In December, Shannon, Abby, and Catherine — the Farm Viability staff who support our Farm Fresh Rewards nutrition incentive program– embarked on an early morning car ride down to Pawtucket, Rhode Island to meet with new regional collaborators.
Last year, MFT worked with Farm Fresh Rhode Island to submit a joint application to the USDA for a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant to support MFT’s nutrition incentive program, Farm Fresh Rewards. The successful proposal is now also partially funding other nutrition incentive programs in Maine, as well as programs in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. All these nutrition incentive programs focus on increasing sales for farmers by providing extra money for low-income shoppers using SNPA/EBT to spend on locally-grown fruits and vegetables, thereby supporting community food systems. The various programs are working with a diverse array of outlets— from farm stands and CSAs, to farmers’ markets, mobile markets, and local grocery stores.
Our trip this month was the first meeting of this regional group and gave us an opportunity to share successes, challenges, and dreams for the next few years of our respective programs. The energy in the room coalesced around how we can maximize our impact by learning from each other, and we were excited to think through how to continue our collaborative communication moving forward. We all recognize the benefit of working together as a region since New England states have similar food systems and related challenges. In fact, part of the reason that Farm Fresh Rhode Island chose to take on such a large, regional collaboration, was through their commitment to the New England Food Vision, and the desire to help build a resilient system that can feed our entire region. If lunch at the meeting is any indication– catered by Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Harvest Kitchen and full of fresh, local foods– we’re off to a good start.
From the beginning, our Farm Fresh Rewards program has been informed by regional collaboration, through funding opportunities like Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation’s “Healthy Food Fund,” and Wholesome Wave’s “National Nutrition Incentive Network,” both of which brought together food access organizations from around New England. Engaging with other groups in the region that do similar work has kept us motivated, energized, and full of new ideas, and we’re excited to continue that process!
You can support our work to increase access to local food through the Farm Fresh Rewards by making a donation to MFT today!