Growing up in a small, rural Michigan community, farming (and sports) were life. Eating local was a necessity. I ate venison and fresh-water fish, hunted and caught by my father. My family had a garden and I still vividly remember picking fresh green beans for dinner or rhubarb for my Grandmother’s famous cobbler. It was a fun family activity. Eating local has been the natural way of life for me so deciding to be a Dietitian was a no-brainer. Over the course of 11 years, I have worked in a variety of settings including clinical, community, research and consulting. Nothing compares to the excitement I get when working in and promoting local food and agriculture. Now, as a mother, my passion for fixing our local food system and bringing local food to my community is even greater, because I want my kids to grow up in an environment like the one I did – but where locally sourced food is no longer just a necessity, but is easy and fun.
Coastal Foodshed works to improve the local food economy by connecting Southcoast farmers with consumers who want healthy, affordable, local foods. We operate (4) four Farmers Markets (3 in the summer and 1 indoor) in New Bedford throughout the year involving 40 local producers. We have created a subsidized Farm Share program to low income housing units, which has now evolved into a new pilot project for the Summer of 2018 – bringing Pop-Up Farm Stands in (4) four locations needing local food accessibility. We are also in the pre-planning stages of our long-term project to build a Regional Food Hub for the Southcoast.
The Coastal Foodshed is working to fix our broken food system by improving the production, processing, distribution, access and consumption of local food for Southcoast communities. Transportation, costs and time are major barriers that prohibit many of our residents the ability to consume healthier, local foods. We work to break down those barriers to make local food as easy as possible to access. We design ways to make local food affordable for our low-income neighborhoods. We are creating access points and infrastructure that allow local farmers the ability to sell their products more easily and creates the channels to connect these producers with the community.
Since our work in 2014 (previously under Mass in Motion New Bedford), we have made significant progress in local food access for New Bedford, including.
- Equipped all of our farmers’ markets with the ability to use SNAP, Debit and Credit cards, improving the opportunity for quality of food for 30% of New Bedford food stamp recipients.
- Increased the local producers at our Farmers Markets from 5 to 40 vendors.
- Served between 10,000-12,000 customers each market season. We plan to increase that reach this summer through our next project, the Pop-Up Farm Stand program.
- Integrated weekly nutrition education workshops into the farmers’ markets (over 25 workshops from June-October) to educate the public on the importance of local foods and how to incorporate local ingredients into their daily eating routine.
- Strengthened our relationships with over 56 families, particularly the Latino and Cape Verde communities, by bringing local food directly to their doorstep, through our Subsidized Farm Share program.