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Subsidised or cost-offset community-supported agriculture (CO-CSA) connects farms directly to low-income households and can improve fruit and vegetable intake. This analysis identifies factors associated with participation in CO-CSA.
Farm Fresh Foods for Healthy Kids (F3HK) provided a half-price, summer CO-CSA plus healthy eating classes to low-income households with children. Community characteristics (population, socio-demographics and health statistics) and CO-CSA operational practices (share sizes, pick up sites, payment options and produce selection) are described and associations with participation levels are examined.
Ten communities in New York (NY), North Carolina (NC), Vermont and Washington states in USA.
Caregiver–child dyads enrolled in spring 2016 or 2017.
Residents of micropolitan communities had more education and less poverty than in small towns. The one rural location (NC2) had the fewest college graduates (10 %) and most poverty (23 %) and poor health statistics. Most F3HK participants were white, except in NC where 45·2 % were African American. CO-CSA participation varied significantly across communities from 33 % (NC2) to 89 % (NY1) of weeks picked up. Most CO-CSA farms offered multiple share sizes (69·2 %) and participation was higher than when not offered (76·8 % v. 57·7 % of weeks); whereas 53·8 % offered a community pick up location, and participation in these communities was lower than elsewhere (64·7 % v. 78·2 % of weeks).
CO-CSA programmes should consider offering a choice of share sizes and innovate to address potential barriers such as rural location and limited education and income among residents. Future research is needed to better understand barriers to participation, particularly among participants utilising community pick up locations.
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.
The Farm Fresh Food Box (F3B) strategy is a hybrid of direct-to-consumer (DTC) and short value chain models that aims to stimulate rural economies, creates an additional sales avenue for small farmers, provides rural grocery stores with increased foot traffic and overcomes barriers for rural consumers who are unable to access local food. The F3B project is a tri-state collaboration of extension and research partners from three states; two on the West Coast and one in the Northeast United States, involving small farmers and retailers from rural communities. This article analyzes F3B consumer surveys from 2 years of project implementation and contributes to the limited body of research on food box models by identifying benefits and barriers of the F3B strategy for consumers, comparing these findings to existing research on food box programs and other DTC market channels, and discussing implications for future model adjustment. Overall, consumers were pleased with all aspects of the F3B. However, the strategy had limited success with reaching a new demographic of local food consumers.
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.
There is a need to improve geographical and financial access to healthy foods for limited resource populations in rural areas. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs can improve access to healthy foods in rural and limited-resource populations. However, research is needed to discern the most appealing conditions for a CSA (e.g. price, frequency, food quantity) among rural, low-income customers. The goal of this study was to understand low-income consumers' preferences related to participation in a CSA program, considering price, frequency, food quantity and accessibility (e.g. distance) conditions. A modified exploratory choice experiment exercise was embedded within in-depth interviews to examine willingness to participate in CSA under a variety of conditions among 42 low-income adults with at least one child in the household in North Carolina, New York, Vermont and Washington. Willingness to participate in a CSA under each condition was summed and compared across conditions. Results were stratified by race, number of children and household members and McNemar's test and Student's t-test were used to examine differences in willingness between conditions. Salient quotes were extracted to support themes related to each condition. Our analysis suggests that the ideal CSA would be a full-sized share of eight to nine items of mixed variety, distributed every other week, priced at less than US$15, no more than 10 min further than the supermarket (SM) from their home and preferably less expensive but no more than 20% more expensive than SM prices. CSAs interested in reaching rural low-income populations may benefit from considering these consumer-level preferences.
In recent years, several initiatives have sought to encourage redemption of food assistance benefits at direct-to-consumer (DTC) market venues such as community supported agriculture programs and farmers’ markets in the USA, with the dual goal of increasing access to healthy foods for low-income families and sales of locally-grown foods for farmers. Proponents of these interventions assert that these programs have a positive impact on local economies yet there is limited evidence to validate this argument. This research project used a customized input-output model to simulate potential economic impacts of programs and policies that enable Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients to shift purchases from traditional food retailers to DTC venues in four states. Two different scenarios were explored: (1) increased outreach to low-income consumers and (2) financial support for using SNAP benefits at DTC market channels. We found a positive, though modest, economic impact at the state level under both scenarios when accounting for (a) business losses in the food retail and wholesale sectors, (b) a shift in acreage from commodity to specialty crops and (c) the cost to taxpayers. Since most of the increased economic activity would be in the produce farming sector, we discuss the opportunities and challenges for this sector along with potential policy implications.
To examine perspectives on food access among low-income families participating in a cost-offset community-supported agriculture (CO-CSA) programme.
Farm Fresh Foods for Healthy Kids (F3HK) is a multicentre randomized intervention trial assessing the effect of CO-CSA on dietary intake and quality among children from low-income families. Focus groups were conducted at the end of the first CO-CSA season. Participants were interviewed about programme experiences, framed by five dimensions of food access: availability, accessibility, affordability, acceptability and accommodation. Transcribed data were coded on these dimensions plus emergent themes.
Nine communities in the US states of New York, North Carolina, Washington and Vermont.
Fifty-three F3HK adults with children.
CSA models were structured by partner farms. Produce quantity was abundant; however, availability was enhanced for participants who were able to select their own produce items. Flexible CSA pick-up times and locations made produce pick-up more accessible. Despite being affordable to most, payment timing was a barrier for some. Unfamiliar foods and quick spoilage hindered acceptability through challenging meal planning, despite accommodations that included preparation advice.
Although CO-CSA may facilitate increased access to fruits and vegetables for low-income families, perceptions of positive diet change may be limited by the ability to incorporate share pick-up into regular travel patterns and meal planning. Food waste concerns may be particularly acute for families with constrained resources. Future research should examine whether CO-CSA with flexible logistics and produce self-selection are sustainable for low-income families and CSA farms.
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