAs and who use SNAP benefits.”
And you needn’t be a youth or qualify or receive food benefits to share in the harvest. “Anyone who volunteers in our Gardens Program at GrassRoots and the Youth Farm is welcome to share in the harvest,” Anonia says. “And at GrassRoots, volunteers work with staff to prepare a vegan lunch of garden produce during open garden days.”
All the produce that isn’t distributed or sold from the two garden sites is brought to the FOOD for Lane County warehouse for its network of over 150 partner agencies.
“We bring up to 115,000 pounds of organic fresh produce annually to the warehouse,” Anonia says.
The produce stand at RiverBend Hospital runs from 2 to 6 pm Thursdays, and the produce stand at the Youth Farm (705 Flamingo Avenue, Springfield) runs from 10 am to 2 pm Saturdays throughout the summer.
For more information about FOOD for Lane County’s Garden Programs, visit foodforlanecounty.org. This is the second in a three-part series on how local nonprofits are helping neighbors to cope with food insecurity issues.