Innovating to improve access to fruits & vegetables in NH
UNH Cooperative Extension is partnering with Gather Food Pantry and NH Gleans to distribute fresh produce to food insecure communities in Strafford County. Gleaning is the act of harvesting excess crops so that they can be utilized and not directed into the waste stream. “We get tremendous satisfaction in delivering beautiful fresh produce into the hands of families who we know both need and appreciate it” says Susan Conant UNHCE Nutrition Connection of Strafford County. Produce is brought to a variety of locations and distributed during a “Free Farmers’ Market”. The Free Farmers’ Markets provide fruits and vegetables to families who have difficulty accessing such food items due to budget, transportation or time constraints.
When Gather has an abundance of produce that they cannot distribute fast enough they reach out to Extension. We then reach out to schools, camps and public housing sites. Typically on Fridays, the Free Farmers’ Market allows parents to take home fresh produce as they pick their kids up from school or camp. The kids are familiar with us from the school year programming that we do in their communities and are eager to sample new produce. Families heading home for the weekend are then supplied with fresh produce and recipes and tips on how to use the produce. Last year we distributed over 3800 lbs of produce to more than 10 different sites. This year we will continue expanding to more locations.
New Hampshire has other resources for food insecure families to access food during the summer school break. Families that receive SNAP or EBT benefits are eligible for discounts at farmers markets (http://granitestatemarketmatch.org/) and certain retailers throughout the state (http://doubleupnh.org/). Both programs offer 50% discounts on produce with a maximum benefit of $10/visit. Kids who receive free or reduced lunch can also access summer meals programs throughout the state (https://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks). Gather food pantry in Portsmouth coordinates a summer meals program in Rockingham and Strafford counties that provides groceries & recipes to make 10 meals/week (https://www.gathernh.org/campaign-2). Eating an abundance and variety of produce is a healthy habit that is being made easier by these innovative initiatives in New Hampshire.