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Discounted fresh local food offered to low-income seniors, SNAP/EBT users

By Carolyn Zachary of The Republican Journal
Oct 20, 2014

Low-income senior citizens and others of any age who receive SNAP and EBT benefits can apply for winter Community Farm Shares, which enable them to buy locally produced fresh food at half-price at special “markets” in Belfast and Unity.

Participation in this Maine Farmland Trust program is limited to 100 shares, and the deadline to sign up is Friday, Oct. 24. The first market pickup is Nov. 5.

To qualify, the total monthly income maximum for one person 60 years or older is $1,915, with incremental increases of $670 for each additional person in the household.

Unlike a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, which provides a fixed box of food, usually during the summer growing season, the Community Farm Share (CFS) will allow participants to choose items to purchase from a selection of local farm products at each market, twice-monthly from November through March.

Managed by Maine Farmland Trust’s new Unity Food Hub, the markets will be set up on the first and third Wednesdays of each month at the Unity Community Center at 32 School St. from 10 to 11:30 a.m., and in Belfast at the First Baptist Church, 95 High St., from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Food selections will include such items as meat, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, vegetables, fruits, apple cider and more.  More than 25 local farms are supplying food, including Emery’s Meat, Veggies for All, The Apple Farm, Curra Farm, Buckle Farm, Groundwork Farm and others.

At half-price, a pound of local ground beef that normally would retail for $6.60 could be purchased in a Community Farm Share for $3.30, while two pounds of locally grown carrots retailing for $5 would cost $2.50. A grant from the John T. Gorman Foundation pays farmers the balance of the cost.

To generate interest in the new program, representatives of the Unity Food Hub handed out flyers and free sample CFS boxes to clients at the Volunteer Regional Food Pantry’s distribution in Unity on Saturday, Oct. 18.

Unity Food Hub general manager Matt Tremblay and volunteers packed and distributed 200 cartons containing local garden produce plus a pound of ground beef, which Tremblay said were “well received” by the clients.

When fully operational, the food hub will be an aggregation, marketing and distribution center that uses a multifaceted approach to helping local farms sell what they produce.

The CFS program is one of two projects the Unity Food Hub is undertaking this winter to begin aggregating and distributing local food. The second is a Workplace CSA pilot being conducted with employees of Maine Farmland Trust and Johnny’s Selected Seeds of Winslow, offering small and large vegetable shares, a meat share and a dairy share.

In addition, the food hub recently has begun supplying locally produced food to Spectrum Generations’ Meals on Wheels program, Tall Pines assisted living facility in Belfast, the RSU 3 Mount View schools and Unity College.

For more information or to apply for a Community Farm Share, contact Shannon at 338-6575 or, or visit the MFT website and download the application form at Applications are to be submitted to the MFT office at 97 Main St., Belfast.

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