Helping low-income folks buy into a CSA

People who have CSA shares seem to love ‘em.

We’re speaking of Community Supported Agriculture programs, in which individuals or families pay in advance for a share of a farmers’ crop.

In return for their start-of-the-season investment of $400 or so, share-holders get a weekly box of fruits and/or vegetables, sometimes eggs, too.

What’s in it for the farmers?

Much needed cash upfront, and the assurance of knowing they have a market for at least that much of their crop. In other words, stability.

The surprise factor - not knowing what each box will contain - is a motivator to try new foods.

Many CSAs offer recipe cards, cooking demonstrations, farm tours and tips on how to store and preserve crops.

And right now, most area farms are launching their CSA membership drives, before the April start of the season.

One hitch: low-income people who qualify for food stamps (known as SNAP) are barred by the USDA from using those dollars to pay the upfront cost of a CSA.

And many others lack reliable transportation to pick up shares at a farm each week.

Now the nonprofit Greener Partners, which runs Hillside Farm in Media, Pa., and The Longview Center for Agriculture in Collegeville, has a solution: CSS or Community Supported Shares.

It’s a way people with a bit more money can subsidize food access for needier families, who make up 12 of Pennsylvania’s population and 21 percent of children.

Greener Partners will offer 32 CSS shares to Delaware County households for $300, which is $150 off the regular price of $450.

And, the $300 can be paid over the course of the season with SNAP dollars.

Pick up will be at the Booker T. Washington community center in the west side of Chester.

Anyone can support this project by buying a CSA at Hillside; or, by dining at Iron Hill Brewery in Media on March 21, when the restaurant will donate 20 percent of the price of your meal to support CSS, or by attending Tapas Night at Swarthmore co-op on April 27.

Questions? Call 484-442-8381 or go online to