What's Happening?

What's Happening?

From Farm to Market to Home

Chaz Martel is pleased. 

It’s the first Sunday in May, and the Schenectady Greenmarket is launching a new initiative to get healthy, locally grown food to people with limited financial resources. 

For a low, below-market price, Martel and others enrolled in the Greenmarket’s Food Box Program receive a delicious assortment of fresh, high-quality produce. This week’s box includes spinach, lettuce, apples, potatoes and more. 

“I qualify for SNAP benefits and I want to get the most for my money,” Martel said. “For $10, I feel like I got a good deal.” 

The value of Martel’s food box is much higher - in the $30 range - but the farmers supplying veggies for the Food Box Program aren’t losing money. 

The difference between what Food Box Program participants pay and what it costs is subsidized by a $20,000 Healthy Food Access for All grant from The Schenectady Foundation. Farmers get a fair market price for their produce while being part of a program that makes their wares more affordable to the paying customer.Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2022-blog-images/Ariel.jpg

“There are so many farms in this area,” said Ariel White, who coordinates the Food Box Program and shown at right with the small box offerings. “People don’t realize what’s in their own backyard.” 

"This program shows us how to make equitable access to healthy food sustainable for both farmers and consumers,” said Kristi Milligan, director of grants and community programs for The Schenectady Foundation. “When we involve all sectors of the food system, everyone wins." 

The Food Box Program is open to low-income residents, with preference given to those with the greatest need. Accepted forms of payment include SNAP EBT, cash, credit and debit cards. 

Participants sign up monthly and can either pick up their box at the Greenmarket - the Sunday farmers’ market outside Schenectady City Hall - or have it delivered. In May, 25 people were enrolled in the Food Box Program. 

The weekly food boxes come in two sizes: a small, $10 box of five to seven items or a large, $14 box of 10 to 12 items. 

Vendors represented during the first month of the program include Lovin’ Mama Farm in Amsterdam, Saratoga Apple in Schuylerville and Squashville Farm in Easton. 

Pick-up takes place under a tent, and participants select the produce they want for their box, choosing from among the fruits and vegetables displayed on a table.  

White and assistant food box coordinator Joleigh Van Genderen field questions about the Food Box Program from interested passersby, while also guiding participants through the selection process. One of the vegetables is tatsoi, a little-known relative of bok choy, and Van Genderen offers customers tips on how to use it. 

“It’s such a simple green,” Van Genderen said. “I try to put a bug in their ear about what to do with it.” 

For Martel, shown below with Van Genderen, part of the Food Box Program’s appeal is being exposed to new things. 

“Tatsoi - I’d never heard of that before,” he said. “But I like being surprised. Healthy eating is very important to me, and now I’m going to have more variety in my diet.”  

Uploaded Image: /vs-uploads/2022-blog-images/chaz martel.jpg

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