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Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is an alternative food marketing model in which community members subscribe to receive regular shares of a farm's harvest. Although CSA has the potential to improve access to fresh produce, certain features of CSA membership may prohibit low-income families from participating. A ‘cost-offset’ CSA (CO-CSA) model provides low-income families with purchasing support with the goal of making CSA more affordable. As a first step toward understanding the potential of CO-CSA to improve access to healthy foods among low-income households, we interviewed 24 CSA farmers and 20 full-pay CSA members about their experiences and perceptions of the cost-offset model and specific mechanisms for offsetting the cost of CSA. Audio recordings were transcribed verbatim and coded using a thematic approach. Ensuring that healthy food was accessible to everyone, regardless of income level, was a major theme expressed by both farmers and members. In general, CSA farmers and CSA members favored member donations over other mechanisms for funding the CO-CSA. The potential time burden that could affect CSA farmers when administering a cost-offset was a commonly-mentioned barrier. Future research should investigate various CO-CSA operational models in order to determine which models are most economically viable and sustainable.
To examine participants’ experiences with nutrition education classes that were implemented with and designed to complement a cost-offset community-supported agriculture (CSA) programme.
Qualitative analysis of data from twenty-eight focus groups with ninety-six participants enrolled in Farm Fresh Foods for Healthy Kids (F3HK). Transcribed data were coded and analysed by a priori and emergent themes.
Rural and micropolitan communities in New York, North Carolina, Vermont and Washington (USA).
Ninety-six F3HK participants.
Participants found recipes and class activities helpful and reported improvements in nutrition knowledge, food preservation skills and home cooking behaviours for themselves and their children; they also reported that classes promoted a sense of community. Some educators better incorporated CSA produce into lessons, which participants reported as beneficial. Other obligations and class logistics were barriers to attendance; participants recommended that lessons be offered multiple times weekly at different times of day. Other suggestions included lengthening class duration to encourage social engagement; emphasising recipes to incorporate that week’s CSA produce and pantry staples and offering additional strategies to incorporate children in classes.
Complementing a cost-offset CSA with nutrition education may enhance programme benefits to low-income families by improving nutrition knowledge and cooking behaviours. However, future interventions will benefit from ongoing coordination between educators and local growing trajectories to maximise timely coverage of unfamiliar produce in lessons; synchronous scheduling of CSA pick-up and classes for participant convenience and creative strategies to engage children and/or provide childcare.
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