'Farm to Families' makes eating fresh easy (and cheap)

Now open to just about any­one, the Farm to Fam­il­ies pro­gram makes pick­ing up a weekly box of fresh, loc­ally pro­duced food easy and af­ford­able.


City res­id­ents have a new way to ob­tain fresh, loc­ally grown pro­duce — as well as eggs and meat — thanks to a new part­ner­ship with the New Kens­ing­ton Com­munity De­vel­op­ment Corp., St. Chris­toph­er’s Found­a­tion for Chil­dren and the Self-Help and Re­source Ex­change Food Pro­gram, SHARE.

Called Farm to Fam­il­ies, rep­res­ent­at­ives from the NK­CDC met at the group’s Garden Cen­ter, Frank­ford Av­en­ue and Berks Street, on June 9 for the first day of food dis­tri­bu­tion.

For a group that works hard to provide green, healthy life­style choices for res­id­ents, the kit­chen table is an ob­vi­ous place to con­cen­trate their ef­forts. 

Ac­cord­ing to Kev­in Mus­sel­man, pub­lic re­la­tions spe­cial­ist for the NK­CDC, the hope is that through Farm to Fam­il­ies, loc­al par­ents and their chil­dren will have easy ac­cess to fresh, healthy food.

“We were think­ing, we want to in­clude more healthy food ini­ti­at­ives in the 19125” ZIP code, said Mus­sel­man.

And the pro­gram, which meets every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Garden Cen­ter, also of­fers cook­ing classes and learn­ing pro­grams to help fam­il­ies be­come more fa­mil­i­ar with some of the foods that will be avail­able through Farm to Fam­il­ies.

“It’s things like kale that people haven’t seen be­fore,” said Arianna Hall-Re­in­hard, an Ameri­Corps Vo­lun­teers in Ser­vice to Amer­ica  (VISTA) vo­lun­teer work­ing on the Farm to Fam­il­ies pro­gram for the NK­CDC.

“We are sort of mit­ig­at­ing the fear factor” of un­fa­mil­i­ar foods, she said. The cook­ing classes will teach fam­il­ies how to use all of the food they get in their Farm to Fam­il­ies box.

And us­ing all of the food could be tricky, as the box op­tions — a $10 box and a lar­ger $15 box that provides a big­ger por­tion of pro­duce — are ran­dom se­lec­tions of what is in sea­son with­in 100 miles of the city.

Last week’s open­ing in Fishtown brought the num­ber of Farm to Fam­il­ies pick up loc­a­tions to eight, with oth­ers op­er­at­ing in Nor­ris Square, West Kens­ing­ton and Ju­ni­ata. The goal, ac­cord­ing to St. Chris­toph­er’s, is to stage a “food in­ter­ven­tion” in North Phil­adelphia neigh­bor­hoods.

Fam­il­ies don’t get to se­lect what they want, but, by provid­ing something of a grab bag of healthy foods, Mus­sel­man said, fam­il­ies will learn more about dif­fer­ent foods and be­come more fa­mil­i­ar with a lar­ger ar­ray of healthy meals.

“It’s for ad­ven­tur­ous eat­ers,” he joked. “We can’t tell people when they or­der what they will be get­ting in the box. It will be a sur­prise what you’ll get in that box.”

The box will fea­ture everything from straw­ber­ries to mush­rooms, cab­bage and beets to cauli­flower.

The concept is not ex­actly a new one, but sev­er­al de­tails make it a not­ably easy way for res­id­ents to get fresh pro­duce. Places like Greens­grow Farms on Cum­ber­land Street runs a “Com­munity Sup­por­ted Ag­ri­cul­ture,” or CSA, pro­gram that of­fers cus­tom­ers a weekly box of mixed pro­duce from loc­al farms.

Those cus­tom­ers, though, pay sev­er­al hun­dred dol­lars up front, and the pro­grams of­ten fill up quickly. With the NK­CDC pro­gram, house­holds with a lim­ited budget or those who missed out on oth­er CSAs will have more flex­ib­il­ity when it comes to buy­ing fresh food.

Greens­grow, a non-profit, also cre­ated the Loc­al Ini­ti­at­ive for Food Edu­ca­tion pro­gram last year, a CSA aimed at fam­il­ies us­ing food stamps. Like Farm to Fam­il­ies, the pro­gram com­bined a weekly food bas­ket and cook­ing classes, but struggled to get people to sign up.

The LIFE pro­gram, which will run from June 22 to Sept. 29 this year, costs mem­bers $15 a week in SNAP, AC­CESS or EBT be­ne­fits. 

With Farm to Fam­il­ies, there is no in­come lim­it, and the pro­gram is open to any­one look­ing to get more fresh, loc­al food in their diet. All loc­a­tions also ac­cept food stamps, cash and cred­it.

And, un­like many sim­il­ar pro­grams, Hall-Re­in­hard said, Farm to Fam­il­ies will provide fam­il­ies with fresh food throughout the year.

“What’s good is to be able to bring food to fam­il­ies all year round,” she said. “It’s rare to do this all year round.”

One of the first in line last week to get a box of fresh food were Siobhan and Ro­ger Ide­ishi, of the 1300 block of Mont­gomery Av­en­ue. They liked the ease and af­ford­ab­il­ity of the Farm to Fam­il­ies pro­gram.

“I think it’s kind of ex­cit­ing ac­tu­ally,” said Siobhan, when asked if she liked the grab bag idea.

“We try to en­cour­age chil­dren to eat healthy foods,” she said. “It’s im­port­ant to get fam­il­ies in­volved.”

“And, we get to sup­port the loc­al eco­nomy this way,” agreed Ro­ger. “That’s something we try to do as much as we can.”

For more in­form­a­tion or to place an or­der with the NK­CDC’s Farm to Fam­il­ies pro­gram, call 215-427-0350 ext. 110.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com 

Farm to Fam­il­ies ick up loc­a­tions

New Kens­ing­ton CDC

NK­CDC Garden Cen­ter

1825 Frank­ford Ave. (corner of Frank­ford & Berks)

Com­munity Part­ner­ship School

Com­cast Tech­no­logy Labs and Honick­man

Learn­ing Cen­ter

1936 North Jud­son St. (off Nor­ris, between 23rd & 24th)

The Light­house, Inc.

152 W. Le­high Ave. (between Front & 2nd)

Nor­ris Square Neigh­bor­hood Pro­ject

Las Par­celas Garden

2244 N. Paleth­orp St. (off Susqua­hanna, between Front & 2nd)

St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al for Chil­dren

3601 A St. (Park­ing En­trance off of Erie Ave.)

St. Philip’s United Meth­od­ist Church

718 E. Tioga St. (corner of F & Tioga)


You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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