With the state budget in a dizzyingly downward spiral—last week, the Patrick administration floated the idea of $1.5 billion in cuts in the coming fiscal year—organizers of a food program for low-income Valley seniors are hoping for an influx of community support.
South Deerfield's Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture, or CISA, has put out the call for $30,000 in public donations for its Senior FarmShare program. The program, which provides shares in local farms to seniors in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties, was created in 2004; over that time according to CISA, it's reached about 1,800 elders, and brought more than $200,000 in income to local farmers.
Phil Korman, CISA's executive director, says the organization hopes to raise the money by the end of January, which would allow it to commit to participating farmers in time to start planning next year's crops. The Food Bank of Western Mass. has also committed to supporting the program, and Whole Foods Market will hold a "5 Percent Day" for Senior FarmShare, when a portion of the day's revenue will be donated to the program, Korman said.
Last year, Senior FarmShare was able to serve 350 seniors, thanks in large part to public donations. While the program did, in the end, receive $50,000 from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, those funds came late in the budget cycle. "Because of the community support, we were able to make a commitment to farmers saying we were going to keep the program going," Korman said. When the state funds came through later, CISA was able to expand the program.
Given the current dire budget picture, Korman isn't counting on any last-minute government funds this year. "I assume we won't see any state money, because there's an even bigger hole in this year's even smaller state budget," he said. "It's really the community that's the heart of the program."
For more information on the Senior FarmShare program, or to make a donation online, go to www.buylocalfood.org. Donations can also be made by credit card by calling 413-665-7100, ext. 10, or by check, payable to CISA and sent to CISA, One Sugarloaf St., South Deerfield, Mass. 01373.