This summer, low-income households in Central Oregon can take advantage of a new program that helps pay for farm-fresh foods.
>Farm share program provides Locally-produced food to families whose income is below 185 percent of the federal poverty level
Central Oregon Farm Share, a new project managed by Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council’s (COIC) Community and Economic Development Department, is offering 20 low-income residents a 50 percent subsidy, up to $260 per person, to buy locally-produced foods. At this point, only a few slots remain.
To participate in the program, recipients must have an income 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level. For example, a four-person household must earn $3,554 per month or $42,648 per year.
Thus far, three Central Oregon farms have agreed to participate in the program, one of which is located in Prineville.
Katrina Van Dis, COIC program coordinator, applied for a community food systems grant from Meyer Memorial Trust to help launch the program.
“The goal of the grant was to decrease food insecurity in the region,” she said, “and increase economic opportunity.”
She explained that locally-grown food is often cost-prohibitive for low-income residents. By paying half of the cost, more people purchase food from local farms, which in turn improves the local economy.
Qualifying individuals purchase Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, which are prepaid subscriptions to a farm’s produce during a given season. The farmers provide subscribers baskets of farm-produced foods that include vegetables, eggs, cheeses, bread, or meat. Utilizing the grant funds, COIC pays half the cost of the shares while the consumer pays the rest.
“If a share costs $20, COIC pays $10 and the recipient pays the other $10,” Van Dis offered as an example.
As she launched the program, Van Dis reached out to farmers throughout the Central Oregon area that offered CSA shares. Prineville farmer Kim Kambak agreed to participate in the program and provide food from her Last Stand Farm.
“Crook County is a food desert for people who are low income to get fresh, organic food,” she said.
As a result, during the past six years that Kambak has leased her farm property, she has wound up with an excess of food at the conclusion of the season. She has managed to donate the extra harvest to the local St. Vincent de Paul food bank and The Oasis, and has given some it to friends as well.
With the Farm Share program, Kambak hopes to avoid the excess by providing food at half the cost to low-income individuals throughout the season. So far, Kambak has 17 paid subscribers, and has three CSA shares available.
According to Van Dis, the grant will support the program for three years, during which time the program will expand its scope. This year, Central Oregon Farm Share is providing 20 shares. Next summer they will bump it up to 30, then 40 shares the year after that.
As the grant sunsets, she hopes to find a community sponsors that can sustain the program in the future.
“We had a business that said, ‘Great, we want to provide shares,’ so they gave us a donation that goes directly toward providing more shares for the community,” Van Dis offered as an example.
Until that time comes, Kambak hopes to see people take advantage of the program.
“I want to have the healthiest, freshest food available to our community, and appreciate the effort it has taken to get this program to Prineville,” she said.