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Boosting access to affordable fresh food discussed at NOFA-NJ annual meeting

By JANE PRIMERANO
AFP Correspondent

HILLSBOROUGH (April 1, 2017) — Access to affordable fresh food is a priority of the Northeast Organic Farming Association-New Jersey.
At the annual meeting held on Wednesday, March 22, at Duke Farms, NOFA-NJ Board President Stephanie Harris introduced three non-profit organizations that partner with NOFA to help provide that access.
Rolling Harvest, headquartered in New Hope, Pa., and serving the area on both sides of the Delaware River, provides a service to both farmers and the families that visit food pantries.
Cathy Snyder founded Rolling Harvest after she volunteered at a food pantry and saw “it was all junk.”
Because food pantries solicit non-perishable items, the shelves tend to be stocked with cereal, macaroni and canned soup, she explained.
“So I went to some farmers at the New Hope Farmers’ Market and got some fresh food,” she said matter-of-factly in her talk.
Bucks and Hunterdon counties are known as wealthy, but “there are a lot of people struggling and living on the edge of poverty.” She said the farmers at the market “didn’t understand the local face of poverty.”
Rolling Hills was started because “I had disposable income, a car and free time,” Snyder said, “which was a more advantageous position than most.”
She learned as she went: Always come to the farm when they are through with the market and taking inventory. She discovered there is always a surplus. And she discovered all logistics involve a team and good transportation: “We got a Chevy Silverado when Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies got the Roberto Clemente Humanitarian Award. We got a call from his people asking if we needed a truck,” she said. 
Ron Moule, farm manager of the Carversville Farm Foundation explained his group is a 275-acre vegetable and livestock farm and a non-profit.
Moule has a chemistry degree and worked testing milk quality until he saw cows sick because of the environmental conditions. “I went to a NOFA Winter Conference and saw a world of possibilities.”
Carversville took over a conventional farm three years ago and started using cover crops and organic inputs. Moule said they just received organic certification. “Our mission is to feed, teach and nurture.  We grew food at first for donation, senior citizen groups, care homes, then we shifted our focus to soup kitchens because they can take lots of food a utilize everything.”
“We are donating 99 percent, but we’re working toward 80 percent and selling 20 percent to the community and applying the money back to value-added products like cheese making, canning or preserving.”
The teaching aspect involves having apprentices and holding classes and workshops. The nurturing involves caring for the environment and local community.
The third panelist was Jasmine Moreano of City Green.
City Green provides access to fresh food to residents of Paterson from its garden in nearby Clifton. The garden invites school and scout groups in to work in the gardens and play with the goats.
Moreano talked about the ways City Green can help farm market customers on SNAP/EBT (food stamps). She explained City Green gets a grant to provide “double bucks,” meaning they can buy twice as much with their EBT card.
She can assist farm market managers in setting up to process EBT cards. The market manager can swipe the cards and issue tokens that can be used at individual vendors. Small markets reimburse the vendors at the end of the market day. Busier markets send a monthly check.
Several people involved with farm markets gathered around to speak to Moreano after the panel.