REDMOND, Ore. - The newly released U.S. Farm Bill included $8 billion in cuts to the federal food stamp program, having a negative impact Central Oregon's low-income families and individuals who rely on the program.
The food stamp program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), offers nutrition assistance to millions of eligible low-income families and individuals across the United States and provides economic benefits to communities.
Just in time to alleviate some of the local impact, the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council is announcing their 2014 Farm Share program, offering a subsidy for SNAP-eligible clients to purchase farm fresh food at half the normal cost.
The Farm Share program is based on the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model that encourages local consumption of nutritious food, connects people to local farmers, and provides a fair price to farmers for their food.
Katrina Van Dis, COIC program administrator, says, "This is a win-win for program participants and farmers."
Recipients of a Farm Share subsidy work directly with the farmer to receive a CSA share of vegetables, eggs and/or meat each week during the growing season, which typically runs about 20 weeks starting in early summer.
The farmer benefits from the weekly commitment from a participant, as it represents a season-long investment in their farms. COIC covers half the weekly cost of the CSA share and pays the farmer directly. Year-round CSA shares are also available through a local retailer that provides Oregon grown food in the off-season.
"This is one of my favorite programs," said Van Dis. "Last year, I spent time at the farmers market while Farm Shares were being handed out, and the look on some of the kids' and adults' faces at the size of the food, the color and the diversity was just incredible."
She explained that many of the recipients are people who have illnesses and can't afford nutrient-dense fresh food, or families with kids that are excited to learn and cook with new foods such as kale or kohlrabi.
This program is in the final year of a three-year grant funded by the Oregon-based foundation Meyer Memorial Trust.
I would love to continue providing farm fresh food to those who can't usually afford it well beyond this grant program, but because this is a subsidy program, it isn't sustainable," said Van Dis.
In an effort to continue the work that has been done, she is hopeful that next year she can work with the non-profit Central Oregon Food Policy Council to get donors and sponsors to support the program.
There is over $8,000 available until the end of the year. Farm Shares are available in Bend, Redmond, Madras, Prineville and Sisters. If you are interested in learning more or filing out an application, visit http://coic2.org/community-development/food-systems/