Healthy Hampshire works to improve people’s health by increasing access to healthy food, especially for Hampshire County residents who have limited resources. Some of our initiatives are regional and some are community-based.
Support for SNAP matching at Farmers Markets
Healthy Hampshire, Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA), and the MA Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) partnered to present SNAP & Save from 2015 - 2017. This program allowed EBT cardholders to use their cards at participating farmers markets and and have their spending matched up to $10 per market visit. In 2017, the state transitioned to the Healthy Incentives Program [HIP], which reimburses families for their fruit and vegetable purchases up to a monthly cap at participating farmers markets, farm stands, CSAs, and mobile markets. Healthy Hampshire has provided outreach and support around both of these programs for seven farmers markets in Hampshire County: Amherst Farmers Market, Amherst Winter Farmers Market, Belchertown Farmers Market, Florence Farmers Market, Northampton Farmers Market, Northampton Tuesday Market, and Northampton Winter Farmers Market. We have also provided trainings and other informational resources to social service providers, clients, vendors, and volunteers to help them navigate HIP. If you are in a Healthy Hampshire partner community and would like to host a HIP training or farmers market tour for volunteers or social service providers, please contact Caitlin Marquis.
Healthy Hampshire Markets
The Healthy Hampshire Markets program helped small markets and convenience stores to stock and promote healthier products. We have provided markets with nutritional expertise on product selection, promotional materials for their in-store use, and assistance in connecting with wholesale farmers in the area. Many older adults go to these smaller markets for the majority of their household food, and benefit from a wider selection of healthier products. Students and their parents who stop by the market after school benefit from a wider selection of healthy snacks and beverages. And the owners and managers have grown their capacity to understand what constitutes “healthy products” and how to read nutrition labels accurately. Check out the Be a Healthy Market toolkit to learn more or get started.
Healthy Hampshire worked with Cooley Dickinson Hospital to assist them in providing and promoting sugar-free beverages and low-sodium foods in their cafeteria and vending machines. The purchasing department and wellness committee at Cooley Dickinson work with Healthcare Without Harm to purchase foods that prioritize the health of hospital patrons, staff, and the planet. Harvard School of Public Health provided recommendations on reducing sugar and sodium in the hospital’s cafeteria and vending machine offerings.
Community Food Security Assessment
Healthy Hampshire works with partners like Cooley Dickinson Health Care and Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to assess food security in Hampshire County through surveys, focus groups, regulatory review, and resident-driven evaluation of food access. This work helps us and our partners shape a collective and community-driven approach to improving healthy food access in our target communities. In 2017, Healthy Hampshire provided a Food Access Assessment Report to Cooley Dickinson Health Care to inform the hospital system's community benefits strategy (see our resources page for report appendices).
Food Access Advisory Committee Planning Process
As part of the Community Food Security Assessment work, Healthy Hampshire brought together a Food Access Advisory Committee made up of professionals and residents who were dealing with food insecurity over a period of five months to assess current conditions and propose an action plan to reduce barriers to food access in Hampshire County. This Draft Action Plan represents that results of that process and will be used by our partner, Cooley Dickinson Health Care, to inform the food access components of their Community Benefits work. An evaluation of the Food Access Advisory Committee process was conducted in summer 2017.
Mobile Farmers Markets
Healthy Hampshire's key partners have identified mobile farmers markets as a priority through several commumity-based food access assessments and planning processes. Since 2018, Healthy Hampshire has partnered with organizations such as Grow Food Northampton, Hilltown Community Development, the Hilltown Community Health Center, and Many Hands Farm Corps to bring the mobile market vision to fruition in Northampton, the Hilltowns, and Amherst. In 2019, there were six Grow Food Neighborhood Markets in Northampton and Florence, and in 2020 the Amherst Mobile Market brought fresh produce to four underserved neighborhoods of Amherst while the Hilltown Mobile Market visited four sites in Blandford, Cummington, Huntington, and Worthington. Survey results from the Northampton and Hilltown pilot seasons showed significant increases between pre- and post-intervention periods in how healthy participants felt and how confident they were in their ability to meet their daily food needs. Healthy Hampshire supports these efforts through partnership development, networking, funding procurement, and facilitating the governance structures that guide the projects. These governance structures have included the Mobile Market Working Group, the Hilltown Food Council, and the Amherst Mobile Market Planning Committee. For more information about how to get involved in mobile market governance, contact Caitlin Marquis.
Community Gardens at Affordable Housing Sites
Healthy Hampshire has partnered with affordable housing residents and property managers in Northampton and Amherst to establish on-site community gardens where residents can grow their own food. These garden sites not only serve as crucial supplements to healthy diets for residents, but they also provide opportunities for residents to get to know their neighbors, learn from one another, and learn from local experts about growing food. At one housing complex, gardeners have formed a cooking club where they cook meals using ingredients grown in their gardens and share recipes with one another. Healthy Hampshire has funding to establish more gardens in Northampton, Amherst, and Easthampton, so if you are an affordable housing resident or property manager in one of these communities and you are interested in this work, please contact us to find out more about how we can support you.
Hampshire County Food Policy Council
The number one priority coming out of our 2017 Food Access Assessment was to establish a county-wide food policy council. In 2020, we received funding from the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission through the MassUP Investment Program to establish the council starting with a group of community members selecting a governance structure for the council. Learn more about this emerging initiative by viewing the Hampshire County Food Policy Council Information session video [English] below or viewing the slides [English/Español] from the session. Most importantly, if you are interested in staying in the loop about the Hampshire County Food Policy Council, please fill out the session follow-up survey.
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