Viva Farms is looking to sign up more low-income residents in Skagit County for its community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, a weekly subscription to produce grown by local farmers.
Viva Farms started offering half-price farm boxes last year to those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federal program for those with low incomes.
Of 130 customers in 2018, 14 were SNAP participants, said Anna Chotzen, business and marketing manager for Viva Farms.
“Our goal is 40% (this year),” she said.
Viva Farms is adding two new pickup sites — Skagit Valley College and Concrete Elementary School — for SNAP participants this season, which runs June through December.
“You’ll get a weekly mix of everything that’s going on at the farms,” said Steve Crider, who leads Viva Farms’ farm-to-school program.
That includes leafy greens, other vegetables and fruits, all organically grown, he said. The boxes also include recipes.
A $489,000 grant — called the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive — from the U.S. Department of Agriculture subsidizes the cost of the farm boxes for SNAP participants, Chotzen said.
To recruit more SNAP customers, Viva Farms is working with community organizations including United General District 304, which runs a fruit and vegetable prescription program.
Through that program, medical providers prescribe fruits and vegetables to patients to treat conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, said Rachel Muia, farm-to-school program coordinator for the hospital district. The patients are given vouchers to use at grocery stores and farmers markets.
The program is expanding to the Sea Mar clinic in Concrete this year, she said.
“(Viva’s program) really provides another way to get fresh produce and connects back to farmers,” she said.
The 26 farm businesses that grow vegetables on Viva Farms land depend on the CSA program each year, Chotzen said.
“Farmers have said how valuable it is because the market is so reliable,” she said.
Last year, Viva Farms purchased about $85,000 worth of produce from farmers to sell through its CSA program, Chotzen said.