‘Farm to Families’ makes eating fresh easy (and cheap)

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)